Dart Center & Frontline Club Look to Support Journalists

London’s new Frontline Club for journalists involved in the reporting of war, trauma and disaster has now formally opened its doors with a powerful discussion organised and sponsored by the Dart Centre on the role of trauma in journalism.

London’s new Frontline Club for journalists involved in the reporting of war, trauma and disaster has now formally opened its doors with a powerful discussion organised and sponsored by the Dart Centre on the role of trauma in journalism.

Former Reuters Global News Editor Stephen Jukes told some 40 news executives, reporters, psychiatrists and therapists of the news agency’s extensive trauma training project introduced during the Iraq War – and of his colleagues’ intense personal distress at the deaths of two Reuter cameramen in Baghdad.

The meeting was shown video excerpts from traumatic news of recent years, including the attack on the Palestine Hotel in Bahgdad in April – and as live pictures had come in of that attack, said Jukes, of the body of cameraman Taras Protsyuk and of wounded reporter Samia Nakhoul, it had deeply affected the Reuter newsroom.

“That newsroom,” he said, “a lot of hard-nosed hacks and a lot of us very cynical, I suspect, was reduced to an absolute mess and wreck that day, as we saw those pictures coming in. It affected all of us so many miles away because they were friends, we’d worked with them.”

Jukes spoke of the importance of having an international and toll-free helpline for journalists; of the central place of educating senior managers in trauma; of culture change which will in time see trauma support positioned alongside hostile environment training as journalistic second nature; and of the need perhaps to choose more carefully who gets sent to war zones.

The meeting, chaired by Dart Centre Europe Director Mark Brayne, also heard from trauma expert Gordon Turnbull, of the Ticehurst Priory Hospital near London, about the latest insights of brain science and the resilience of human response systems to trauma.

One of the United States’ best-known reporters from the Vietnam War, Jack Laurence, spoke of how thrilling but also damaging war reporting can be, and of how his own psychological well-being had been helped by three things in particular – reading self-help books, therapy, and the support and strength of his colleagues.

Speakers from London’s Metropolitan Police, and Britain’s Royal Marines and Armed Forces reported on how military and police cultures had had to change in recent years to acknowledge the experience of trauma – building especially on the “buddy-buddy” approach of destigmatising trauma within teams, and encouraging individuals to support each other.

Click here for a detailed transcript of the discussion, which also saw some of the following issues raised:

  • The role of the Frontline Club: Founder and former freelance war cameraman Vaughan Smith looks forward to the Club being a centre of support and debate around the paramount issues of journalistic safety.
  • John Owen, Chairman of the Frontline Forum, sees Frontline Club as a place to give a voice to journalists who have a conscience and are good at what they do.
  • Mark Brayne views Dart Center Europe’s role as building community and changing culture – and going beyond PTSD to support emotionally healthy journalists and journalism.
  • Bruce Shapiro, the Dart Centre’s US-based Field Director, sees the Frontline Club’s very existence as a statement against the kind of isolation and loss that too many in journalism suffer as a result of their work – and welcomes the progress made in the past year in British journalism in raising awareness of trauma and emotions.
  • Stephen Jukes speakers of Reuters’ experience of trauma and its new programmes of training and support.
  • Sarah Ward-Lilley of the BBC describes how the role trauma awareness and training played in the coverage of the Iraq War.
  • Caroline Ellis describes in detail the Royal Marines’ programme of Trauma Risk Management – shortly to be introduced also in the American military and Britain’s Royal Navy.
  • George Couch, a senior officer with London’s police liaison teams, describes how police culture in the British capital has had to change, from old macho approaches to a recognition of how trauma can hurt individuals.
  • Gordon Turnbull, prominent trauma specialist, welcomes approaches to trauma which support survivors’ and witnesses’ natural resilience – now much better understood thanks to new brain science.
  • Jack Laurence speaks powerfully of the thrill of war reporting and the longer-term damage it can leave behind – and of the value of peer support.
  • Andy Kain, ex-SAS and one of Britain’s most experienced hostile environment training providers, underlines the similarity between media and military experiences of conflict, and the important of the buddy-buddy system.
  • Ian Palmer, outgoing senior psychiatrist with Britain’s special services, stresses the need for caution: it’s not all about PTSD, and don’t expect everyone who needs to to be willing to take up the offer of support.