By Gene Park
This blog post is a more personal extension of my Quill column here.
When I interview victims of tragedy or trauma, it’s usually very fatiguing because I’m basically being asked to share in that person’s grief. I don’t begrudge having to do so, but what I’ve noticed over the years is that I never really reach closure for the grief I feel that day.
During the interviews, I have to share in what is more than likely that person’s worst day of her or his life. And usually there will be no follow-through meeting or interview with the bereaved. The victims will cry and continue to live their lives, but I’m only there for them when their lives are momentarily shattered. I am not there when they piece it together.
Granted I often do enterprise pieces that talk to the bereaved maybe a year or several years after the incident, but it’s usually tied in with a story analyzing the larger issue. Those don’t happen as often as the tragedies hit the desk.
So often times I feel like a victim of compassion fatigue. I try to empathize with my sources to try and tell a better story, but at the same time I unconsciously invest so much of myself that I start to feel depressed or tired. My feelings and theirs sometimes blur and I just end up confused by the end of the day.
It’s a phenomenon being recognized in doctors, but there’s not much mention of it for media professionals. Maybe “someday this war’s gonna end,” and we’ll see more journalists expressing similar feelings, since the current conflict is likely the most heavily covered and analyzed war in history.