Sarah Booker

24/11/2015

Searching social media for news – dealing with the hard stuff

Refugees trapped between Macedonian riot police and razor wire on the Greek border. Image by Freedom House on Flickr, licenced by creative commons.

Refugees trapped between Macedonian riot police and razor wire on the Greek border. Image by Freedom House on Flickr, licenced by creative commons.

“Do you have a personal care plan?” Gavin Rees, director of Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma Asked the audience at News:Rewired In Focus.

Most of the audience kept their hands down. It is not something any of us like to think about.

Dealing with traumatic and violent images is part of the working day for many journalists, this can result in what Mr Rees “vicarious trauma”.

News services recruit people specifically to search social media for user generated content to provide eye-witness footage to tell stories.

These journalists are watching at the front line of battle without staring down the barrel of an AK47.

Mr Rees spoke without slides as images stay with us. It is a fundamental part of the mammal brain.

During the Q&A former war reporter John McHugh on Twitter of Varifeye Media, explained how watching footage in his office was more traumatic than three-months in Afghanistan.

He said: “After going to Afghanistan I had time to decompress.

“You’re there, then when looking at images it affected me much more.”

When he was out in the field he expected it. He was shot, shot at, saw people dying around him.

Going into a war zone is not a pleasant experience and he knew it,

Seeing footage of the same thing then having a chat with someone about last night’s TV is a difficult transition.

Sam Dubberley on Twitter co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub, explained how data gathered found 56% of front line journalists expect to see disturbing as part of their jobs and 46% feel disturbed by it.

How do they cope? Watching dog-themed Tumblr and Taylor Swift’s Instagram were suggested mechanisms.

As one of his slides stated: “We do the Internet, that’s kittens…”

Kittens by Mathias Erhart on Flickr. Licenced by Creative Commons.

Kittens by Mathias Erhart on Flickr. Licenced by Creative Commons.

Journalist looking through Instagram, YouTube, Flickr and a multitude of other resources, see violence, blood and death.

Going back to the personal care plan, how can journalists protect themselves? How can employers help them?

  • Alternating what people work on. For example one week quirky and kittens, the following week Syria and Yemen.
  • Encouraging people to talk to one another. Share what upsets or traumatises. A trouble shared is a trouble halved is a useful piece of home-spun wisdom.
  • Take regular screen breaks.
  • Have plants and green things around you.
  • Use a mask over images or a piece of paper against the screen.

And finally, watch this:

04/07/2014

Bravo to Oxford Mail tackling “right to be forgotten” ruling

I admire Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill’s stand against Google removing a story about a theft.

By writing about the move he keeps the story alive.

It is a prime example of the Streisand effect. You want it to go away but the noise gets louder.

During my eight years as a web editor with the Worthing Herald series and The Argus I lost count of the number of times people asked me to remove stories about convictions.

Invariably news stories came up on search engines causing problems for the individual.

Usually the person had kept quiet about the conviction and ended up losing a job, occasionally it caused problems with their family and friends.

This was always the newspapers’ fault for publishing, not theirs for committing a crime.

When the European Court of Justice ruled Google (PDF) should remove articles from search engines at user request I wondered what publishers would do to counteract it.

The message to people who want to hide their misdeeds is to be honest with the people you know.

Admit to your crime, however minor, and get on with what life throws at you.

Better still, keep within the law.

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