Dart Center, Digital First Media’s northeast properties kick off peer support program
Nine more journalists joined Digital First Media’s peer-support efforts at a seminar June 3 in Pittsfield, Mass. led by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma’s Bruce Shapiro and Elana Newman.
The seminar came a few weeks after a similar workshop at the York Daily Record attended by 15 journalists from DFM’s Pennsylvania properties.
Shapiro, Dart’s executive director, and Newman, the center’s clinical research director, talked to the group about how most journalists won’t have long-term effects from traumatic events they cover, but how research shows us that some will.
They talked about the importance of understanding how people, including journalists, respond to trauma. And they talked about how peer-support can help if a fellow staffer is distressed after, for example, photographing or reporting a particular story. I talked to the nine DFM staffers about the nuts-and-bolts of how peer support has worked at the YDR and other Pennsylvania properties.
The DFM peer-support program trains staffers to check in with colleagues who have covered a difficult story. In many cases, that’s all that’s needed. But peer-supporters are also trained to have structured conversations to help other journalists process what they’ve seen.
“The majority of trauma-related stress can be metabolized person-to-person, peer-to-peer, with a certain amount of trauma education,” Shapiro said.
For more on DFM’s peer-support program and its focus on best practices for covering stories of trauma and conflict:
Brain science and journalism: A trauma survivor’s memory is still forming when she might be giving an interview. What does that mean for those asking the questions?