An Examination of Journalist Perceptions toward Covering Tragedy and Trauma

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Mark H. Masse
Mark N. Popovich
Dennis F. Kinsey


Researchers in this study utilized Q methodology to examine the perceptions of 16 current and former print and broadcast journalists in central Indiana and upstate New York about their role in reporting on tragedy and trauma. A Q-sort instrument containing 40 statements was developed around five categories: Adventure, Bearing Witness, Career Concerns, Societal Impact, and Professionalism. Eight statements were developed for each of the five categories, constituting the Q sample. Personal interviews and a short survey were employed to help interpret the perceptions of the 16 participating journalists concerning statements provided by war correspondents, police beat reporters, and other “trauma journalists,†who had covered crises, disasters, and stories involving fatalities. PQMethod was used to analyze the statement ratings made by reporters and two factors evolved: Empathists and Traditionalists. Researchers concluded that reporters covering tragedy and trauma are more aware of the role of emotion and compassionate involvement with sources than would be recommended by traditional newsroom guidelines on detached, objective information gathering.

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Masse, M. H., Popovich, M. N., & Kinsey, D. F. . (2013). An Examination of Journalist Perceptions toward Covering Tragedy and Trauma. Operant Subjectivity, 36(3). Retrieved from