Psychologist reflects on how trauma reporting can affect media practitioners
Kevin Becker, pictured second from left, at ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Summit last month. Photo taken by Sanjeev Chatterjee.
We invited Becker to speak at the summit because we felt it was important to hear a psychologist’s perspective during our conversations about Restorative Narratives — stories that show how people and communities are making a meaningful progression from trauma to resilience.
Becker, who has worked with trauma victims for much of his life, has helped organizations and governments in the aftermath of tragedies such as 9/11, the 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Newtown shootings, and the Boston Marathon bombings. He says the summit prompted him to think more deeply about the media’s role in covering trauma and the resilience that can stem from it.
“Restorative narrative stories are those that not only tell the facts about the tragedy and outline the struggles inherent in the recovery process, but they go beyond that to highlight the less often described characteristics of resilience unique to the individual victim/survivor or victimized community,” Becker writes, drawing upon what he learned at the summit. “Telling a story from a restorative narrative perspective means not sugar-coating the pain and tragedy in a Pollyanna type fashion but instead emphasizing the resilience triggered by the extreme tragedy.”
Becker, a senior partner with ORI Consulting, a global crisis consulting firm in Boston, was struck by how the media practitioners he met at the summit were impacted by the traumatic stories they’ve told throughout their careers.
“As a storyteller dealing with traumatic events, it is virtually impossible to not be affected by the material you are immersed in,” Becker writes. “In order to tell a restorative narrative, or any semblance of accurate narrative, understanding the psychological weight of the material is imperative. When the storyteller acknowledges the magnitude of the traumatic material, s/he can use that acknowledgement as both additional information in understanding the story they are telling and as the first step in preventing the deleterious effects of exposure to trauma on themselves.”
Becker’s full Poynter.org essay is well worth the read.
For more stories and photos from ivoh’s summit, click here.