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Stefanie Friedhoff: “The Conference | Covering Violence and Tragedy

No comment.
Intimacy. Obscenity.
Emotions carry enormous cognitive content.
It is essential to allow and integrate them as a critical source of information.
Every generation has its own sense of meaning.
God came to my city to cleanse it of its evil.

Miles Moffeit: “Bringing What’s Buried in Folders to Life

Listen as Moffeit recounts the ways he—and a female colleague from the Post—went about interviewing women who were alleged victims of rape. After hearing one woman tell of running back to the barracks after she was raped, he tried to put himself in “that person’s path” as a way of trying to understand how she’d felt. “And I asked her during our next session, ‘So what did it feel like running back to the barracks and, you know, wearing your military boots?’ And she said, ‘They’d never felt heavier on my feet.’ And that line alone was really powerful.”

Arnessa Garrett: “Bringing What’s Buried in Folders to Life

Listen as Garrett describes the genesis of the paper’s long-term domestic violence project. It began as an idea from a reporter and photographer after a man killed his ex-girlfriend at her apartment in view of many, including the paper’s photographer, and then killed himself in a local church.

Arnessa Garrett: “Bringing What’s Buried in Folders to Life

Garrett shares in more detail several tips based on what she learned in this project.

Paul McEnroe: “Bringing What’s Buried in Folders to Life

Listen as Paul McEnroe describes how he wrote about an institutionalized mentally retarded woman, Elaine Kleinschmidt, by digging into a thick folder containing fragments of her life and emerging with succinct paragraphs about her. He uses this as a teaching exercise with his students. His instructions: “Here’s this report. It’s this thick. Write four paragraphs on it.”

Rachel Dissell: “When a Crime is Just the Beginning of a Story

Listen to Dissell read from Johanna’s journals and hear Johanna read the poem she wrote about her former boyfriend on the day he pled guilty to shooting her.

Luis Rodriguez: “When a Crime is Just the Beginning of a Story

Rodriguez talks about some of the lives that have been changed through the efforts of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural. Hear him tell the story about Alex Carpio. Like Rodriguez, Carpio grew up in East Los Angeles and joined a gang, but Carpio was shot five times in his head when he was 15 years old. Even though he became blind, Carpio remained an active member of his gang, until he was 30 years old and decided to turn his life around.

Donna De Cesare: “Forming Connection, Finding Comfort

Donna De Cesare talks about a collaborative photography project and workshop she directed at a women’s prison in Colombia in which she took pictures of the women and children imprisoned there and provided them with cameras to document their own lives.

Jed Horne: “Trauma in New Orleans: In the Wake of Katrina

Horne describes the approach he took in writing his book, one that he decided to follow as he’d observed the coverage of extremes that dominated so much of the out-of-town and some of the local reporting about New Orleans and Katrina. Here is an excerpt from his remarks:

All of a sudden there in print were lurid stereotypes of a city described as “bestial,” as a “bunch of looters and rapists”—details later proving to be false. It occurs to me that if you are going to describe a young couple that simply walks away from a child that has expired of asthma; the sewage-stained carpeting of the convention center, and just toss it off into the 18th paragraph of a story as an example of something that was going wrong in New Orleans, that’s not an interesting detail. That’s a redefinition of human depravity and you need to, I think, frame it and herald it in that way; and maybe in the course of that time you’ll discover that it was a falsehood as well—as it was, indeed.The goal was to find people able to tell their stories. I looked for people who told more reasonable stories, rather than the extreme stories, because I didn’t think they were that representative. By definition the extreme stories are not going to be that representative. It seemed important also to broaden the sort of dramatis personae, and include more than just the destitute.

Jiarra Jackson: “Trauma in New Orleans: In the Wake of Katrina

To hear Bounce music, listen to an excerpt from “Generation Katrina.” And then hear Jackson and Myers talk about its importance to her story and its telling. Here’s an excerpt from Myers:

If you think about the trauma that was done to that city with the hurricane, one of the main traumas was—is all of this culture going to be washed away? So doing a story about music has relevance because it’s part of the entire culture, and it’s also a way of talking about trauma, not in an I’m going to stab you in the stomach, make you cry kind of way. Those kind of traumatic stories are out there.

