Some reporters actively experience trauma while covering stories that hit close to home. Former Hawaii News Now Reporter, Marina Riker, a Maui resident, became part of the destruction of the wildfire.
While reporting was her passion and intention, she lost her home in the fire. The post traumatic stress encouraged Riker to leave her job and devote time to heal and also learn about the value of trauma-informed reporting.
“It is so important to talk about the effects of trauma in our industry, because that is an integral part of what we do every single day. As reporters, you’re going to be exposed to it.” she said.
While having endured a tumultuous event, Riker advised Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) region 11 attendees about the value of trauma-informed reporting. Riker emphasized several facets of reporting that were brought to the forefront as being part of the community that is impacted.
“There are things you can do as a journalist that can enable you to do your job in a way where you can have impact on the world, and also take care of the people you are interviewing who are part of this traumatic event,” Riker said.
Advocacy for self and story should be a priority for reporters. Riker reinforced the value of putting yourself first, especially when topics can be traumatic. That includes being knowledgeable of trauma-informed practices. Learning how to mitigate sensitive situations can warrant better interviews where difficult questions are only addressed once rather than revisited.
Second to navigating hard situations, Riker said your responsibility as a reporter is about providing the community with information they need. Sometimes this is different than what other readers want to hear, but in terms of Lahaina, knowing what to apply and how is instrumental in providing necessary information to readers.
Last, is the value of relationships within the newsroom and community.
“Our work is based on relationships in our newsroom, and with the communities that we serve. Especially during times like this, it’s important that we do everything we can to uphold the trust within those communities,” she said.
“It’s a lot harder to gain trust back than it is to lose it. At this time in our society and democracy, we have rigorous reporting that is nuanced, accurate and factual, that helps everyone and understand the world around them.” Riker said.