Facts Matter, So Do People

Charles Apple retells his story from 1995 about a shooting in Chapel Hill, N.C., from a time before instant-reporting took hold. Well worth a read. (And, yeah, it’s more about journalism than visual journalism, but he did draw a map.)

Which brings us to the second part of the headline … I got a text message from a former student last night saying another former student was in Connecticut covering the horrifying shooting. The message said her friend was having a hard time, that this was overwhelming. Which is completely understandable – I cannot think of a greater tragedy to have to cover than the mass murder of children.

In my classes I tell the students, somewhat jokingly, that I want them to bond with each other, and that can be either with me or against me, it doesn’t matter as long as they are together. And last night, one of those students reached out to another one, to be there for them when they needed the type of support only a classmate, only a colleague, can offer.

As a profession, we journalists prefer this rough-and-tumble exterior, that we can cover anything and then move on.

We can’t. We absolutely can not do that.

We have to have a way to deal with the traumas that we cover because we don’t just see them, we experience them. If you aren’t aware, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is an excellent resource to help us deal with the emotional toll of our work.

Please, if you’re covering the shootings in Connecticut, or the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, or any other emotionally charged event, talk about it with someone. Don’t internalize it, allow your emotional response to happen in a safe environment.

And if you have a friend or colleague who has ben covering an event like this, check in with them, open that door and listen. We listen so well to those we cover, we need to do the same for those we care about.

Mark E. Johnson

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