Image by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr. Some rights reserved
Most journalists will have to cover a traumatic story at some point during their careers. It’s part of the job. Any form of emotional abuse or physical violence is likely to leave a scar in one form or another, for both reporters and those who experienced it directly.
Recognising that pain and adjusting how you approach the individuals involved will lead to better interviews, says Steve Buttry, who has more than 30 years experience as a reporter and editor.
In my reporting days, I talked to many grieving relatives, to survivors of rape, child abuse, genocide, domestic violence, disasters, war, refugee camps and terrorist attacks. I interviewed people about being molested as children and about molesting children. I interviewed them about abortions, addictions, firings, failures, discrimination, suicide and murder of loved ones, excommunication, sexual orientation and other personal and sometimes-secret matters. Some of those may not have met the medical definition of trauma, but all of them were difficult, personal topics that people don’t discuss readily or easily with strangers, especially strangers bearing notebooks, cameras or recording equipment.
Buttry has collected his advice on the subject in a recent blog post, going into detail about how to best interview those who have been through a lot, and how journalists can deal with any trauma they experience themselves.
A hat tip to @richardkendall for bringing this to our attention.