Are You Happy Now: Sensitive Interviewing During Tragedy

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"Citizens thrust into the news by crisis or tragedy deserve different treatment

than politicians, executives or others who are sophisticated about dealing with

the media" (Haiman 32).

In cases where an accident has just occurred or a tragedy has just been witnessed, the goals of journalism differ from when one is interviewing the president on a new policy or a mayor about discovered affair in his office.  Here, the reporter must remember that he/she is not trying to uncover a deep, dark secret, or hoping for the interviewee to slip and say too much; the job is to humanize a tragedy, to make sense of chaos, and to show the effects of unfortunate events. 

It was interesting to read that "sensitivity can be learned."  I agree with that, and I also agree with the practice of having journalists discuss ethical dilemmas with their editors, and undergo special training for such trying times. 


Greta Carroll said:

I also thought the words, “sensitivity can be learned” were interesting. Really, I think it’s a good thing to have put it in a manual on journalism. It makes it clear to journalists that there is no excuse for not considering other people’s feelings. Granted, reporters are sent out to get a story and one part of attracting readers is through emotion. However, there needs to be some sort of line drawn somewhere or the use of emotion will detract readers more than attract. When there has been a tragedy, no one needs a camera shoved in their face. Therefore, it’s important to stress/teach sensitivity, so that reporters who may have seen many tragedies remember that each tragedy is very personal and real to the people involved in it.

Derek Tickle said:

I love how you say that when you write about a recent tradegy, then you don't want to dig too deep. I believe that a reporter needs to be careful towards people's sensitivity because not everyone wants to talk about a crime, tragedy, or an unfortuante event. A reporter should try and put theirselves in the shoes of the person that they are interviewing and then decide if they would like it. Good Job, Josie!

Aja Hannah said:

It's weird that sensitivity has to be learned. You would think that a bunch of adults who probably experienced loss before would know how to act. Is it because of the environment they work in? I've heard journalists are really cynical.

Then again, I've heard of regular offices that need this training. Why?

Josie Rush said:

Aja, I don't think it's so much that they need to learn compassion, but they need to learn how to handle themselves in stressful situations. I don't consider myself to be apathetic towards the quality of human life, and I would still sign up for sensitivity training if I had to talk to people who had just witnessed a deadly accident, or had just lost a loved one. It's awkward enough to be in that situation when you don't have a job to do, but when you're forced to think about what your paper wants from you and what the person you're interviewing needs from you...I imagine things get confusing, and having a tape-recording and a pen does not help much.

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