Not first responders, but often first to respond: Canadian journalists’ use of trauma-informed approaches in reporting

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Dubinski, Kate
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Mount Saint Vincent University
As part of their work, journalists regularly encounter people who have experienced trauma, whether long-term and systemic or immediate, such as following the death of a loved one. Their jobs take them into the intimate lives and emotions of these people, which they then have to communicate with their audiences, and their approaches could have a harmful, neutral, or positive impact. The central purpose of this study is to investigate if journalists have an understanding of trauma-informed communication practice and how they use them when performing their daily job tasks. The study involved qualitative interviews with six working journalists in Ontario, Canada. Using grounded theory approach, the study found the journalists have a deep desire to be sensitive and empathetic to the people they encounter on the job, and that they regularly put the demands of their superiors and the (sometimes unwritten) rules of their profession second to the needs of the people they are interviewing and reporting on. Based on the responses of the participants and on an understanding of trauma-informed approaches, a series of guiding principles were formulated for newsrooms and for journalists, mindful of daily deadline pressures, the demands placed on journalists, and the need for trauma-informed approaches to tell more meaningful stories while not further harming those individuals or communities which are being reported upon.