No, “what a disaster” isn’t a description of the night, but the name of the forum we attended on Thursday night (Thursday 27th July to be exact). Moderated by Channel 10’s Cathy Border, the forum what a disaster: assessing media coverage of trauma and tragedy was informative, entertaining and insightful thanks to heartfelt and honest discussions by the assembled panel. The panel members were Lisa Millar from the ABC, Philip WilliamsABC, Rob Maccoll The Courier Mail, and Max Futcher Channel Ten.

Each had different experiences relating to trauma and tragedy. Lisa Millar told how at the time she was seemingly unaffected by the Van Nguyen execution, which she had to put in long hard hours to cover, until weeks later when she broke down in tears on the side of a highway. Her honesty was amazing. She beleived the breakdown was due to a culmination of death knocks, Van Nguyen and other traumatic experiences in her career.

Philip Williams had to cover a story you wouldn’t wish on any journo (not even Naomi Robson): the Beslan school massacre. He bravely told how this deliberate mass murder of children affected him still to this day, a story that no one in the audience will soon forget.

Rob Maccoll, a Courier Mail photographer, had a slide show presentation of his images from the Bali bombings and the Boxing Day tsunami. Well it was a trauma night, and Rob delivered, with some truly traumatic photos of mangled dead bodies among others. It was interesting to hear from him how he dealt with these situations, and something that I never knew, that papers avoid photos of the dead if they can be identified. He had alot of fantastic images.

The last speaker was Max Futcher, looking very much the slick TV journo. For some bad reason I assume slick TV types to be a bit dodgey, however Max proved me wrong (something which doesn’t happen to often). He was smart, funny and informative. His tales of Innisfail and Dili were memorable to say the least.

After the speakers had finished, it was time for open slather free beer at the bar for every save for yours truly. I ended the night on a sad note with a jackhammer headache and a delayed GC train which didn’t arrive til after midnight. Next year I should speak about that traumatic experience!