Trauma’s Effect on Journalists

Journalist Mike Walter visited Ole Miss’ Overby Center on Monday for the Meek School of Journalism & New Media’s Journalism Week.

Journalist Mike Walter  presented a screening of his award-winning 2008 film, “Breaking News, Breaking Down,” on the Ole Miss Campus April 12.  The film profiled his traumatic experience on September 11, 2001, and the trauma suffered by other journalists.

“September 11 is biggest event that has ever happened in my career,” Walter said.

Walter was driving along a highway near the Pentagon when a plane crashed into a part of the building.

Following the event, Walter gained national attention when he was interviewed my CNN.

The film profiled photojournalist David Handschuh, who was injured on 9/11 as he snapped photos of the collapsing Twin Towers.

It was Handschuh who introduced Mike Walter to the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, a center that provides resources for journalists who cover violence and other traumatic events.

Walter was awarded a Dart Fellowship.

While on his Dart fellowship, Walter met John McCusker, a reporter for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans who had been heavily involved in Hurricane Katrina Coverage.

McCusker had taken several tranquilizers and suffered a major meltdown at his New Orleans home. He attempted to force an officer to shot him and injured an officer during the incident. Following the altercation with the officer, he faced criminal charges from the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office.

Walter, McCusker and other journalists became involved with a program for journalists affected by Hurricane Katrina, called “Target New Orleans.”

Target New Orleans assisted many New Orleans reporters by rebuilding their homes and other homes in the area and by allowing them to write journals to help cope with their issues.

Target New Orleans concluded in 2007.

John McCusker was able to get a plea deal and was awarded a Dart Fellowship in 2009.

“It appeared that his life had made a turn for the best,” Walter said.

Walter revealed during a Q & A session following the screening some sad news about McCusker’s wife. She suffered from an aneurysm and died as she was driving in a car ahead of her husband.

Walter offered advice to aspiring journalists during his lecture.

He said journalists should prepare themselves by talking to other people with similar experiences and to trained professionals.

He also said when making films, a filmmaker should bookend scenes and use natural elements.

Mike Walter is a four-time Emmy award winner and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.

Walter is currently producing other documentaries. To find upcoming screenings of “Breaking News, Breaking Down,” visit the film’s website.

For more information on the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, visit the Center’s website.

To learn more about the Meek School of Journalism’s Journalism Week, visit the Journalism Week Facebook page.


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