Journalists often swoop in at the most difficult moment of a person’s life — the aftermath of a violent incident, the tragic death of a loved one, or the culmination of a painful criminal trial. The School of Journalism and Communication’s specialized course on trauma-informed reporting, the first of its kind in Canada, is designed to make that job easier by helping to build a greater understanding of trauma and its effect on survivors into the journalistic practice. Whether they graduate into jobs in traditional newsrooms or work on their own, young journalists must know how to report on people immersed in traumatic situations, as well as how to process the trauma they are exposed to in the pursuit of their work. And yet, these skills, in particular, sensitive approaches to interviewing survivors, are rarely taught in a low-stakes environment that allows room for mistakes.

And that’s why the Interview Simulation Exercise is so valuable. It partners journalism students with a trained actor who is portraying a person who has experienced a traumatic event and agreed to be interviewed.

Simulation-based learning activities are common in the field of medical education. Such simulations, often involving the use of trained actors, advance the competencies and skills of prospective doctors and nurses. Simulation-based learning also occurs in other fields, including teacher education, engineering and management. This exercise is an innovative application of the principles of simulation-based learning in a journalism context.

The funding received from donors will be used to compensate professional actors who are hired to participate in the Interview Simulation Exercise. By ensuring journalism students are properly trained to report on traumatic incidents and the people caught up in them, we are enabling them to produce ethical, sensitive, and powerful pieces of journalism that can illuminate injustice, hold space for survivors, and engender greater empathy among our audiences. At a time of great polarization and social upheaval, the need to tell these stories effectively has never been greater.