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Our policies on trauma reporting


"Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone."

- Fred Rogers

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Our policies on trauma reporting


"Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone."

- Fred Rogers

The War Horse believes that reporting on trauma comes with a great responsibility. Not only do we expect to hold ourselves to these standards, but we encourage our sources and readers to do the same. 
 

1. You don't 'get it' or 'understand' what a source has been through. Every story is unique. Every experience is unique. If our stories aren't unique, we are doing a disservice to our sources and our readers. Research conditions and circumstances. But once you have done your research, leave it at the door. It doesn't matter how much knowledge you have on the topic, you can never predict how a particular individual experienced the events that happened to them. 

2. Reporting on trauma demands special care and increased ethical sensitivity. It requires specialized interviewing skills, understanding of the law, and (at a minimum) a basic awareness about the psychological impact of trauma.

3. Get the language correct. Someone is not a victim unless they describe themselves that way.

4. Respect a potential interviewee's right to say 'no.' Nobody should be forced to give every detail about a traumatic event unless THEY want to. 

5. We will take control of providing a safe space for sources to discuss their individual trauma(s). Tread carefully and do not exploit or belittle them if they open up to you. If you've earned their trust, keep it. The secret to good interviewing is active, non-judgmental listening. 

6. Don't underestimate how your own reactions to traumatic details can influence the conversation. If you are finding the conversation challenging, acknowledge that silently to yourself, and bring your focus back to what is being said. Try to listen a little harder and and to observe facial expressions and body language. The time for a journalist to process the personal impact of an interview is after it's complete, away from the interviewee.

7. Trauma is often associated with high degrees of self-blame, guilt, and shame. For this reason, avoid language that might imply the interviewee is responsible in some way. Be careful of asking 'why' questions—which interrogators tend to favor. Don't be surprised if accounts only make partial sense. Frequently survivors of trauma 'shut down' emotionally: Their recall may become or seem fragmented, and in some cases they may have blocked out an event entirely. Incomplete and contradictory accounts are not prima facie evidence of deception, but rather of the struggle interviewees may experience in making sense of what has happened to them. 

8. Journalists have a responsibility to do everything they can to avoid exposing the interviewee to further abuse and to avoid undermining an interviewee's standing in his or her community. Be prepared for survivors to read at least portions of your story before publication, as it can lessen the impact—and possible trauma—of public exposure. (Note: After reading—and seeing evidence of your intentions—an interviewee may decide to share more of his or her story with you.) Tell the whole story. Sometimes media identify only specific incidents, focusing on the obvious climax. Reporters must understand that a failure to report wholly on a story is, in itself, a form of abuse. Learn how individuals have coped with the trauma in the longer term. Your stories and your relationships will be richer for it. 

9. Trauma reporting is an act for the greater good. Utilize information, data, resources, and various experiences wisely to provide you with insight and to ensure you're reporting the truth—not how things appear at first glance. There is never a simple explanation and during your reporting you should be prepared to explore the individual complexities of each story. Speculation has no place in trauma reporting. 

10. A story is never just about what happened. Explore regrets and successes and how your interviewee's life got them to this point. A person is more than just a singular event. Explore the survivor's story with the same care, attention to detail, and respect that you would want them to show if roles were reversed. 

Click here to read our policy for legal reporting practices

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OUR Reporting Standards


"News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don't print matter a lot."

- Katharine Graham

OUR Reporting Standards


"News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don't print matter a lot."

- Katharine Graham

 

1) Ensure your sources are solid, knowledgeable, and the best voice available for the given topic. Also, make sure you are aware of anything you've made a deal with them about, such as anonymity. If a person is to be left anonymous, the journalist and staff will ensure all safeguards are put in place to ensure anonymity is maintained. If the source has a vendetta or axe to grind, include the source's bias in your reporting. Confidential sources should be used as sparingly as possible. A court cannot weigh your source or the validity of the information they gave you if they cannot defend you in that same courtroom. If you have an anonymous source, assume people will believe that you have made it all up. An on-the-record named source is always the best option.

2) Comment, comment, comment. Always go to the "other side" with everything you are going to publish. Always ask questions. Comment, comment, comment. Always bake-in their side of the story. Our rule is "no surprises journalism.” Produce content that you would respect finding on the front page of every news site, if you or your (in)actions were the focus of the content.

3) The more damning a story is, the more care you should show the story. The "other side" is not a villain and they will never be referred to in such a manner. Everyone deserves to be written about in a rigorous, complex, and intriguing way, because they are human, too. Your tone needs to reflect the seriousness of the story. You are not a jury. Make sure you write directly down the middle. 

4) Did you attribute accurately? Do not editorialize content. We are human, so we have opinions, but they will not be tolerated in our content. Be sure you are not turning accusations into facts. 

