TU Psychology Professor To Head 'Ground Zero' Journalism and Trauma Office in Manhattan

Monday, October 15, 2001

University of Tulsa psychology professor Elana Newman, a leading researcher of the psychological impact of news work, will serve as director of an office in New York City that will assess and serve the needs of news organizations and journalists who have covered the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The office, to be known as Dart Center Ground Zero, will be based in Manhattan and is expected to operate until June of 2002.

“The office will serve journalists who indicate effects of traumatic exposure,” said Newman, who has conducted several studies on the effects of trauma on journalists, including a survey of some 800 photojournalists.

“We are proud to send one of our distinguished faculty on such a mission of help and hope,” said TU president Bob Lawless. “We know Elana’s expertise is very well suited to help the ’ground zero’ office succeed in aiding journalists who might need help as a result of covering this catastrophic event.”

The office is being established through a $250,000 grant from the Dart Foundation of Mason, Mich., founder of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the University of Washington in Seattle. The foundation has provided funds to study, train and support journalists who cover violent events.

Newman, a practicing licensed clinical psychologist, said journalists and news organizations have been asking the Dart Center for help as a result of covering the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events. Needs include sources of trauma information, a center for referrals of journalists to mental-health professionals, research, special support for freelance reporters and photographers, and establishment of a facility for training and support.

Newman said the attack was larger in magnitude than what most photographers witness in their daily work and included the added factor that human-caused traumatic events tend to be even more distressing to people than natural disasters. “It challenges one’s core assumptions about other people and about trust, safety, justice and benevolence or malevolence in the world.”

The University of Tulsa has granted Newman a temporary leave. Roger Simpson, director of the Seattle Dart Center, said the location of the office will be chosen soon.

Barbara Monseu, an investment banker at Hanifen, Imhoff in Denver, will be the office’s operations director. Monseu is a member of the Dart Center’s executive committee. Prior to joining Hanifen, Imhoff, she was assistant superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools, which includes Columbine High School in Colorado. After April 20, 1999, she coordinated district responses to students, families and staff. Her firm also has granted a temporary leave to enable Monseu to serve the center.

Newman, also a member of the Dart Center’s executive committee, is an ad hoc member of the board of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. With her graduate students at The University of Tulsa, she has conducted several studies about the impact of covering violence on reporters.

Newman is editor of “Traumatic StressPoints,” the quarterly publication of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. She is also a clinical and research advisor for Newscoverage Unlimited, a nonprofit organization started by journalists to give support to one another. The goal is to train news people on how to recognize trauma’s effects, how they can be of help and how to get expert assistance.

Newman said research is just beginning on stress reactions among photographers and other journalists. In two studies, she found rates of post-traumatic stress disorder of about 6 percent for photojournalists and 4 percent for journalists. Rates of trauma exposure were high, with car accidents and murder ranked as most stressful by both groups. Photojournalists said covering fires was highly stressful whereas journalists ranked injury of children as stressful.

Professional photographers, Newman said, understand the importance of their job. “I see all news media as first responders, much like emergency workers. Although they do not save the victims, they serve as a conduit between the public and the event.”

Most are aware of the physical dangers; fewer are warned about the potential psychological dangers. In general, Newman has found that photographers “are also a resilient group who care about the work that they do and offer society a great service.”

Until the New York office is opened, the Seattle office, which can be reached by telephone at (206) 616-3223, will provide assistance. Information is also available on the Dart Center web site, www.dartcenter.org.