Communities in Crisis: Ethical Considerations for Journalists

The recent tragedy in Tucson have added to the many questions in the minds of members of the public about how journalists cover violence as well as cover communities in crisis where violence is a part. It is one of the main bases for public criticism of journalists. Meanwhile, covering violence, from war abroad to crime at home, also affects journalists in many ways most members of the media are unprepared for. Learn how to approach covering violent people and communities in a whole new way.

Communities in Crisis: Ethical Considerations for Journalists,” sponsored by Valley of the Sun Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, is 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, in The First Amendment Forum at the Cronkite School, 555 N. Central Ave., in Phoenix.

Admission is free.

The Dart Center is a project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The Dart Center has a long history of aiding journalists who report on violence, conflict and tragedy. The center specifically cites the ethical reporting of news in its mission.

“Communities in Crisis: Ethical Considerations for Journalists,” will focus on how journalists cover communities, cultures and people they know little about, and how that situation is even more challenging when those communities are facing a crisis, such as covering the 1994 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict or the recent mass shooting in Tucson.

To cover such communities in crisis in an ethical, fair and complete way requires sensitivity, knowledge and forethought, balancing the need to get the story with compassion for those who have been victimized. How does a reporter maintain sensitivity and ethical considerations while pursuing a story in the wake of a tragedy? How do you get the job done when you are completely unfamiliar with the community in question or its unique culture?

The journalists on this panel will use their own experiences covering tight-knit or isolated communities as a jumping off point for talking about these important issues. Victims’ rights groups, community representatives and other stakeholders are invited to participate in this frank and open discussion about getting to the heart of a story, even in the darkest of moments, without causing greater harm.


  • Victor Merina, senior correspondent and special projects editor, Reznet
  • Ina Jaffe, national desk correspondent, NPR West, Los Angeles
  • Introduction by Kristin Gilger, associate dean, Cronkite School

Speaker background information:

  • Victor Merina is senior correspondent and special projects editor for Reznet, a website that focuses on Native American issues and indigenous people. He is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
  • Ina Jaffe is a National desk correspondent based at NPR West, NPR’s production center in Los Angeles. Covering California and the West,Jaffe has reported on nearly all of the major news events, elections, and natural disasters in the region. She also reports on national stories, such as the 2008 presidential campaign and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

For more information, contact Mark Scarp at or 602-810-8964.