Report on Ground Zero
Dart Center Ground Zero successfully linked journalists to support services, Elana Newman, its co-director, said.
Maintaining those services is vital. "We need to have a continued, constant presence in the media," she said. "We need to be there to remind people how important (trauma-related) issues are."
After six-months in New York, Newman and Barbara Monseu had made far-reaching journalism connections. Partners included local journalism schools, the Foreign Press Club and the New York Academy of Medicine.
The murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and the anthrax scare emphasized DCGZ's goals. Combined with post-Sept. 11 awareness, Newman said, journalists made an important realization. "There was a major upset in the daily routine of covering the news," Newman said. "(Trauma) is becoming more of an interest in media."
New York's ethnic and community newspapers particularly impressed Newman. "They were very open to trauma education and discussion," Newman said. "We had a lot of impact (on ethnic and community papers)."
Journalists, Newman said, became much more interested in learning how to approach trauma victims with sensitivity. Reporters discussed the elements of good versus exploitative coverage. They considered how long-term trauma coverage affects victims and communities.
Another hot topic was TV reporters showing emotion, Newman said. Reporters asked each other, "Is it OK to show emotion?" Although there was no consensus, the dialogue was promising. Newman also found that the journalism environment hinders the use of in-house support services.
"The culture of journalism," she explained, "is not one of emotional support." It is essential that human resource professionals, editors and managers be involved in providing for technical and emotional support of journalists, she said.
Reporters often don't seek support in fear of being perceived as weak, Newman said, so DCGZ strived to create a "continuum of services for those who were really open and ready (to seek support) and for those who were skeptical."
Another important lesson came from observing journalists' interaction with mental therapists. "Journalists are not that skeptical of mental health people if they are approached with respect and understanding," Newman said.
She worked with therapists and journalists to create more effective collaboration. "A lot of miscommunication came from presumptuous mental health people telling journalists what to do."