After a rewarding Media pass student day we took a leisurely walk (although some would argue otherwise) along the river – destination the Walkley forum at the Regatta.

Apparently last year the launch was really just a night of free drinks and nibbles and not a lot more so that is pretty much what I expected. How wrong I was.

After enjoying a few well received wines, the forum “what a disaster: assessing media coverage of trauma and tragedy,” began.

It was quite humbling to have four quality, experienced journalists take the time to expose their very inner thoughts to a small gathering of real and wanna-be journalists. I felt very green.

First was a power-point presentation by Courier Mail photographer Rob Macoll. Wow what emotionally charged shots they were.

Most were post Tsunami scenes. Most memorable were those depicting the emotional hardships suffered by the people.

Rob didn’t divulge a lot but there was no doubt that exposure to such scenes had taken its toll.
Rob came from the old school of journalism of ‘deal with it and get over it’, no discussion required.

Philip Williams of ABC TV’s “Australian Story” carried obvious emotional scarring particularly from covering the Beslan school massacre. He likened the evening to an alcoholic’s anonymous meeting and in some ways it was.

There seems to be very few avenues for journalists to turn to in regards to trauma which is rather absurd as emergency workers, police, fire-fighters and the like have well developed counselling services in place. The thought of being first on a disaster scene is a disturbing thought.

Lisa Millar from the ABC believed she dealt with trauma quite easily; it was part of the job. Shut down emotionally and all will be fine.

It came as quite a surprise then when shortly after covering the Van Nguyen execution, she came to a defining moment on the highway and had to pull up. Tears streamed as the latest story coupled with years of death knocks accumulated. Maybe she did need help after all.

While foreign correspondent work is probably a way-off for us cadets I realized a dreaded death-knock was something we could encounter very early in our career. I think I prefer the ‘grass-knock’ concept.

Lastly Max Futcher from Channel 10 shared his experiences with Australia’s own disaster, Cyclone Larry. Again he imparted valuable messages and showed the younger generation was not exempt from personal struggles with journalism-related trauma.

By the time the presentations were over I began to question the level of my passion for journalism. Was it enough to deal with a job where exposure to trauma both personal and observed seems as inevitable as the minimal support you were likely to receive.

This quandary may at least provide an excuse for my excessive night of drinking but didn’t provide much solace the next morning!