KU News Release

November 1, 2012
Contact: Natasha Veeser, William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, 785-864-7644

Journalism school creates PTS website in tandem with upcoming national workshop

LAWRENCE — Students and faculty from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications have created a website on post-traumatic stress (PTS).

The website, Common Ground, is a resource for reporters covering the military and for the military, veterans and their families.

The journalism school launched the website to coincide with Common Ground: A Workshop for the Media and the Military, which will will take place Nov. 16 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The workshop, funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, will focus on helping journalists learn how to better cover – and cope – with post-traumatic stress.

The website is meant to be a place where people can share ideas, said Barbara Barnett, associate professor of journalism, who is coordinating the workshop.

"The war in Iraq has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. As that happens, the stories journalists have been writing are going to shift from the combat zone to the home front,” she said. “People with post-traumatic stress often don't want to talk to their own families, so for journalists, who are trying to let the public know how serious and pervasive this issue is, that silence presents a real challenge.

"Yet another issue is that journalists sometimes, too, are coping with their own post-traumatic stress. They may not have fought, but they have witnessed combat. For some, the attitude is, 'If I mention this, I'm complaining, and why should I complain, when the people in the military have seen so much worse?' So, journalists may be reluctant to acknowledge their own post-traumatic stress and to seek any help for it."

Journalists who cover any kind of violence or trauma – not only combat – may encounter individuals with post-traumatic stress. Although the workshop will focus on coverage in combat situations, Barnett says she hopes the website and the workshop will encourage conversations about the broader issue of reactions to violence.

The workshop will include:
• An update from medical experts on what we know about PTS today;
• A panel discussion with military officials on their experiences with PTS and suggestions on how journalists can improve coverage of this issue; and
• A panel discussion with journalists who will discuss their own PTS and offer suggestions and resources for journalists coping with PTS.

“This workshop is a natural complement to the Media and Military boot camps that the School has run for the last five years,” said Dean Ann Brill. “As we worked with journalists and members of the military, the concerns about PTS became more prominent. We thought a national workshop on the issue would be a great service to both the media and the military.”

The workshop is recommended for working journalists who have covered combat and their editors, and for health care reporters. Space is limited to journalists, but observers are encouraged to attend.

In addition to students and faculty participating, several journalists and military and medical professionals will take part in the workshop, including KU alumnus Mark Hamrick, who now works for the Associated Press, and combat photographer Julie Jacobson. KU students Brent Whitten, who served in the Army and was injured by a suicide bomber, Sara Sneath, a Marine veteran, and Zak Beasley, a Marine, will participate.

For more information or to learn how to participate, contact Barbara Barnett by email or visit Common Ground.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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