Magazine article The Quill

Facing the Feelings

Magazine article The Quill

Facing the Feelings

Article excerpt

Journalists are expected to be the eyes and ears of the world. They filter tragedies through themselves and re-create horrors and injustices on film and paper.

But many journalists believe they are not supposed to be among the traumatized. Despite growing evidence and acceptance in the industry that traumatic stress is affecting journalists, the industry clings to images of valiant reporters unscathed by endless horrors and catastrophes.

"Journalists work close to death, violence and devastating tragedy. Yet they often deny that reality," wrote associate professor Roger A. Simpson and doctoral student James G. Boggs, both of University of Washington, in an article published in journalism & Communication Monographs in spring 1999. " Unlike their counterparts in public safety agencies and mental health programs, journalists and their employers give little attention to the terrible eccretion of the effects of their work. Indeed, the culture of daily newspaper journalism resists such attention."

Perhaps journalisms violent history and iron-willed stereotypes pervade the modern perception that good journalists are impervious to the emotional stresses of their profession. David Dary wrote in his book "Red Blood & Black Ink" that many editors of

America's Old West carried guns and some even shot their defamers.

"It is not surprising that the most respected early editors were often those who could fight with their fists as well as their pens, in a very personal way," he wrote.

"Hey, do you think John Wayne would ever cry?" said Bill Vaile, 66, a part-time journalism professor at The Metropolitan State College of Denver. "This is our profession. This is what we do. We have to keep the wolves at the door, because if we let them in, who knows what we'll see?"

Vaile, a combat veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, said he also accompanied reconnaissance patrols in the early stages of the Vietnam war as a stringer for several wire services. …

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