Journalists & Trauma was a free event that occurred on Saturday morning.
I had originally planned to go to an advanced screening of The Help and associated brunch put on by Sunday Life magazine, however tickets sold out way in advance, so I thought I might as well fill my morning with something else worthwhile.
The event was hosted by Margaret Simons, and featured Dennis Miller, author of a new book on Black Saturday and the role of the media in it, and Di James, a survivor of the Marysville bushfires.
The talk focused on a report by the Centre for Advanced Journalism entitled “In the Media Spotlight: The Survivor Series”, which studies the role of the media in gathering material in the event of a tragedy, consent from those they gather material from, and the problems faced by both the media and the public affected in those situations.
There was a heavy focus on the first 48 hours of a tragedy, in which Di recounted her story of fleeing to a neighbour’s home to watch her house, car and business (the famed Marysville lolly shop) go up in flames, being cut off from communication and being unable to tell her children she was okay, having the a media chopper arrive before the authorities, and using the media to her advantage to get the message out that a) there were people there who needed to be evacuated, and b) she was alive.
James was, understandably, a bit teary in recounting these events, but all in all, she agreed with Miller’s findings that the media needs to be more sensitive when covering tragedies and trauma.
While I can see where James is coming from, having been involved in Black Saturday and seeing images of herself and her friends (some of whom didn’t make it) plastered on newspapers and being shown on television two years later (without her consent), I do believe the public has a right to know about these things.
Mia Freedman wrote in her most recent Sunday Life column about suicide and its coverage in the media. Personally, I am a sucker for details, and will go to extreme lengths to find them out. (Googling crime scene pictures of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman wasn’t my finest moment.) Enquiring minds want to know. But do they need to?
And in this day and age of Twitter, blogs and live streaming (Journalists & Trauma was live Tweeted and streamed), most details do get out. Like anything, I think we should have the option of seeking this information out if we so wish, and shunning it if we have no interest in it.
I understand the hardships of those who are involved in tragedies, and wouldn’t wish any undue stress to them, but in the long run, I think if said enquiring minds are satisfied, they will move on to something else, leaving those affected to grieve in peace.
Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Suicide Contagion. Does it Exist?
Image via Melbourne Writers Festival.