What Educators Teach

Teaching journalism students how to cover violence, victims and trauma.

How important is it to teach students how to cover violence? How much attention do journalism programs give to trauma? Who teaches such courses? Which educators see themselves as qualified to teach them?

The vast majority of instructors agreed that teaching students how to cover violence and trauma is important for journalism programs.

Three-quarters of surveyed educators believed journalism and media studies programs should teach students how to cover violence, victims, and trauma.

The majority (62%) of educators participating in the survey said the topic of covering trauma received little or no attention in their program.

The courses most likely to include instruction about trauma journalism were (in descending order): Journalism ethics, advanced news writing & reporting, news writing & reporting, broadcast reporting, and photojournalism.

The courses least likely to include instruction about trauma journalism were: Graphic design, advanced news editing, commentary & editorial writing, feature writing, TV production, news editing, and online journalism.

Trauma journalism classes ignored key topics

When educators taught students how to cover trauma and violence, the topics commonly covered were:
Interviewing victims/survivors and their families, covering natural disasters, covering homicide, covering rape/sexual assault, reporting accidental deaths, covering conflicts and war, and covering suicide.

The topics least commonly covered were:
Dealing with PTSD, covering drug abuse/addiction and drug related violence, being a first responder to an accident or crime scene, dealing with trauma and stress reactions, covering child abuse, covering domestic violence, risks and self care for journalists, covering political violence and terrorism.

Prior journalism experience influenced how likely educators were to teach students about covering trauma

The more journalism experience instructors have had and the more experience covering trauma, the more likely they were to have taught one or more trauma subtopics, especially how to interview victims/survivors and their families, how to cover homicide, how to report on accidental deaths, and what the risks are and what self care should be for journalists.

Academic background also influenced how likely educators were to teach trauma journalism and how likely were they to consider it important

Instructors with degrees in law were most likely to have included trauma journalism instruction in their courses, followed by those with degrees in media studies, political science, journalism, and education.

Instructors with degrees in public relations/marketing were least likely to have taught trauma journalism, followed by instructors with degrees in communication, history, mass communication, and English/literature.

Not all educators saw themselves equally qualified to teach students how to cover violence and trauma

The more experience instructors have had as former journalists and the more experience they had covering trauma, the more likely they were interested in trauma journalism, and the more likely they saw themselves qualified to teach it.

Instructors with degrees in history were most likely to view themselves qualified to teach trauma journalism courses, followed by those with degrees in law, journalism, political science, and education.

Those with degrees in communication were least likely to view themselves qualified to teach trauma journalism, followed by the disciplines of public relations/marketing, mass communication, media studies, and English/literature.

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