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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Shapiro’

A reporter’s email asked for advice on “steeling oneself to ask the tough questions? I ask as someone who tends toward introversion when the going gets tougher.”

Effective tough questions (and good answers to them) result from a combination of:

  • Outlook.
  • Preparation.
  • Control.
  • Setting.
  • Recording and photography.
  • Setup.
  • Delivery.
  • Listening.
  • Follow-up.
  • Advance review.

That combination doesn’t necessarily make tough questions easy. They’re tough and introverts need to learn how to ask them if they want to succeed as reporters. But I’ll provide some tips in each area.

Another aspect of tough questions deals with confidentiality. I address that topic extensively in a separate post: Anonymous sources: Factors to consider in using them (and don’t call them anonymous).

Tough questions seem to fall into two categories (unless I’m overlooking one):

  1. Accountability questions. These are the potentially confrontational or contentious questions about possible failure or wrongdoing by the person you’re interviewing, often a public official, but maybe a criminal suspect, business executive or other target of investigative journalism.
  2. Emotional questions. These are questions about emotional personal issues, where you fear that the person might break into tears when answering or become angry and refuse to answer. Often the interview subject here is not used to dealing with the media — perhaps a disaster, crime or accident victim (or a family member of the victim). Or you may be talking about an experience such as war or fleeing a dangerous situation.

For those emotional interviews, I recommend that you browse the resources of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and attend a Dart Center seminar (or invite them to train in your newsroom) if you can. My tips here will repeat some that I offered in connection with a Dart Center program that Digital First Media offered last year. (more…)

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When traumatic stuff happens in a community, journalists are some of the first on the scene, along with the cops, fire fighters, paramedics and other emergency workers.

These tragic events that end and disrupt lives can propel a journalism career forward. The phrase “great story” invariably slips from some journalist’s lips (usually out of earshot of those for whom the trauma is evident). We often cover these stories, though, without a full understanding of what trauma is, how it works and its impact on those who experience trauma, including the journalists who cover it.

At a workshop for Digital First journalists this month in West Chester, Pa., Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, led an exploration of the uncomfortable issues of how we get great stories from tragic events and how we process the trauma that we experience.

Scott Blanchard and Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record journalists, organized the workshop and helped Shapiro lead it. They proposed this training to me after attending a Dart program as winners of honorable mention for a Dart Award for their coverage of the lasting impact of a violent, traumatic event. I supported their suggestion and Claire Gaval, Digital First Media’s Vice President of Learning and Organization Development, helped make it happen.

Scott blogged about the workshop yesterday. I was able to attend only the first of two days of training, and Bruce told participants the workshop would be off the record, to encourage people to talk freely. So I won’t blog much about the workshop itself (though I encourage others to consider holding similar workshops).

What I will do here is share some of my advice from years of reporting and editing on stories about disasters, murders, sexual and domestic abuse and other traumatic situations.

Some of these are tips or anecdotes I shared during the workshop. Others I thought of during the discussions but kept to myself because I thought it was more important for others to talk. I’m not on the front lines of our coverage of traumatic news, and the point of the workshop was to get those on the front lines talking, so they could learn from each other about covering these difficult events and about dealing with the personal impact of that coverage. (more…)

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This is a guest post from Scott Blanchard of the York Daily Record/Sunday News (speaking in my crooked Twitter photo above). I’ll post more about the training tomorrow.

In December 2012, dozens of journalists from Digital First Media newsrooms came together in Newtown, Conn. to cover the mass shooting there for news organizations across the country.

Many returned deeply affected by what they had seen, heard, written and photographed.

The following spring, photojournalist Jason Plotkin and Sunday editor Scott Blanchard of the York Daily Record/Sunday News — which had sent seven staffers to Newtown* — asked Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma executive director Bruce Shapiro if Dart could work with DFM to create something that would be a first for a U.S.-based news organization: A company-wide peer-support program for journalists who cover conflict and violence in their communities. (more…)

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Journalists who covered Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 Eastern Iowa floods and the Parkersburg tornado will share their experience at a seminar in Davenport next month.

The Mid-America Press Institute‘s “Covering natural disasters” seminar starts Friday, April 17, at the Radisson Quad City Plaza Hotel in Davenport.

Mizell Stewart III, editor of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press, who helped the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, will be the keynote speaker on April 17. David Purdy, a former Sun Herald photographer, will be one of the speakers on the final day, April 19.

I will be one of three Gazette journalists who will talk on Saturday, April 18, about what we learned in covering last year’s floods. I will lead an exercise on disaster coverage in the digital age. Mary Sharp, who led our breaking coverage and the flood team that cotinues to cover issues relating to disaster coverage, will discuss the continuing watchdog responsibility. Zack Kucharski, leader of the Gazette Communications data team, will discuss IowaFloodStories and other databases we developed in our flood coverage.

James Wilkerson of the Des Moines Register will join Zack to discuss databases, including the Register’s Parkersburg tornado map. Nancy Newhoff of the Waterloo Courier will discuss coverage of both the tornado and the flooding, which hit her coverage area less than three weeks apart.

Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, will close the seminar April 19 with a discussion of how journalists can deal with the personal toll of disaster coverage.

Other speakers will be The Gazette’s Cecelia Hanley (discussing coverage of a tornado when she was in Evansville), Mark Ridolfi of the Quad City Times, Christine Martin of the Southwest Indiana Disaster Resistant Community Corp., and Dee Bruemmer and Col. Robert Sinkler of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Register by email, phone (217-273-5812) or fax the flier below (217-581-2923). Registration is $50 for members ($40 for the second person from a member paper) and $75 ($65 for the second person) for non-members. Make your hotel reservation at 563-322-2200 by this Friday, April 3.

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