A trauma informed approach

It’s strange how things come in clusters. According to local legend: situations always seem to present themselves in threes so we, the people, will learn lessons from the places we can be found.

This week we see it in the form of the ongoing discussions about how much detail should be disclosed about traumatic incidents in the media.

Nationally the spotlight has turned to the Peter Khill murder trial. He is accused of murder in the death of Jonathan Styres and a verdict is expected to arrive very soon, possibly today.

Journalists from across Canada were keen to cover the story for its similarities to the Gerald Stanley acquittal that caused outrage and a pledge from the Prime Minister to “do better”.

On the national stage and for mainstream outlets the graphic details of Styres death are of public interest.

While important to include in the public record, every writer has to consider their audience. Two Row Times made the decision not to include the details of the case in our coverage.

This decision was made due to our understanding of how the indigenous community is an easily triggered community when it comes to our people being killed.

Trigger Warnings. You see them commonly before posts on social media all the time. The dictionary definition is this: “a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material”.

Jouralists writing for the general public might not feel a need to include a trigger warning or exclude graphic details at all — but when you come from a community where trauma is a real fact of life — coming at journalism and keeping the public abreast to what is going on with a trauma informed approach is probably priority number one.

That is not to say that details should not be available for those who want to know. The public record and public access to information important. As it is important for people to tell their stories and have their voices heard. But knowing who you are writing for is also key to being a good reporter.

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