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Women, journalism, and violence

Women risk their lives every day to report the news. This blog tells their stories.

Several years ago, my university, the University of Kansas, hosted a workshop called "Common Ground: The Media, the Military, and Post-traumatic Stress." The workshop was part of a larger effort, funded by the McCormick Foundation, to improve media-military relationships.

The workshop, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., brought together 35 journalists from around the country to learn about post-traumatic stress (PTS). The workshop featured a panel of medical/health experts who talked about post-traumatic stress research. There also was a panel of military officials who discussed how journalists can better tell the stories of people who have fought in combat and stories of women assaulted by their military colleagues-stories troops may be reluctant to share with their own families. Finally, the workshop featured a panel of journalists who talked about their own experiences with PTS. Some of the journalists said they asked people in the military how to get help with PTS because they weren't sure where to turn.

The workshop was eye-opening for me. I had seen my father, a 30-year veteran of the Marine Corps, struggle with PTS. I grew up in a military town, and I had seen other fathers struggle, too. I knew from my own experiences as a journalist that I thought about and remembered violent events I had covered, but I didn't think of myself as someone who also might have experienced PTS.

Because my area of research is women and media, I wanted to study female journalists who had reported on violence. (I recognize male journalists experience PTS, too, but I wanted to focus on women because studies show they are more likely than their male colleagues to experience PTS.)

To learn more, I interviewed 35 women journalists about the types of violence they covered, how it affected them personally and professionally, and what advice they had for other women. We talked by phone and Skype. I began this project in May 2017, thinking I would write an academic article, but the more I talked with women journalists, the more I wanted to share their stories to a wider audience. These blogs offer some insights into how women journalists do their jobs and the unique challenges they face as women.

I'm grateful to the talented, hard-working reporters, photographers, bloggers, and editors who shared their stories. They have a lot to teach us about good journalism, compassionate reporting, and coping with trauma. They tell us the stories of violence beyond what one reporter called "the bang bang." They tell us how violence affects victims, survivors, and their loved ones. They tell complex stories, painful stories, but stories that show resilience--of the people interviewed and photographed and of the journalists themselves.

Journalists play a vital role in society: witnessing events, asking questions, holding powerful people accountable, and giving a voice to people who may not be able to speak for themselves. These blogs offer some insights into how difficult their jobs can be.

Please share your stories as well. Contact me here.

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