5) Fairness is broad, but is the article fair? Can we back up the article with supporting materials and facts? Do not jump to conclusions. Do not characterize things. When writing, stick to the facts and what you understand to be accurate. Always.

6) Don't be vague. Do not insinuate. Do not suggest. Be concise. Be thorough. Be accurate. If you don't know it, don't imply it. If you're not totally sure, you need to be sure. And if you're not sure, keep reporting until you are sure. And if you’re wrong, admit it. Don’t hide your mistakes or nobody will trust us. 

7) Be careful to not violate privacy laws. You need to be very careful about anything you write with health history, abuse of any kind, job history, adultery, and anything that is personal, private or embarrassing. You must make it clear as to why the average person should care and why it will matter to them. Always say things straight up. Don't inflate things. If you need one nugget or your story falls apart, you’re simply not done reporting. 

8) Statements of an opinion must be supported by facts. Make sure you have not made any torts when doing your reporting. Make sure you do everything cleanly, and do not make decisions on your own. Always ask an editor if you're not sure if you've broken the law. Have you told everyone who you are and what you're doing. Always tell the truth. If you lie, you will not write for us. Ever.

9) Do not break any contracts or embargoes for any amount of information. If you say something, stand by it, but you need to have asked the editor first.

10) There are a host of international laws. Do not violate any international laws.

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Our Staff And ADVISORS


Our advisory team will conduct quarterly reviews of our published materials, and provide detailed feedback about our journalism so you can trust you're enjoying fact-based, thorough, and responsible journalism.

We'll push ourselves to make it great.

They'll push us to make it even better.

Our Staff And ADVISORS


Our advisory team will conduct quarterly reviews of our published materials, and provide detailed feedback about our journalism so you can trust you're enjoying fact-based, thorough, and responsible journalism.

We'll push ourselves to make it great.

They'll push us to make it even better.

Thomas J. Brennan

Thomas J. Brennan is the founder of The War Horse. Thomas' passion in writing is exploring war, trauma, and loss. Prior to studying at Columbia University, he was a sergeant in the Marine Corps and served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an infantryman. He was awarded a Purple Heart and is the recipient of the 2014 American Legion Fourth Estate Award and an Honorable Mention at the 2013 Dart Awards for his reporting with both the New York Times and The Daily News in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Thomas is also co-writing a book, "Shooting Ghosts," which will be published in 2017 through the Viking imprint of Penguin/Random House. Read his work with the New York Times. 

Anna Hiatt

Anna Hiatt is a reporter and editor based in New York City, working with words, audio, and pictures—both moving and still. She's an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she also earned her master's degree. She attended UC Berkeley, graduating with a history degree. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, Reuters, The Village Voice, and on WNYC, among others. Anna Hiatt serves as a features editor for The War Horse. She's currently working on a book about end-of-life care.

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Lindsey Melki

 

Lindsey Melki is Chief Operations Officer for The War Horse. She’s a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army captain. Lindsey served for seven years as an aviation officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot, including a deployment to Baghdad. Prior to joining The War Horse, Lindsey received her MBA and MPA from New York University and worked as an associate with Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Public Finance Investment Banking group. She’s a Tillman Military Scholar and member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council. Lindsey and her wife, Julie, reside in New Jersey.

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David Chrisinger

David Chrisinger is the Director of Writing Seminars for The War Horse. He believes everyone has a story that needs to be told. For the last three years, he has also taught a semester-long writing seminar for student veterans at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and in 2016 he edited a collection of his students’ essays, See Me For Who I Am, that bridges the cultural gap that divides Post-9/11 military veterans from the American people. For six years David taught public policy writing to graduate students in the Master of Public Policy program at Johns Hopkins University and wrote Public Policy Writing That Matters, a book for anyone passionate about using writing to create real and lasting change. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and two young sons. 

Newsroom Development

Bruce Shapiro

Bruce Shapiro is the director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism where he is also a professor of journalism ethics and is the school's Senior Advisor for Academic Affairs. Bruce has directed the Dart Center since 2006 and is the recipient of the Public Advocacy Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for his work advocating for ethical and responsible trauma reporting as a global practice. He has taught investigative journalism at Yale University and is a contributing editor at The Nation. Bruce's personal and professional experiences with trauma reporting will bring a degree of clarity and responsibility in journalism beyond reproach. Bruce will serve as a member of The War Horse advisory team, auditing our adherence to ethical journalism practices. 

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Robert Rosenthal

Robert J. Rosenthal is the executive director of The Center for Investigative Reporting and an award-winning journalist who has worked with The New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Rosenthal worked for 22 years at the Inquirer, starting as a reporter and eventually becoming its executive editor in 1998. Robert worked as an editorial assistant on the Pulitzer-Prize winning Pentagon Papers Project, and has also won the Overseas Press Club Award for magazine writing, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished foreign correspondence, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in international reporting. Robert was a Pulitzer Prize judge four times and has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University and University of California at Berkeley's Graduate Schools of Journalism. 