Brett Myers: “Trauma in New Orleans: In the Wake of Katrina

Listen to a story from “Generation Katrina” in which a family in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward talked for the first time among themselves about the experience they had together during Katrina. Here is an excerpt as Myers describes how this family’s 14-year-old daughter became the reporter on this story:

It needed a different treatment, so we decided that the 14-year-old, the eldest child, Angelica Robinson, would be the reporter for the story. And 14 is really the youngest possible age you could be to tell a story of this gravity and emotional intimacy and complexity. So we went back, and I spent a week with her working on and off, choosing the best clips, producing other stories in the process, and then writing a script, and she voices the story.

Larry Blumenfeld: “Trauma in New Orleans: In the Wake of Katrina

Listen as Blumenfeld describes the ways in which he developed stories around what was happening with New Orleans’ cultural life. Here is an excerpt about one of the city’s core traditions, the jazz funeral’s second line parade:

Any Sunday through most of the year you can go to these parades; hundreds and hundreds of people for hours following brass bands. If that was shot from above on CNN it would look like, “Wow, in the wake of all this these people can have this rolling party and can dance. That’s really nice.” If they went down to the ground and spent four hours, you would see that this was the political statement at that moment. This was the assertion of their right to return.

Patricia Smith: “Trauma in New Orleans: In the Wake of Katrina

Hear Smith read her 34-stanza poem. One stanza reads:

We are stunned on our scabbed backs.
There is the sound of whispered splashing,
and then this:
Leave them.

Brian Storm: “Visual Storytelling About the Human Condition

Storm describes how he spreads word about his projects through his Web site. Go to and follow along as Storm walks through the site’s interactive features. To learn more about how MediaStorm, his for-profit company, functions, explore Storm’s background, and understand his approach to producing these multimedia narratives, read an interview with him in the Spring 2009 issue of Nieman Reports.

Scheherezade Faramarzi: “It Matters Who Tells the Story in the Middle East

Faramarzi tells what happened to other civilians who were attending that wedding and survived the bombing attack.

Ruth Teichroeb: “How to Do an Interview—When Trauma Is the Topic

Teichroeb describes her experience investigating charges of child abuse at a residential school for the deaf. As she explained, “I had to take a long, long time to build trust. And not all of us have that time, but I did in this case. It took months in many cases for people to be willing to trust me enough and to know what my agenda was in order to share the secrets of what had happened at that school.”

Karen Brown: “How to Do an Interview—When Trauma Is the Topic

Brown does her interviews for radio so she needs to use a microphone to record words for broadcast. Hear her talk about the microphone and how she helps people adjust to its presence:

I’ve found that people are put off by it [the microphone], so I spend the first five or 10 minutes talking about something completely different … it’s down here and we’re talking and then we’re just making eye contact, and by then it’s just face to face and they really don’t pay any attention to the microphone. I think it’s more jarring if you put the microphone on and off based on what they’re saying, and most of the time people just get used to it. And I feel it’s also honest. They know that it’s all on tape.

Mike Walter: “How to Do an Interview—When Trauma Is the Topic

Walter describes how he and the young man did this interview on the day after his only sibling died. Here is an excerpt from the story he tells:

This kid—I’ll tell you. The first question I asked him, his lips started to quiver and I said, “Do you want to stop?” And just having that control—that we would turn the camera off—he said, “No. No. I’m going to get through this.” I’ll tell you what. I think it was one of the best stories that I ever did and I poured as much of my heart into that story as that kid did in front of me and the amazing thing to me was the story aired.

Frank Ochberg: “How to Do an Interview—When Trauma Is the Topic

To learn more about journalists’ dilemmas in interviewing children who have been traumatized, listen as reporters and clinicians discuss issues of privacy, protection and the processes they use when talking with young children about sensitive and personal topic. Dr. Frank Ochberg, founder of the Dart Center, moderates the conversation.

Julia Lieblich: “A Journalist and a Survivor

Lieblich explains what happened as they worked to delve into Boškailo’s memories.

Esad Boškailo: “A Journalist and a Survivor

Esad Boškailo, a Bosnian refugee who survived 16 months of imprisonment in 10 concentration camps during the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian conflict, reflects on experiences he’s had with journalists who have approached him to tell his story and what ingredients are necessary for him to find the safety and trust to do so.

