Reporting Trauma After the Boston Marathon

Listen to “Reporting Trauma After the Boston Marathon”

Zach Hirsch jumped right in the deep end when he was a student at the Transom Story Workshop last spring. Even seasoned journalists might have had difficulty with Zach’s task: interviewing people who have been traumatized.

Zach’s story, “100%”, details the emotional and psychological challenges faced by two victims of the Boston Marathon bombing — Dari Whitehouse and Jerry Peckham, a mother and son. Interviewing anyone can be a challenge for a new producer never mind traumatized people. Zach’s delicate approach offers insight into how to reach out and chat with individuals who’ve experienced disturbing events.

Bruce Shapiro also joins us on this HowSound. Bruce is the Executive Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the Columbia School of Journalism. “We expect the Boston Marathon to be a safe place,” Bruce says. “And when it’s not, the social contract is ripped up, violated. A reporter who goes in and does an interview that in some sense violates a sense of what’s right a second time is going to be on the receiving end of a lot of distress,… anger and betrayal because people who have been traumatized have already been betrayed by the world once.”

There’s another side to this story: the impact of trauma reporting on journalists. I didn’t touch upon that subject in this episode but I encourage you to listen to Diary of a Bad Year: A War Correspondents Dilemma by Kelly McEvers with Jay Allison. Kelly’s is heartfelt, honest, and direct. The story of her struggles reporting from the Middle East are required listening.

PS – I think it’s important for me to say, as Zach’s instructor (and a citizen), I’m very thankful for Dari and Jerry’s willingness to be interviewed, especially by a student. They didn’t have to share their story. I’m grateful they did.

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