Editorial Advisors

 

Karen Stabiner

Karen Stabiner is the author of the upcoming "Generation Chef," which chronicles a year in the life of a young chef as he opens his first restaurant. Her most recent book, "Family Table," is a cookbook-with-narrative about backstage life at a group of New York City restaurants. Her nine previous books include "To Dance With The Devil: The New War on Breast Cancer," a New York Times Notable Book, and her personal favorite, "My Girl: Adventures With a Teen in Training." Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other national publications. Karen teaches Feature Writing at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and brings with her years of experience in vivid storytelling.

Kevin Cullen

Kevin Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and columnist at The Boston Globe. Kevin was a member of the 2003 investigative team that won the Pulitzer for coverage of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. He is the co-author of the New York Times best-seller, "Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice." Kevin is also a Harvard Neiman Fellow and serves as an advisory member reviewing editorial content on a quarterly basis. Kevin's extensive newsroom experience, recognitions, and prowess as an investigative journalist will guide The War Horse in creating thoroughly and responsibly reported works of investigative journalism into the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Kevin is also the recipient of the Goldsmith Prize, the George Polk Award, and the Selden Ring Award.

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Finbarr O'Reilly

Finbarr O'Reilly was based in West Africa as a Reuters correspondent and staff photographer from 2001 until 2014, and covered wars in Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Chad, and elsewhere. His photography has earned top industry awards, including the World Press Photo of the Year in 2006, as well as numerous awards from the National Press Photographers Association and Pictures of the Year International. He left Reuters in 2015 after photographing wars in Afghanistan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. He has moved into academia, with fellowships at Harvard, Columbia, and Yale. Finbarr is co-writing a non-fiction book, "Shooting Ghosts," that will be published by the Viking imprint of Penguin/Random House. He will serve as an advisory member on visual storytelling. With his years of noteworthy war coverage, Finbarr will provide quarterly review and ensure The War Horse publishes visual components in the most captivating manner possible. 

Technical Advisors

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg is probably best known for his 1971 role in disclosing the previously secret Pentagon Papers, which revealed the true story of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. A Harvard PhD in Economics and former U.S. Marine Corps rifle company commander, he worked at the Pentagon, White House, State Department and the Rand Corporation before he became disillusioned with the U.S.’s role in Vietnam.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has been a lecturer, writer and activist on the dangers of the nuclear era, wrongful U.S. interventions and the urgent need for patriotic whistleblowing. He is a Senior Fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

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Initial Donors List


If we don't remember where we started,
we will never know where we're going.

Initial Donors List


If we don't remember where we started,
we will never know where we're going.

