Compassion goes a long way when reporting on tragedies like Boston & Newtown

By Genevieve Belmaker for Poynter

Journalists are often warned about the perils of getting emotionally involved with stories and subjects, but when reporting on a tragedy there’s always room to act as a human being first and a reporter second.

Reporting on the pain of the small college town of Blacksburg, Va., after the horrific 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, my natural instinct was to grieve with the folks there. At the time, though, I didn’t know how to use my emotions as a compass to help me connect with people I needed to interview.

But six years later, I know that for journalists in such terrible situations our humanity is a strength, not a weakness.

Bill Leukhardt, a reporter with the Hartford Courant, has seen tragedy from both sides. His stepdaughter, Lauren Rousseau, was one of the teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.

Leukhardt, whose wife is also a journalist, said during a recent symposium at Columbia University dealing with breaking news, trauma and the aftermath that they understood why they received so many media inquiries after their stepdaughter’s death. But that didn’t make it any easier to open up for interviews.

The symposium was presented by Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma on Monday in New York City for an audience of mostly working journalists and journalism students.

Leukhardt and many other panelists had an overarching message for reporters speaking to the grieving: show compassion and acknowledge loss.

“Kindness is what really resonates with families,” Leukhardt said, adding that when people who knew victims don’t want to be interviewed, leave them alone. “Be respectful, be kind.”

Read the rest here at Poynter

Tribute Project to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros

Tim Hetherington
Chris Hondros

One year after their untimely deaths while working in Libya, a special tribute to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros called “Liberty and Justice (for All)” features the work of 68 photographers. The tribute includes work of some of the world’s best photojournalists, and explores the concepts of liberty and justice.

Read more about the exhibit on my blog for the Foreign Policy Association.

VII London Panel Discussion

According to VII, an upcoming panel discussion in London will feature some heavy-hitters from the photography world:

© Christopher Morris/VII

VII photographers Lynsey Addario, Gary Knight, Christopher Morris and Stephanie Sinclair will be at the Frontline Club to discuss the key themes in “Questions Without Answers,” the forthcoming book by VII. The book will be on sale and available for signing at the event, sponsored by Canon.

Featuring Lynsey Addario, Gary Knight,
Christopher Morris & Stephanie Sinclair
May 21, 2012, 7pm
Fee: £12.50 (£10 concession)
Frontline Club
London