Monday, December 17, 2012

How journalists should cover shootings like Newtown, Connecticut and other traumatic stories: best practices for interviewing survivors

Resources for journalists covering traumatic incidents — from the CAJ

OTTAWADec. 17, 2012 /CNW/ - Media outlets from around the world have descended on Newtown, Conn. this week to cover the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. For many reporters and anchors and camera crews, the story has required them to interview survivors of the shooting, the families, children, and friends and neighbours of the people involved.
The Canadian Association of Journalists has some suggestions for how to interview survivors of trauma and how to get the story, without re-victimizing the victims in the process.
Just a few weeks ago, the CAJ invited experts to weigh in on this specialized form of interviewing, which has become, sadly, a vital skill for today's journalists.
"Journalism and Remembrance: Interviewing Survivors of Trauma" was held in TorontoNov. 20, 2012 at Ryerson University, in collaboration with the Ryerson Journalism Course Union.


The panel included journalist Ted Barris, author of "Breaking the Silence", Carol-Anne Davidson, broadcast journalist and interviewer with the Azrieli Foundation, Andrea Litvack, Social Work program director at U of T, and Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Anishnaabe writer, as well as moderator Esther Enkin of CBC News, recently named the organization's new Ombudswoman (she is also Vice-President of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.
The panel suggested several key ethical considerations for journalists to keep in mind during these fast moving situations, as well as presented some successful methods for journalists to help survivors of trauma tell their own stories, in their own way, be these old traumas such as the Holocaust or Residential School abuse, or more recent ones such as sexual assaults or serving in the war in Afghanistan.
Give the subject control over the telling of their stories:
"These stories have to be told, but we must always be cognizant that there's a person behind the story.  There is responsibility to not further oppress the oppressed," Andrea Litvack said. "The main thing to remember when you're interviewing victims of trauma is that they are all vulnerable," she added.  "What they've all shared is the experience of being helpless, the experience of intense fear, and the experience of a lack of power."
Remember your reason for doing the interview:
"Good ethics and good craft equals great journalism," Esther Enkin said, quoting Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute.  "When you're mindful and you ask yourself 'what is my journalistic purpose … what is my duty to truth telling, what is my duty to the people that I'm broadcasting to or writing for, but also to the people I'm using in my story?'  The more you think about that … people will trust you and they'll open up."
Use a slower pace:
Ted Barris has interviewed 3,000 veterans over the course of 40 years and is a practiced hand at a more subtle approach.  He shared how that worked when Korean War veteran, Hal Merrithew (now deceased) was telling his story.
"(He) had gone into a minefield to retrieve Canadians …. two of them were dead and four of them were wounded," Barris said.  "In the middle of the story … he fell apart, and I thought it was because I was bringing back all those horrific images to his mind … and I stopped.  I gave him time and space."  It turned out, the veteran was sad because he had never been reunited with the surviving members of his unit.
(Above quotes are taken directly from coverage of the CAJ event by freelance journalist Paula Last and published
Remember their right to privacy:
(from CAJ's Ethics Guidelines June 2012)
The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy, and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial.
However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.
We do not manipulate people who are thrust into the spotlight because they are victims of crime or are associated with a tragedy. Nor do we do voyeuristic stories about them. When we contact them, we are sensitive to their situations, and report only information in which the public has a legitimate interest.
We take special care when reporting on children or those who are otherwise unable to give consent to be interviewed. While some minors, such as athletes, may be used to being interviewed, others might have little understanding of the implications of talking to the media. So when unsure, or when dealing with particularly sensitive subjects, we err on the side of seeking parental consent. Likewise, we take special care when using any material posted to social media by minors, as they may not understand the public nature of their postings.
The full guidelines are posted on the CAJ's website and can be downloaded  here.
There is also abundant resource material available from organizations like the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma (Dart's "Covering Children and Trauma" by investigative reporter Ruth Teichroeb is just one helpful guide for those covering events like the Newtown shootings).
The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma'social media sites also provide a good aggregation of advice and commentary regarding the coverage of traumatic stories and for helping journalists also take care of their own health.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with hundreds of members across Canada. The CAJ's primary roles are public-interest advocacy and professional development for its members.
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SOURCE: Canadian Association of Journalists
For further information:
Hugo Rodrigues, CAJ president - 519-756-2020 ext. 2226, 519-535-8680 cell,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best New Toronto Magazines ever from Centennial Journalism's joint program with the University of Toronto

Blits magazine editors

From a magazine to help Ontario's tech start up entrepreneurs, to the newest magazine covering high school sports in the Greater Toronto Area, the graduating students of the University of Toronto's joint journalism program with Centennial College have launched seven fabulous new niche magazines.