Constance Hale: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

Listen as Hale describes a narrative story that appeared in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer in which a reporter wrote about having been raped 20 years earlier—and why her particular approach to reporting this story worked so well. Here is an edited excerpt:

She went and found the rapist’s family and the story became not just about her experience of rape but about poverty and race and violence within families. It turned out the rapist had come from a very violent family and had been subjected to abuse as a kid. That’s a very ambitious story, to write about your own experience of rape 20 years ago and then to build class and race into the story.

Constance Hale: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

Hale reads from the beginning of a story written by Neil Shea, who was sent by National Geographic to Iraq. When he came back with a story that was not going to be published in that magazine, he wrote it for The Virginia Quarterly Review. Hale introduced her reading by observing the following:

He probably didn’t make very much money, but he was given the space and he was allowed to write a narrative. It’s kind of interesting to me that this was the outtake, the story that didn’t sell—the story that he wasn’t sent on assignment for, but it was the story that he wanted to write.

Constance Hale: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

In another section from Shea’s story, Hale illustrates how the author uses fresh, detailed language to describe what it was like to get into a helicopter.

Moni Basu: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

Basu explains how her search for a central character began in Georgia. The first clip begins with moderator Andrea Simakis, a reporter with Cleveland’s Plain Dealer and a 2009 Nieman Fellow, reading from her story, followed by Basu’s talking about her work on it.

Moni Basu: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

In the second audio clip, Basu explains what it was like when she followed Chaplain Darren Turner to Iraq, embedded with his military unit, and returned to Atlanta to write. Basu provided a poignant glimpse of how Turner’s role in the war affected him.

What happened in the story was I went to document this young, green chaplain who went into battle thinking he would save these young souls, and in the arc of the narrative, when you get to the last chapter, you see how he is the sponge for the whole battalion. All through the story he has absorbed all of the wounds of all of his soldiers. By the end of it, you see him so completely spent where his anger comes out in what he says. At the beginning of the story, he goes to Walter Reed, and at the very end of the story you hear him say, “I don’t want to go” to Ibn Sina, which is the combat hospital in the Green Zone where nine of his men have been taken from a burning Bradley. He says it because he’s just completely done. He’s so stressed out by that point. I had not ever imagined that to be the arc of my narrative but that’s how it ended up.

Scott North: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

Scott North tells how he approached Mylo’s family and stitched together the story of the teenager’s life and death. In talking about his work on this story, North observed the following:

It’s an easy trap that we fall into: young man on drugs, encounters the cops, he’s dead. Game over. The reality was Mylo had been trained to be a leader in that community. Mylo was somebody with tremendous charisma, and Mylo had just left home three days before. He was a kid in whom people had invested great time and energy trying to help him make good choices, and he made a kid’s choice and he died. It was a tremendous tragedy and loss, and I tried to capture what that meant over the course of his lifetime by reflecting on who the people were that I met. It was the hardest part of the story to write, but it was the last thing I wrote, which was how does this connect very, very directly with my family.

Peter Davis: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

Davis explores how he dealt with three central questions—Why did we go to Vietnam? What did we do there? And what did the doing, in turn, do to us? In this edited excerpt, Davis observed:

The last two—“what did we do there and what did the doing do to us?”—that’s trauma. I didn’t call it that then. I didn’t know it, but I knew that something horrifying had happened to America in the process of doing these horrifying things to the Vietnamese. … dropping more bombs on Vietnam, for instance, than were dropped in all of World War II including the Far East, Hiroshima and Europe. By the way, none of that is mentioned in the film nor are the three questions. I didn’t want a narrator. I still didn’t know what I was going to do with those three questions, but I decided that everything in the film has to be related to them—to at least address the questions; there are no real answers to those questions. Even if these questions were not heard in the film, I wanted the film to be an inquiry rather than just an anti-war blast.

Peter Davis: “Narratives—With Trauma at Their Core

Three Vietnamese people in this documentary are talked about by Davis who explains their significance to his film.

Richard Mollica: “Toxic Storytelling: When Trauma Is Sensationalized

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