Report on Ground Zero
Dr. Elana Newman, co-leader of Dart Center Ground Zero, identified various emotional and psychological responses among traumatized journalists in post-Sept. 11 New York.
First, Newman found war correspondents were stunned when their perceived safe home became a war zone. "Many of them didn't realize how difficult it was to go back (to covering war) in a conflict zone," Newman said.
International journalists, stationed in New York and isolated from colleagues after the attack, also sought and needed support services.
Student journalists on college newspapers also needed support, she noted. While journalism students usually had opportunities to talk about coverage stresses in the classroom, newspaper staffers often lacked that opportunity.
However, Newman added, "Doing good journalism is a good coping skill." Some journalists took solace in their work but didn't have time to realize they were mentally and physically exhausted. Others were directly affected by the attacks. They experienced personal loss, possibly the death of a friend or relative.
"It's difficult to be a survivor and a reporter," Newman said. "They had a double challenge." These reporters told stories of the lives lost, but Newman said the articles were essentially about dealing with their own loss. The majority of journalists did their job and moved on.
"They were distressed, they were exhausted, they had a lot of difficulty, as did most of America," Newman said, "and (the trauma) was nothing major or long-lasting."
Newman and DCGZ co-leader Barbara Monseu identified fear as a significant emotional response among reporters. The resources DCGZ provided helped address that fear. They hope more and more journalists continue to seek the Dart Center's trauma education and support resources.
"Journalists are often first on the scene," the two wrote in their DCGZ report, "yet their emotional needs are by-and-large ignored."
"Because journalists work so hard after crises or long-term breaking news stories," Newman added, "it isn't until much later that they have time to reflect on what happened to them."
"Journalists," she said, "need to develop skills to cover the story while taking care of their own emotional, psychological and physical needs."
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Part II: Lessons Learned