Before an industry panel made up of more then a dozen magazine publishers and editors, journalism professionals and industry experts, the students pulled out all the stops Wednesday to make their launches a splashy affair: judges were treated to samples of butter beer, ceviche salad, lava lamp making demonstrations, and Danish butter cookies, and more. Special guests included Sharon Mooney, from Centennial College's Centre for Entrepreneurship, Alex Levy, CEO of MyVoice, Entrepreneur of the Year, Dean Nate Horowitz, School of Communications, Media and Design, Maija Saari, Chair, School of Communications, Media and Design, Phil Alves and Eric McMillan, Toronto, Ted Fairhurst, Coordinator, Joint Journalism Program with University of Toronto, and the Cavanaugh family.
Peter Young, publisher Canadian Security magazine, Scott Jamieson, group publisher (front row)
Nancy Kay Clark, editor, Design Edge Canada magazine,  Martin Seto, Texterity, (middle row)
  Wallie Seto, Career Insider, Barry Finn, The Rider, (holding camera in the air), Adrian Doran, designer. Missing from this photo: Julia Eskins, The Magazine. (back row)

After a four hour competition that saw the students describe their new magazines and explain their business plans, and answer some tough question about advertising revenues and rival publications, the judges met "Canadian Idol"-style to try to decide the winner. (Answer? At the end of the article.)

"To put together a magazine from start to finish in just four months is absolutely amazing," said Paul Grossinger of Annex Business Media, one of the instructors of the senior level course at the journalism program. For the past three years Grossinger and his colleague Ellin Bessner, have co-taught this course that aims to introduce senior level students to the entrepreneurial side of the world of magazine publishing.
Paul Grossinger, MC for the launch event

From conception to content, from design and layout, to marketing and advertising, the students worked tirelessly over the fall semester to create their own niche magazines, companion websites, multi media material, and social media communities. This year for the first time, some magazines created mobile versions that can be accessed on Ipads and using the new Windows8 platform.

"The aim of the course is for students to use all of the journalism skills which they have developed in their time at Centennial, and then become entrepreneurs to create their own jobs in the magazine industry, which some students in previous years have gone on to do successfully," Bessner said. "The course also prepares students to work for existing magazines, in the Rogers family or at other consumer or B2B magazine portfolios."

                                   This year's crop of new magazines included:

Blits: a magazine for book lovers. The editors say it is for book geeks, kind of like watching the extra features on DVDs. The premiere edition has features on best travel holidays such as the Harry Potter tour, Hobbit sites in New Zealand, and Shakespeare's birthplace. Also, how to buy book swag such as perfume made to honour Game of Thrones. And love it or hate it: Fifty Shades of Grey.

Strive Magazine: for parents of special needs children in the Greater Toronto Area. A magazine with features to help stressed out parents do the best for their children. Stories include how to get the most out of parent teacher interviews. Riding as therapy for autistic kids. Inspiring success stories in athletics.

nine twelve the magazine: the only magazine covering high school sports in the Greater Toronto Area. With 300 high schools to cover, the editors say it's time someone covered the top teams in basketball, football, swimming, golf and more. A profile of the best basketball player in the city. Birchmount High School: a sport powerhouse. And the volunteers who devote countless hours to varsity sports.

Teddy Girl Magazine: a fierce blast from the past honouring vintage lifestyle in Toronto, the vintage capital of Canada. The stylish editors are inspired by Marilyn Monroe, Mad Men, long lasting marriages, and perfume, and...high heels. Read about how to create vintage looks without spending a ton of dough. Why suits make the man. And see the photo shoot at St. Michael's College.

Reach Magazine: from science fiction to science journalism. The editors delve into the science behind Star Trek's teleportation, limitless pills to expand your mind, and more. And discover that Canadian scientists are already on the cutting edge of these achievements in medicine, technology and space that most people only know from the big screen.

Maria Maria: Toronto's newest English language magazine about local Latin culture in the Music, dance, success stories. Aimed at newcomers to Toronto as well as second and third generation Canadians of Hispanic origin, and people like the editors, who just love all things Flamenco! Named after the famous Carlos Santana song.

ONset Magazine: For start up entrepreneurial students and young Ontario 20 somethings with ideas for new games, apps, software and business ventures. From how to get venture capital (not easy), to where to meet a co founder (online, and at the pub), to how to design a workspace that is funky and functional.

Elie Kim, Alicia Ferroro, Teona Baetu, Cortney Cook : Strive Magazine

Georgia Williams, Shantal Otchere, Nino Meese-Tamuri, Aki Tse, Leigh Cavanaugh: Reach Magazine

Jennifer Pang, Dylan Robertson, Sarah Taguiam, Sunnie Huang: Onset Magazine (Ipad mobile version)

Shaun Thompson, Ali Dar, Mohammad Arshad: Nine Twelve Magazine

Paulina Pestryakov, Jabbari Weekes, Rebecca Raveendran, Tichaona Tapawamba: Maria Maria magazine

Elita Tsilo, Lucy Qi, Evan deSouza, Jane Igharo: Teddy Girl Magazine
The seven new magazines launched December 2012

Making Butter Beer: Blitz magazine

The judges met after the presentations to review all seven magazines. Third runner up for best magazine: Strive. Second runner up: Reach. Best overall new magazine: OnSet.

Thanks to all the judges. Congratulations to all the students and may your magazines continue in the future, with plenty of success.
Next stop:stay tuned for the results of the annual Independent Publishers Association of Ontario magazine competition. Coming in January 2013.