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In Captivity: ‘Don’t let your mind go soft’

cait_mcmahon1Cait McMahon - Managing Director of the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma

Deutsche Welle: What does trauma mean in the case of journalists?

Cait McMahon: Psychological trauma is really an exposure and an impact to an event that is regarded as being outside of the usual human experience, like a car crash, like being part of a bombing, being shot at. Things that are not usual everyday experiences. The impact of that onto the psyche is the traumatic reaction that people have.

How many journalists are traumatised?

About 28 percent of war correspondents have post-traumatic stress disorder. And of domestic reporters and photographers, five percent to about fifteen percent show that they have post-traumatic stress disorder. Then of course there are other post-trauma reactions, like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, which is quite high in the profession.

How can a journalist prepare him- or herself for potentially traumatic situations?

We, the Draft Centre, believe through education, by making people aware of potential reactions and also self-care techniques that we can teach people strategies to look after themselves better in potential traumatic situations. Just things even as simple as making sure you eat well and drink properly and don’t overuse alcohol and drugs. It is very important that people sleep well. There are very basic techniques people often don’t worry about, but there are really important in dealing with trauma.

What are psychological means of survival?

Something that does happen in trauma is that people often get quite dissociated or very spacey in their thinking. So educating people about that and how to bring yourself back out of those situations. Keeping yourself mentally alert, if you are in captivity. One journalist who was held captive said to me ‘Don’t let your mind go soft’. It is really important to keep active. If you read autobiographical accounts of people who were held captive, they actually wrote books in their head or kept remembering conversations with friends. So to keep your mind going through the discipline of remembering things and picturing things in your mind. That is very important in captivity.

Interestingly, journalists cover stories about other people, but forget about themselves. Is that one of the reasons why the topic of traumatised journalists is not really talked about?

I think that is true. The news business is very much: you do a story and then you go on to another story, so it doesn’t by nature let you process your own experience. You are always focused outward, you are always focused on the next story, which is not good in terms of trauma exposure. The things that make you traumatised are the things that you haven’t processed. So you really need time to just stop and process and think about and work through them. Even writing things down or talking about them helps the process. It’s not part of the journalism culture. So we have to re-educate the media profession about the importance of doing that stuff.

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Is the young generation only online?

Newspapers or internet magazines? Radio or rss feeds? Television or YouTube?

Young people will control the destiny of the media in the future. During a coffee break at the Global Media Forum, Dina Gouda caught up with some next generation participants to find out which types of media they are using today.

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Pegah Ahangarani - Iranian actress

The Iranian actress Pegah Ahangarani has acted in many movies in Iran. She has taken part in various film festivals and in 1999, she won the Best Actress Award at the Cairo International Film Festival. At the 2009 Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) she kept a daily web log of her experiences for Deutsche Welle. This week Ahangarani is back in Germany for the Global Media Forum in Bonn.

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Mobile reporting here and there

Hands On The NewsHands on the news - that is the goal of the African Voices Foundation project. They have started in Kenya and are training young journalist to report using mobile phones. ______________________________________________________

Peris Wairimo This young Kenyan is amazed at what she and her mobile phone can do for change in her country. Peris Wairimo has just finished her training with the African Voices Foundation.

Mitarbeiter Mmf Robin Schmidt and Johannes Bach use their phones mainly to keep in touch with their friends, but also to surf on the internet or to listen to music. They can’t imagine their lives without their mobile phones.


Walter Wilson Nana Walter Wilson feels like he is holding the news in his hands.


Daniel Nana The young mobil reporter, Daniel Nana, is proud to report through his mobile phone to his community in Kenya.


Dirk Kirchberg Dirk Kirchberg is a German freelance reporter and loves the possibility of using his mobile phone as an instrument for reporting.


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If the whole world was this relaxing…

Boatride on the Rhine river

Boatride on the Rhine river

It was the first day for the conference participants — a day full of speeches and discussions about conflict prevention in the media.

However, once the work is done, the party can begin: 700 people from all over the world joined the boatride last night on the Rhine river.

But what does a boatride have to do with conflict prevention?

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A bag’s nightmare

Cloakroom with Global Media Forum Bag

Cloakroom with Global Media Forum Bag

Let me introduce myself: I am a bag. But not just any bag. I am THE bag: The Global Media Forum Bag. I carry programs, flyers, a pen, a notebook and any of a number of other things.  I am important. And I am used to being treated with respect. Never ever in my life have I been rejected - that is, until tonight.

My owner went on a boatride and wanted to leave me at the coat check.

But the women working there refused to give me shelter. Can you imagine? They simply did not want to take me in. They said I was NOT special — I was just one of a bunch.

“We would not be able to recognize your bag between all the other Global Media Forum bags, that’s why we stopped taking them”, the cloakroomladies told my owner. Did they not realize I am unique?

It was really embarassing. And it got even worse when my owner started carrying me around the crowded boat, hitting me against backs, arms and legs. So we walked up two floors, to the bar, then one down again to use the bathroom. It took forever to get there, because my owner kept stopping for a little chat here and there. All these other Global Media participants — I was disgusted when I saw how many other bags like me were hanging around. I couldn’t even enjoy the view along the Rhine river.

Finally,  my owner slapped me down under a big round table. Covered by the long tableclothes I sat in the dark and got hit by the waiters’ feet - who kept bringing lots of wine and delicious food. But lucky for me, my owner forgot all about me when he hit the dancefloor. Don’t even want to think about how it would have felt to be squeezed to death between all those sweating, jumping people.

What a night!

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Eye to Eye: How to Bring the News to Kids

Is anyone watching, is anyone listening? In a 180-second-debate, Ingrid Volkmer from the University of Melbourne, and Guido Baumhauer, Director of Strategy, Marketing and Distribution at Deutsche Welle, discuss the web’s potential and limitations as a news source for the younger generation.

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The Daily Tweet


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Using Web 2.0 to Foster Peace


When violence erupted following the December 2007 elections in Kenya, the government restricted the national media from reporting on the outbursts. But citizen reporters across the country came together to collaboratively give their “testimonies” — or “ushahidi” in Kiswahili, on a website of the same name, sponsored by the ICT4PEACE Foundation.

The Foundation aims at pooling together such technologies and ideas from around the world for effective intervention and peace-keeping efforts. Ushahidi is just one the examples of how Web 2.0 is helping to overcome a major hurdle conflict management faces: restricted access to reliable information. Since 2008, it has also been used to map outbreaks of swine flu and the Indian Elections.

At the Global Media Forum, Daniel Stauffacher, chairman of the ICT4PEACE, spoke to the Deutsche Welle about the initiative.

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Hey, look down here: It’s Mr. Rheingold’s shoes!

rheingold_schuh_kleinThis goes out to all the simple sneakers, well-polished leather dress shoes, and airy sandals out there: Convince your owners to dress you up! Just look at us — you know it’s worth it.

A while ago, we managed to persuade our proud owner - media expert, critic, author and professor at Stanford and Berkeley Howard Rheingold - to give us a fashion makeover. And although he is almost always busy writing, blogging or twittering on internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities, Howard took the time to paint us patiently by hand. “Everybody is an artist”, he said.

Tell this to your owner — it’ll work.

What is so great about being a one-of-a-kind? Well, first you can be sure that people take a look at you - and sometimes even flirt - like when your owner is giving a key note speech at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum. Second, you might be featured on your own website - wouldn’t that be cool? And third, there are always more surprises! Today, Howard took us for a stroll from the World Conference Centre Bonn down to the river Rhine.

Last but not least, here is something for you other shoes to think about: It is much easier to make friends with extraordinary socks when you live up to their style.

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