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Learning through Mindanao Journalists’s traumatic experiences

Davao City — I am blogging from this beautiful city in Mindanao where journalists from this region meet for a seminar on ‘Journalism and Trauma’ being conducted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) starting today until tomorrow.
Hearing the traumatic experiences from colleagues here, though not new to me (for I know we are aware of their experiences based on the daily news on televisions and newspapers), still amaze me.

Mindanao journalists are more exposed to traumatic experiences. That’s given. Try enumerating the war fights in the region. The most fatal calamities that hit this part of the island in the past few years. The extra-judicial killings. Then add the almost ordinary accidents, the inhumane treatment of the powerful few.  The list is endless if we are to pen point the events, traumatic events, being covered by journalists for our audiences’s daily consumption.

Today, I learned how fellow journalists were traumatized by the disasters especially when Typhoon “Sendong” hit Cagayan De Oro and Iligan in December 2011, and how they are slowly coping with the floodings. During calamities such as this, they are not only journalists who cover events, they themselves are victims of disasters.

Speaking of Mindanao, who could separate “Ampatuan Massacre” with Mindanao? Yes, that mass killing on a broad daylight, which caused lives of 58 individuals, 32 of whom were journalists.

Greg Deligero, associate editor of Edge Davao said, “The media landscape in Mindanao is so unique that certain peculiarities have to be addressed.”
So PPI-Members in Mindanao are united in saying “It takes a community of journalists to address trauma.”
Journalists are front liners when it comes to trauma.
But according to Rowena Paraan, secretary general of NUJP, “Non-front line doesn’t mean non-traumatic.” It means that the trauma encountered by field reporters could also be encountered by the editors or those who just stay in the newsroom and could be relayed to the audience. So, addressing trauma is important.

But how to address trauma?

Paraan said, “talk to someone who understands.” And those who understand journalists more, aside from their mothers, are journalists themselves.

Sophie Garduce, a psychologist handling trauma of journalists told participants coping mechanisms have to be in place to enable journalists to prepare themselves in any unfortunate eventuality. But first, she said, “Do no harm.”

With this seminar on trauma and journalism, journalists see a ray of hope for them who are exposed to trauma.

Paraan said, “Newsrooms will also have to start discussing this as well, among editors and reporters.” And she looks forward that trauma could be included in the curriculum as a major subject in Mass Communcation course.
This is the second of the series of seminars to be held in three Philippine regions. The first leg was held at Orchid Garden Suites in Manila last January 14 & 15 for the Luzon and NCR members and the last will be held in Cebu for the Visayas region on Feb. 11 & 12.

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Ely Valendez

Ely Valendez is an award-winning blogger-journalist based in the Philippines. He handles several social media marketing projects for various brands in his home country as well as for a US-based IT/e-commerce company, PCM where he works full time. He uses his spare time doing financial consultancy for a UK-based company. He also sits as member of the Board of Directors of the Philippines Communication Society and serves as a web manager and resource person of the Philippine Press Institute.

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