Mission & History
The Dart Center:
Advocates ethical and thorough reporting of trauma; compassionate, professional treatment of victims and survivors by journalists; and greater awareness by media organizations of the impact of trauma coverage on both news professionals and news consumers.
Educates journalists and journalism students about the science and psychology of trauma and the implications for news coverage.
Provides a professional forum for journalists in all media to analyze issues, share knowledge and ideas, and advance strategies related to the craft of reporting on violence and tragedy.
Creates and sustains interdisciplinary collaboration and communication among news professionals, clinicians, academic researchers and others concerned with violence, conflict and tragedy.
The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is a resource center and global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy. Based at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, the Dart Center continues a mission that began in 1991 when journalism faculty at Michigan State University, in collaboration with the Michigan Victim Alliance a Frank Ochberg M.D., a psychiatrist and pioneer in the treatment of traumatic stress, established a small program to assist journalism students in reporting on victims of violence with sensitivity, dignity and respect.
That MSU program, the first of its kind, was funded by the Dart Foundation of Mason, Michigan. In 1994 the Dart Foundation established the annual Dart Award for Excellence in Reporting on Victims of Violence, at that time administered by MSU. In the mid-1990s a growing number of journalists, educators and clinicians around the country began exploring the intersection of news reporting and violence. Gradually the Dart Foundation began supporting additional programs on victims and the media by journalism faculty in Oklahoma, Indiana, and notably the University of Washington, where journalism professor Roger Simpson developed curricula for newsroom ethics classes on covering sexual assault, domestic violence and other traumatic events.
In 1999, Simpson and the Dart Foundation established the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the University of Washington Department of Communications as an interdisciplinary clearinghouse of information. The new Dart Center assumed responsibility for the annual Dart Awards and a rapidly-expanding portfolio of projects – fellowships, training programs, studies - linking working journalists, mental health professionals, researchers and journalism teachers.
Among the first projects initiated by the Dart Center was an annual fellowship program, bringing together a small group of mid-career journalists for a week of seminars on applying knowledge of emotional trauma to improving coverage of violence.
In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Dart Center established Dart Center Ground Zero, a six-month education and support program for journalists in New York City. The Center also expanded internationally, establishing full-time nodes in Europe and Australia that subsequently developed groundbreaking training programs for journalists and news organizations.
From the beginning the Dart Center has encouraged and led research on the psychological impact of reporting traumatic events. Between 1999 and 2002, Simpson together with psychologist Elana Newman and other colleagues conducted the first peer-reviewed study published on the occupational mental health of reporters and photographers in U.S. newsrooms. In 2004 the Dart Center established an ongoing research node directed by Newman at the University of Tulsa Department of Psychology, involving graduate researchers in a variety of ongoing projects. Since, the Center has supported and encouraged pioneering research into the mental health of combat reporters.
In 2006, journalist Bruce Shapiro, part of the Center’s founding leadership team, became the first full-time executive director.
In 2009, the Dart Foundation accepted an invitation from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to relocate the Dart Center there. The Dart Foundation provided a $7 million, 5-year gift to Columbia to support the Dart Center's core programs and operations. In 2014, Kenneth Dart, former President and CEO of Dart Container Corporation and a global investor made a $4 million donation to continue the Dart Center's work through 2017. Through the active engagement of volunteer news professionals, clinicians and researchers, the Dart Center has been able to respond to exceptional events challenging journalism — the Oklahoma City bombing, September 11, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech mass shooting, the Indonesian tsunami, the Sandy Hook shooting, among others — while expanding a core commitment to innovative training and support for all news professionals encountering violence and tragedy in the practice of their craft.