I am one of the 12 2015/2016 recipients of the prestigious Ochberg Fellowship offered by the Dart Centre, a project of Columbia University Journalism School.
More details: http://dartcenter.org/resources/13-journalists-named-ochberg-fellows
I have covered traumatic and distressing stories since my career began.. however in the last few years, I have becoming increasingly interested in how journalists can protect themselves and still do these sorts of stories justice. This is what drove me to apply for the fellowship and I am incredibly grateful they selected me as their first social media/digital/user generated content fellow.
I am available to speak on mental health and the personal impact of being a journalist dealing with traumatic and distressing stories.
Why did I choose to apply for the Ochberg Fellowship?
My role as a producer at the BBC’s User Generated Content Hub is often behind the scenes. When on shift, I will be expected to contribute to every major breaking news story for every outlet (online, social media, television and radio) and be at the heart of the story to be the first point of contact for often distressing images and testimony before we are able to get our own correspondents or source agency footage from an event. My role involves clearing content and ensuring the accuracy and safety of contributors before deciding if it is suitable for broadcast.
A selection of the stories I’ve worked on more recently and also a brief explanation of my role (which would have occurred before the content aired) which explain my interest in the field of trauma journalism. However, the lack of a filter on social media and the proliferation of distressing stories and images I've had to deal with in the last few years were the catalyst.
AUGUST 2014: JAMES FOLEY DEATH
I was on the late shift in the UGC Hub in the newsroom when the news broke about a video emerging on social media relating to the journalist James Foley who had been kidnapped and held hostage by Islamic State. My role involved assisting newsgathering with sourcing the original video, and, as it was amongst the first of its kind, watching it in order to glean any clues which could help with verification and authenticity.
DECEMBER 2014: LUKE SOMERS DEATH
I had been in contact with American photojournalist Luke Somers from the beginning of the Arab Spring when he was a teacher in Yemen who took photos of some of the protests there and would send them in unsolicited to the BBC and became a trusted contact. I would speak to him and we developed a professional relationship where eventually he became a photojournalist whose submissions when used by the BBC, I would then tell the editor were now professional rather than amateur footage and so had to be treated in the same way as other contributors. When he was taken hostage and sadly later died, I was involved in helping to provide a picture of what he was truly like.
DECEMBER 2014: DRAW THE NEWS
In my role as Storytelling Development Producer, I was responsible for devising original ideas focusing on audience engagement and news but in an innovative way. I asked the world to illustrate the news stories which affected them and then curated these so they were suitable for television, digital, social media and also across our language services. This idea proved to be a foundation for a lot of BBC illustrative work going on right now. My team was shortlisted for a DRUM media award for this. I chose to push for this idea as it gave power back to the world during a very unstable year where a lot of the major news stories were traumatic.
JANUARY 2015: DEMOCRACY DAY
A week in protests: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-30827325
Special report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-30734123
What does democracy look like in 2015? On 20 January the BBC hosted a special Democracy Day marking the anniversary of the 750th anniversary of the first Parliament of elected representatives at Westminster. I was responsible for co-ordinating the entire social media coverage for BBC News, including World News and the Language Services. I also had to produce original content and make key editorial decisions about ethics and protests
MAY 2015: SOCIAL MEDIA AND PTSD
In May 2015 the award-winning BBC Trending World Service radio programme interviewed me about a study looking at social media and PTSD. The broadcast is available to hear on the BBC News website.
OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST
In July 2015 I was asked to speak about user generated content and forensic investigation using social media at the prestigious news:rewired conference. My slides and talk are available https://www.newsrewired.com/2015/07/20/slides-and-audio-sourcing-stories-on-social-media/
In September 2015 I was also asked to be a panellist at the prestigious Prix Italia event in Turin speaking about news and UGC. Topics included how to deal with trauma reporting and the ethics of UGC.
I have also spoken to various teams in the BBC Newsroom, BBC World Service and at BBC Monitoring about my experiences
An interview with BBC Trending on vicarious trauma