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Media matters - to patients, clients and members of this society of traumatic stress studies. As a new subspecialty of trauma/journalism evolved within ISTSS, this column has changed. Five years ago, then ISTSS vice president and StressPoints editor Art Blank asked me to write "Mediawatch," assuming I'd chasten our journalistic colleagues - particularly when they revictimized survivors with needlessly lurid details. But media professionals and student journalists identified their own needs for trauma education and for PTSD treatment. They attended ISTSS conferences, and they joined our ISTSS presidents as judges of the Dart Award to acknowledge excellence in reporting about victims of violence. They collaborated with ISTSS members to document their vulnerability to job-related traumatic stress. Elana Newman, current StressPoints editor, leads this international research agenda. My columns have been easy on members of the media, treating them as allies rather than adversaries. And now, I pass this column to a journalist and a new ISTSS member, Terry M. Clark, as he furthers a dream of mine - to bring professional journalism to ISTSS and to bring the goals of ISTSS to the worldwide media. Clark is a professor and the chair of the Journalism Department at the University of Central Oklahoma, location of the Center for People and the Media, funded in part by the Dart Foundation. The Center focuses on training community journalists and students to deal with victims and trauma.
- Frank Ochberg

We've changed the name of the column because, as Canadian Marshall McLuhan observed, you won't watch media. You are immersed in it; it affects you and reality. So "Media Matters" carries at least two levels of meanings, which seems appropriate for "clinicians," a new word I learned in San Antonio at the 2000 conference. I hope to provide news you can use in dealing with media and your patients.

Thus the rest of this issue's column focuses on an important development in media and trauma, written by Canadian Air Force Reserve Officer Robert Frank. His experiences following the 1998 crash of Swissair 111 in Nova Scotia led to the formation of a new nonprofit corporation, Newscoverage Unlimited, where Frank serves as executive director. He recognized symptoms of traumatic stress among hundreds of newspeople covering the disaster. At a news conference, the Canadian military for the first time openly acknowledged the effects of traumatic stress. A sergeant from Newfoundland spoke up: "You folks in the news media are the forgotten tribe." I contend that journalists and clinicians are tribes with much in common and need each other, and that will be a continuing theme in my column.
- Terry Clark


Efforts to bring together journalism and trauma reached a crossroads at the November ISTSS meeting in San Antonio, offering clinicians a unique opportunity to reach out and form alliances with newspeople.

Newscoverage Unlimited, designed to help newspeople who are affected by the grisly stories they cover, held its first meeting during the conference. With founders in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, Newscoverage Unlimited aims to promote self-help for news gatherers. Its first priority will be to raise funds to recruit and deploy a volunteer team of current and former newspeople and trauma specialists. It aims to promote self-help for news gatherers to prevent trauma from limiting the quality or amount of news coverage and plans to train newspeople how to recognize trauma's effects, how to be of help and, if they can't help, how to get expert assistance.

"Our goal is to strengthen reporting through mutual support and expert resources," says Frema Engel, Newscoverage Unlimited vice president and clinical director. Chris Cramer, president of CNN International Networks, will serve as honorary chairman of the nonprofit initiative.

Preliminary research results underscore the need. A study of foreign correspondents shows that nearly one-third of them suffer from PTSD. Another survey of National Press Photographers Association members shows that trauma is no stranger to domestic news coverage in the United States. Automobile accidents were reported as the most frequent source of traumatic stress.

Newscoverage Unlimited enjoys a close relationship with a related organization, the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at the University of Washington in Seattle. The Dart Center is a leader in educating journalists and journalism students about trauma. Its revamped Web site offers news in the field. And a book, Covering Violence: A Guide to Ethical Reporting about Victims & Trauma, co-authored by Dart Center director Roger Simpson and William Coté of the University of Michigan, has just been published.
- Robert Frank