November 16, 1999
UW to create Center for Journalism and Trauma
The University of Washington School of Communications is creating a Center for Journalism and Trauma, the first of its kind in the country.
The center, supported by a grant from the Dart Foundation, will study news coverage of violence, develop educational resources for use in journalism schools and news organizations, disseminate research and information about trauma issues, and encourage industrial and educational attention to the effects of violence on news subjects and on journalists.
“Anecdotally, we know that reporters suffer the same kinds of trauma that police officers, fire fighters and survivors of violence also suffer,” says Roger Simpson, associate professor of communications and director of the center. “But no one has gathered systematic evidence about this.”
Simpson has been director of the school’s Journalism and Trauma Program since 1994. Every advanced journalism student at the UW is trained in the effects of trauma on reporters who cover violence. “The truth is, there’s very little research on the psychological effects on journalists of witnessing trauma. That’s one of the issues the center will address, as well as case studies of how the media cover violence — in both constructive and destructive ways.”
The center also will coordinate the Dart Fellowship program, which will train journalists on issues of trauma, in collaboration with the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, a leading research forum for the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology. This year, Simpson has coordinated a pilot project for the fellowship program, which is meeting this week in Miami. The first Fellows include reporters and a photographer who covered the shootings in a Fort Worth church, the murder of a gay college student in Wyoming and the Columbine school shootings. One reporter was imprisoned by the Iraqis during the Gulf War.
The center intends to act as a resource center for students, journalists and news organizations seeking information about victim and trauma issues. The center also will develop models for classroom trauma training in journalism schools and for news organizations. The center’s website, www.dartcenter.org, will offer case studies, new research findings, and a newsletter.
The Dart Foundation will provide funding of $200,000 a year for three years, plus an additional two years of support at a minimum of $100,000 a year.
“By establishing the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma in Seattle, the Dart Foundation intends an interdisciplinary, international network of educators, researchers and journalists who will promote respect for victims of catastrophe and cruelty,” says Frank M. Ochberg, representative of the Mason, Mich., foundation.
For additional information, contact Simpson at Hotel Inter-Continental Miami, 305-577-1000, until Nov. 17 and at 206-543-0405 beginning Nov. 19.
David Handschuh, a New York Daily News photographer who is one of the Dart Fellows, is willing to talk to reporters. He can be reached at the Hotel Inter-Continental Miami, 305-577-1000, until Nov. 17.