This past weekend Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan, one of two young men responsible for the horrific tragedy at Columbine, was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night. Her book will be released this week. For the families of the victims of Columbine, and many other victims and survivors of mass shootings, it was a tough weekend. Every time a shooting happens of any type the people who were impacted whether they lost a loved one, were injured themselves, or were there, relive their experiences. That includes the people who tell their stories, the journalists.
The general news consuming public makes an assumption that because gathering the news is their job, traumatic events don’t affect the reporters and photographers. Just because it is their job doesn’t mean jourmalists are immune to human emotions. That would be like saying soldiers don’t deal with PTSD or emotional issues because it is their job. Nothing could be further than the truth.
Thanks to the work of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and several studies on the subject, more and more journalists are finding the support they need. Dr. Anthony Feinstein published his book in 2003, Journalists Under Fire. The book was the result of his study of war correspondents. He found a significant minority of war correspondents meet the criteria for PTSD.
Dave Cullen, a reporter and the author of the book Columbine, wrote an incredibly open, honest, sometimes painful, look at the pain and emotions he experienced during his time covering the Columbine tragedy and in researching his book. Each time there is a shooting he revisits his grief. In his article in the Daily Beast he gives us all a glimpse at the grieving the survivors of these types of mass shootings revisit each time another one happens.
I’ve written about my call to support journalists and others here before. Moving forward when people question me about why I feel called to support journalists and why journalists would need a chaplain, I’ll point to this very powerful and personal account.
My hope in writing this reflection is that the next time you read a story, watch a report, or listen to a story on the radio that discusses a horrible tragedy, you’ll think not only of the victims but the people who respond to the story. The journalists don’t just write about the stories, but are also deeply impacted by what they witness and cover.
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