UW News

October 18, 2001

Prof to open journalism, trauma center at Ground Zero

By Steve Hill
University Week

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the UW has received emergency funding to open an office in New York City to support journalists traumatized by their work covering the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We’re going to New York City because the journalists have been through an extraordinarily stressful time,” Dart Center Director Roger Simpson said. “We’re talking about ground zero. So they’re affected and they need some support.”

The temporary office will be directed by Elana Newman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa. She is a leading researcher on the emotional impact of news work and a member of the board of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Barbara Monseu, an investment banker in Denver, will be operations director. Monseu previously served as assistant superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools, the district that includes Columbine High School, where two students opened fire in April 1999 killing 15 people including themselves.

Simpson, an associate professor of communications, opened the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma (http://www.dartcenter.org/) at the UW in November 1999. The center’s goal remains to help journalists understand emotional trauma so they can convey its impact accurately in their reporting and to help journalists cope with their own emotional responses to violent events.

Journalists are affected by events such as those on Sept. 11 in various ways. One evidence of their interest is that a recent information session on trauma in New York City drew more than 100 reporters and photographers.

“Through anecdotes we know that reporters suffer the same kinds of trauma that police officers, firefighters and survivors of violence suffer,” Simpson said.

Newman said journalists and news organizations have already been asking the Dart Center for help as a result of covering the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events. She said their needs include sources of trauma information, a mental-health referral center for journalists, and training to help journalists recognize the effects of trauma in themselves and their colleagues.

“(Terrorism) challenges one’s core assumptions about other people and about trust, safety, justice and benevolence or malevolence in the world,” Newman said.

Simpson said the location of Dart Center Ground Zero will be chosen as soon as possible. The Dart Center will immediately activate a portion of its Web site dedicated to resources for journalists in the New York region.

The temporary office, dubbed Dart Center Ground Zero, will be funded by a $250,000 grant from the Mason, Mich., based Dart Foundation.

“Without the support of William A. Dart and his family, this important emergency response would not be possible,” Simpson said.