How not to bungle sensitive abuse investigations

  • Event: 2019 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: Anjali Kamat of WNYC - New York Public Radio; Miles Moffeit of The Dallas Morning News; Sarah Smith of Houston Chronicle; Bruce Shapiro of Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma
  • Date/Time: Friday, Jun. 14 at 10:15am
  • Location: Briargrove
  • Audio file: No audio file available.

The world of trauma is complex and littered with trap doors. Reporters for some of the world’s biggest news organizations have fallen through them with reckless interviews of victims and other bad practices. The success of any deep investigation into victimization – whether it’s church sex abuse, war-zone atrocities or police brutality – rides on your relationships with survivors; in particular, how sensitive you are to their trauma and fears.

In this session, journalists and representatives for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma will share best practices for striking that careful balance between drawing out the facts and avoiding re-traumatizing survivors. They will discuss post-traumatic stress disorder and how it can greatly inform reporting and writing techniques. They also will discuss real-life examples of careless sourcing practices and the lessons they offer us.

Speaker Bios

  • Anjali Kamat is an award-winning investigative reporter at WNYC, focused on Wall Street. Previously, she's investigated the Trump Organization's ties to India, labor abuses in apparel factories in Bangladesh, trafficking on US military bases in Afghanistan, racist policing in Baltimore, activist murders in Honduras, military sales to Egypt, and for-profit migrant detention. She’s reported on wars in Gaza and South Sudan and covered the Arab uprisings in 2011. @anjucomet

  • Miles Moffeit, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting, is the interim editor of The Dallas Morning News projects team, where he has worked for nine years. Prior to that, he was an investigative reporter for The Denver Post. His Betrayal in the Ranks series, exposing how the military undermines justice for sex assault victims, led the Pentagon and Congress to expand services for victims. 

  • Bruce Shapiro is executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, based at Columbia Journalism School. He is editor of Shaking the Foundations: 200 Years of Investigative Journalism in America and is on the board of the Global Investigative Journalism Network. @dartcenter

  • Sarah Smith is a reporter with the Houston Chronicle covering housing and nonprofits. She previously worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where she exposed abuse in the independent fundamental Baptist movement, and ProPublica. She is a Carter Center fellow for mental health reporting.

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