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Teaching vicarious trauma in the journalism classroom: An examination of educational provision in UK universities

A Research Paper co-authored by Doug Specht and Julia Tsilman, published by Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies

The connections between vicarious trauma and the viewing of violent User-Generated Content (UGC) are becoming an increasingly important topic in journalism. As more journalist work begins to rely, or at least incorporate UGC, the risks to journalists have been shown to increase. This can lead to short, unpleasant careers, and in some cases, serious, long-lasting mental health risks. Yet while this discussion is beginning to unfold in the newsroom, universities are lagging behind in their understanding of the topic. This article, through content analysis of undergraduate course materials, and through interviews with lecturers and journalists, found that almost no course in the United Kingdom is teaching the risks of vicarious trauma or UGC. It was found that while some educators wish to make more of the topic, a number of institutional factors, such as lack of training and time, worries over duty of care, and available resources make this a difficult, if not impossible task. The article recommends a new emphasis is placed on vicarious trauma, coupled with training and interdepartmental support.


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User-Generated Content

Cite as:
Specht, D. and Tsilman, J. 2018. Teaching vicarious trauma in the journalism classroom: an examination of educational provision in UK Universities. Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies 7 (2).

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

Doug Specht


Dr Doug Specht is a cultural geographer and educationalist. His research explores themes related to environmental justice, human rights, and access to education, with a focus on the production and codification of knowledge though cartographic artefacts and in educational settings. In recognition of his work, he has been appointed as a Chartered Geographer and Chartered Teacher. In addition, he has been awarded Advanced Teacher Status, alongside being a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE. Dr. Specht has authored numerous articles and books, including Mapping Crisis, the Routledge Handbook of Geospatial Technology and Society, the Media and Communications Student Study Guide and Imagining Apocalyptic Politics in the Anthropocene. He writes regularly on ethics, environmental and human rights, education, and mapping practices in such publications as WonkHE, The Conversation, Geographical, and for Times Higher Education. Dr Specht is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Geography, Westminster papers in Communication and Culture, and Anthropocenes – Human, Inhuman, Posthuman. He is Chair of the Environmental Network for Central America.


23 July 2018
Published By
Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies
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