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Gavin Rees Launch of Journalism & Emotional Literacy Project
In partnership with the Dart Centre

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The Media School, in partnership with the Dart Centre in Europe, are leading research to investigate how journalists are trained in the UK to cover stories that deal with difficult emotional issues.

Gavin Rees, an experienced BBC film-maker and documentary producer, has been named as lead researcher on this ambitious 15-month project conducted under the direction of The Media School's Centre for Public Communication Research (CPCR).

The Journalism and Emotional Literacy Project will examine both university provision and on-the-job mentoring, before producing in its final stages recommendations designed to promote best practice in the reporting of extreme emotional experiences such as terrorism, violent crime and suicide.

"The research has attracted a great deal of interest, even before we have started the fieldwork," said CPCR Director Professor Barry Richards. "We intend for it to impact directly upon journalism training, and to contribute to a growing area of research and debate around the place of journalism and of news in society today."

Rees, who amongst his other recent projects was a senior producer on the BBC's 2005 docu-drama re-enactment of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, said that "increasingly there is an awareness that journalists need to be trained in how to protect themselves from hostile situations in which they might come under physical attack. But there has been very little research on how they might be trained to manage the emotional consequences of dealing with trauma. A lack of awareness around these dynamics can take a heavy toll on both the well-being of journalists and on the people they are interviewing."

The CPCR is based at Bournemouth University's Media School under former Reuters Global Head of News Stephen Jukes, and is undertaking the project in close association with the Dart Centre, which has been playing a pioneering role in bringing trauma awareness into both newsrooms and journalism schools.

Barry Richards

"We intend for it to impact directly upon journalism training, and to contribute to a growing area of research and debate around the place of journalism and of news in society today."
-Professor Barry Richards

Mark Brayne, director of Dart's European operations, described the project as one of the most exciting developments to be launched since the Dart ideas first came to Europe in 2002.

"I am especially delighted that Gavin is joining the team," said Brayne, "as he brings insight, experience and wisdom to a subject that is increasingly accepted in the British media as of critical importance to the furtherance of good journalism."

The project will also examine the impact recent changes in the media environment are having on reporting. "Journalists now feel under an enormous pressure to entertain," said Rees, "whether they are writing about terrorism or the dark addictions of minor celebrities.

And in the worst cases that can lead to difficult events being reduced to a crude emotive shorthand. The working environment is becoming tougher too: foreign correspondents are more likely to be attacked and the rise of citizen journalism threatens to undervalue the role of the staffer."

Rees continued: "Few have faith that old media's 20th century business models have the legs to take us much further into the future. Hopefully this research will help journalists report both more sensitively and effectively on those living in extremis, as well as giving them the tools to better look after themselves in a more dangerous and uncertain working environment."

The project is being funded by Britain's Arts and Humanities Research Council and will conclude with a dissemination seminar in September 2007.

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