My definition of trauma is the emotional aftermath of visualising something disturbing or distressing. Trauma can affect anyone as most people witness traumatic experiences throughout their life. Everyone’s reaction to potentially traumatic experiences is different. In particular, Journalists at times need to document and or write about traumatic news or experiences. This includes shootings, murders or natural disasters. Content may need to be watched or visualised to completely understand what happened which also will be traumatic for journalists. An example of a traumatic experience which occurred recently is the Christchurch Massacre.

At 1:40 disaster struck when gunmen arrived at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton. He then attaked another mosque, overall 50 were killed and 49 others were injured. The shooter involved Brenton Tarrant was charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder. The incident was live streamed on Facebook for the whole world to see. Leaders around the world offered condolences in the wake of the attack.

Victims, Victims of families, the worldwide audience and journalists were all affected by trauma in this specific incident. As the world watched on they grieved and succombed to trauma depending on the impact it had on ones self.

New Zealand banned the use of semi-automatic rifles after the devastation of the incident.

“New Zealand have one of the highest rates in the world for gun ownership. There were 0.18-gun homicides per 100,000 in 2015, ranking it close to countries such as Australia (0.12) and the Netherlands (0.18).”

-Global News

“92% of journalists reported experiencing at least four traumatic situations”

-(Weidman et al., 2008).

There are several types of trauma which can affect journalists. Yet when referring to the Christchurch Massacre the three main types I have chosen are acute, repetitive and historical/integrational trauma.

According to the National Insitute of Mental Health, acute trauma is connected with short term PTSD. Acute Trauma is the exposure to a single-overwhelming event or experience. In saying that, acute trauma most definatley could occur when visualising a shooting. When writing or reporting on a shooting it can lead to Acute Trauma in a way that brings upon loss of focus and poor production when writing or reporting.

As a journalist, you must also be ready to document repeated events which cause trauma. Repetitive Trauma is the repetitive exposure to overwhelming events or experiences causing distress. Repetitive trauma most of the time leads to PTSD. This is a long term-psychological impact which will hinder the ability of the journalist to document and report on stories.

Historical and Integrational Trauma is the negative or distressing exposure to cultural difference that can affect your own cultural background. I chose this as a main type of trauma as the journalism community is quite a multicultural community. Where journalists from all around are documenting on stories that can contain trauma. As a muslim journalist, documenting the Christchurch Massacre would be distressing as part of the same culture which were massacred.

When journaists cover stories which cause trauma, it can have a major impact on the wellbeing of the Journalist and this can span for months. Factors such as culture and experience can increase the impact which the traumatic stories will have on journalists.

Becasue social media platforms are widely used around the world, anything which is uploaded can be seen by anyone using the certain apps. The big negative to this is when people upload content which can be dangerous to a person’s eye. This can cause significant trauma depending on different factors such as age or culture.

The perpertrator of the Christchurch Massacre live streamed the horrific event on big platforms such as Facebook and Youtube. Many people including ABC’s online technology reporter, Ariel Bogle, belived that it was both the platforms fault for the worldwide viewing of the live stream.

“YouTube, Facebook and Twitter so far failing to stop the proliferation of the Christchurch shooting video”.

-Ariel Bogle ABC online technology reporter

A big issue in today’s society is that children are assceable to social media. It is not hard for a child to lie about their age and achive a facebook account. This means that young children couldve possibly been able to witness the horrfic events.

“People may be intensely emotional. They may be overcome with grief and despair. They may be angry and bitter. They may be confused and distracted, unable to take new information on board.”

-Dart Center

The MEAA shows the codes of ethics that media workers are expected to follow and repsect. Ethics in journalism allow journalists to have an independent voice on social media and allow for fair commentary and documentation on stories.The following codes refer to journalists when covering stories involving trauma:

4. Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.

5.  Disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism. Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.

9.  Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.

11. Respect private grief and personal privacy. Journalists have the right to resist compulsion to intrude


Media personnel can be easily criticised when covering traumatic stories such as the Christchurch Massacre. In past cases, journalists have been condemned through exploiting grief, being classed as ‘insensitive’ towards victims and struggling to decide the difference between “need to know” and “want to know”. All victims and family of victims must be treated with care when interviewing and providing documentation of the incident. A key aspect of journalism is knowing how to ethically approach and report certain cases involving trauma and grief.

Disobeying these ethics listed above can have a detrimental impact on the person’s career and credibility. An example of disobeying such ethics is when Frazier Anning decided to blame ‘muslim immigration’ for the attack in Christchurch.

“real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place”.

-Fraser Anning

These comments had significant backlash from not only the muslim community but the nations of Australia and New Zealand. He was handed with a censure by Australian parliament.

To be able to document and report on stories which can bring upon trauma to the audience and yourself as a journalist, you must be equipped with the right knowldedge on ethics and how trauma may affect your own self.

Knowledge on ethics is key to becoming a talented journalist and staying away from any legal implications.


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