The War in Iraq Gets Personal
By Dorie L. Griggs
My husband's good friend and fellow photojournalist went to the Middle East to cover the war with Iraq last week. We've read the war stories and seen the battlefield images, but now we have a personal connection to it. More than a thousand journalists are covering this war, and my husband and I have joined the ranks of those scanning the images for signs of friends and family. It's an uneasy position, at best, because we have only few ways to help our friend.
People working in the news business are even more connected with the conflict overseas than most of us at home. A close friend or co-worker may be right in the middle of the fighting. Feelings of uneasiness and anxiety are normal given the circumstances, but journalists deal with the details of the war on a daily basis. And that can add to the stress of an already stressful job.
Certainly journalists in the midst of the conflict believe in the importance of their role in keeping the public informed. They play a vital role -- but also a very dangerous role.
We can't change the fact that we are at war, but we can take positive steps to help the people covering the conflict and their families. We can also take steps to care for ourselves, too.
If your co-worker's family member or friend is in the war zone, consider:
- Calling and visiting with your colleague's family.
- Offering to help in any way you can. Walk the dog, help with routine errands.
- Listening to the family members. Let them talk about their fears.
Remember to listen to the children, too. Some children won't want to talk, or they may have a hard time finding the words to express their feelings. Here are some ways to help children in uncertain times:
- Give them a set of crayons or markers in a variety of colors. Ask them to draw pictures of their feelings or play games with them.
- Limit the amount of war coverage the children see and read.
- Ask children what they know about the war. Their perspectives will vary from an adult world view.
- Read to them; a resource list is provided below.
In the workplace, you can:
- Set up a system to pass on greetings and words of support to reporters and photojournalists.
- Remember to take breaks -- even five minutes -- away from the constant news of the war.
- Keep a favorite photo near your workspace as a positive image in the midst of strife.
The non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists web site has a variety of resources and information. Find them at: http://www.cpj.org.
I am managing several projects for Faith and the City. If you'd like more details about supporting journalists overseas, contact me.
Resources for talking with children about war:
The information provided in this column is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice.
Dorie L. Griggs holds a Master of Divinity degree and her ministry is to journalists. Contact her via e-mail: dorie@stanleyleary.