Tragedies & Journalists

Tips for photojournalists who respond to tragedies:
1. Understand that you may be the first to arrive at any scene. You may face dangerous situations and harsh reactions from law enforcement and the public. Stay calm and focused throughout. Be aware that a camera cannot prevent you from being injured. Do not hesitate to leave a scene if it becomes too dangerous. Any supervisor or editor should understand that a person's life is more important than a photo.

2. Treat every victim that you approach at a tragedy with sensitivity, dignity and respect. Do not react harshly to anyone's response to you. Politely identify yourself before requesting information.

3. You will record many bloody images during a tragedy. Ask yourself whether these are important enough for historical purposes or too graphic for your readers or viewers.

4. Do everything possible to avoid violating someone's private grieving. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't record photos of emotion at public scenes. However, do not intrude upon someone's private property or disturb victims during their grieving process.

5. Realize that you are a human being who must take care of your mind. Admit your emotions. Talk about what you witnessed to a trusted peer, friend or spouse. Write about it. Replace horrible images with positive ones. Establish a daily routine of healthful habits. Dr. Elana Newman, a licensed clinical psychologist who conducted a survey of 800 photojournalists, told the National Press Photographers Association convention: "Witnessing death and injury takes its toll, a toll that increases with exposure. The more such assignments photojournalists undertake, the more likely they are to experience psychological consequences." If your problems become overwhelming, do not hesitate to seek professional counseling.