Dart Research Director Gives Ted Talk on Trauma-Aware Journalism

In a recent TedX talk at the University of Tulsa, Dart Research Director Elana Newman offered perspective on the important role journalists can play in saving lives during a tragedy, mitigating violence and helping to restore justice.

"The kind of news I'm advocating for keeps us psychologically safe," said Newman, a clinical psychologist. "It reduces isolation. It makes us feel more powerful after a traumatic event has rendered us powerless. It keeps us connected."

Newman said that 60% of people in the United States will experience a serious accident, trauma or incident of abuse in their lifetimes and may also be covered by the news at some point. 

"What that means in practical terms is that you or a loved one need the kind of information that journalists are providing," said Newman, who explained that news consumers must overcome a biological instinct to avoid difficult stories. "At the time of a disaster, journalists tell us where to go and how to keep safe."

Newman said that in a potentially violent situation, the mere presence of journalists -- particularly photojournalists -- can actually prevent that violence from taking place. "Potential perpetrators may not act if they are being watched," she explained, as she clicked through a series of photos by Dart curator Donna DeCesare.

Many journalists "spend a lot of their time bearing witness professionally to pain and suffering," said Newman. And the public has a responsibility too, she said, to call attention to stories that are under-reported, demand reporting on violence and aftermath, and to stand up for reporters who are threatened for doing their jobs.

Click here to read Elana Newman's overview of current research on the occupational hazards for journalists covering traumatic events, and suggestions for mitigating those factors.

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