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JMSC Professor Wins Fellowship for Trauma Journalism

JMSC Associate Professor Kevin Sites has been named as one of the recipients of the prestigious Dart Center Ochberg Fellowship for his reportage on the darker side of human experience.

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism awarded 15 fellowships, to outstanding journalists who have reported on violence, conflict and tragedy.

Sites has spent the past decade doing just that. In 2005, he became Yahoo’s first correspondent, and also covered every major conflict that took place that year for his website, “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone”.

The fellowship offers the recipients the chance to spend a week in October at the university and share their experiences with each other, including such topics as post-traumatic stress disorder, and how to cover war and trauma more effectively.

“I am really eager to be part of this dialogue with the other fellows,” said Sites. “One of the things I’ve always felt has been lacking in my professional life is the ability to connect with other journalists who’ve had similar experiences.”

The other winners include the editorial coordinator of the largest news site in Latin America, a reporter for The Hindu newspaper in India, reporters and producers for the BBC, Al Jazeera and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, an editor at Zimbabwe’s Radio Voice of the People, and a correspondent at the McClatchy Newspapers’ Kabul bureau.

Sites said that war reporting has elements of both the simple and the complex. “Initially, it’s the easiest type of journalism there is,” he said. “It’s so obvious and black and white. There’s inherent drama in conflict, and combat and war forces that to the surface.”

However, he said, “Obviously, there’s a lot more to war reporting than that. The key is to focus on the actual defining element,” which he defines as “collateral damage: the refugee camps, sexual violence, the attrition – these are things that aren’t as easy to report on.”

“The irrefutable truth,” says Sites, “is that journalists have defined war by its smallest and most dramatic feature, which is combat, rather than by its largest but less dramatic feature, which is collateral damage or civil destruction.”

Sites has begun teaching two courses at the JMSC this semester, Introduction to TV and Television News.