INDIVIDUAL/FAMILY DONORS

Woodbridge Family
Kendra Motz
Ariel Ritchin
Cindy Schepers
Gregory Williams
Dan Trusilo
The Heath Family
C.C. Chapman
J.P. Lawrence
Larry Lade
The Gen. Castellvi Family
Amy Siedler
Wendy Wolf
Lori Freshwater
Kathleen Splaine-Vella
Long Phung
Tristan McConnell
Sheila Coronel
Jason & Pamela Noble
Tyler Leath
Ryan & Amanda Lundnohm
Alexis H. Miller
Rachel A. Sneed
Jaime W. 
Jeff Stanger
R.V. Gardner
Try H. Butler
Ben Santo
Brandon Frazier
Eugene Kuchma
Dennis Dubovich
Blair Harley
York Storyman
Erika Hoddinott
Brian Sullivan
Jason B. Scott
Orlando Ortiz
Peter M. Roth
Roy Mitsouka
Siobhan Archer-Morris
Arthur Richard Salatka III
Karl & Anne Marlantes
Mark Stingley
David Michael Bryant
Chris Curry
Michael J. Ross
Daniel Batt
Capt. Susan Larson, USN-Ret.
Donleigh O. Gaunky
J. Gamble
David Krouse
Michael Ergo
Oliver David
Cyndi Brown
Tim Patterson
Daniel Jayne
T. Pilote
C.J. Micalizio
Sean McMahon
Randy Meeks
Peter W. Frey
Taylor Brennan
Mike Dunford
Bryan & Mary Fitzhugh
Franceska Cox
Dale Cordy
Tom Jones
David & Linda Weatherseed
Marc Balkovich, USMC-Ret.
David Ervin
Ross Sieg
Paolo & Antonella Boffetta
Alicia Dietz
Rosie Sinfield
Euna Park
Colleen Hockey
David & Rose Blea, USMC-Ret.
Rebecca & Matt Johnson
Jonathan Herrick
Joshue Twitty
Brian Smullen
Serey Anikushin
Robert Rosenthal
Michael Hirshman
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Gen. James N. Mattis
James Dao
Brian Adam Jones
Dr. Thomas Johnson
Trey H. Butler
The Evans Family
Nicolas Lemann
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Justin R. Corry
Belen Greene
Gee Yong Wee
Greg Boucher
Amina Mujtaba
Michael Petersheim
Amy Siedler
Lydia Jorgenson
Rachel A. Sneed
Stabile Fellows Class of 2015
Tahlia Burton
Damien Spleeters
Ivan Arreguin
David Navarre
Thomas D. Gottwald, Sr.
Will Walker
Ralph Mizell
Anthony Triplett
James C. Watkins
Tyler J. Bolken
Erik Huckle
Jamie W.
Bruce Jones
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David Chrisinger
Donal O'Reilly
Glenna R.
Jason Hansman
Brad E.
John Wendle
Erik Cortes
Dan Catlett
Lyle Muller
Ron Hill
Cathee VanRossem-St. Clair
Ivy Hatsengate
Paula Preston
Cathy Roberts
Debbie J. Freeman
Jeff W. McGuire
Tyler Glotfelty
Michael Holcomb
Tami Barry
Chip Hitchcock
Brett Tinker
Mary Traynor
Aaron Gilbert
Angela Thomsen
Rick Manttari
Justine & Timothy Worley
Joey & Angela Gunn
Jesse M. Carl
Scott Nokes
Kevin Brown
Michael J. Ross
Kasey Cordell
Steven Langford
Tiffanni R. Spann
Serge Huber
Anna M. Hiatt
Hugh Carson
K. Thiebolt
Elisabeth Suttee
Laura Caplan
Stephen & Denise Peterson
Barbara Griffin
Jim Stenger
Dan Lamothe
Carl Stoffers
S. Brown
Finbarr O'Reilly
Karen Stabiner
Stuart Karle
John Bennet
Bruce Shapiro
John Ismay
Adrian Bonenberger
BriGette McCoy
Gurman Bhatia, India
Jodi Salamino
John Sullivan
Beth White
Mark Brueggeman
James Hazelett
Charlie & Karen Fredrickson

Melinda & Madison Brennan
The Brennan Family
Alan Rueda
The Suttee Family
The Seeber Family
Ammy Amlaw
Brent & Journey Roberts
Michael Petersheim
Jacqui Maher
Lawton & Katie Hansen
Jim Mintz
Patrick Poirier
Rex Lam
Tim Kudo
Kevin Sullivan
Tom Burket
Norman Seider
A. Karpouzis
A. Holobinko
Kiley Lambert
Yee Cang Ling
Brian Carlson
Chris Alderman
Derek Zahler
Chris Greenlief
Amy K. Grossman
Matthew McGoffin
Warren Atkins
Jennifer LeBaron
Matthew Brown
Keith Goggin
Yannis Behrakis
Scott Blanchard
Holly Pickett
Jim Macica
Jeff Lamie
Joy L. Healy
Mark S. Pounovich
Lee Delph
G. Taylor
Andrew Cox
Asthaa Chaturvedi
Jeffrey M. Gulotta
Jonathan Penland
Alma Hart
Don L. Lair
Justin Lawson
Leslye A. Gustat
Patrick J. Flynn
Mary & John Hays
Richard Widdicombe
John Casper
E. Belikoff
Jack Killough
Nick Strycharz
Mackenzie Kampa
Bernadette Rkiouak
Bruce Cruikshank
Don Barth
Matthew Warnick
Douglas Norton
Richard V. Utt
C. Sims
Amber Jamieson
Krystin Mueller
Robert Staples
Ashlee Matthews
Jonathan Baran
Jessica Lipscomb
Katie & Codie Gauthier
Laura Simmons
Kerri Mosher
Lisa Killeen
Matt Jackson
Jason B. Scott
Scilla Alecci
Jean Hislop
Kelly Breen
Erik Jendresen
Rodrigo Ugarte
Robyne F.
Loren McBride
Liz Baugher
Daniel Trusilo
Stephen & Denise Peterson
Conor McGoey
Brad & Sarah Belin
Clayton K. Sears
David Hanson
Matt Engiles
Ellise Rowan
Kimberly Stevens
Monica Traphagan
David Dunlap
Dr. Richard W. & K. Kambitsis Foster
Robert Cudinski
Justin Jones
Chris Amico
Rutwij Devashrayee
Steve Coll
Jeffrey M. Gulotta
Ricci Shyrock
Marie Martin
Andrew Hutcheson
Carl Stoffers
Kent Gordon
Thomas D. Gottwald, Sr. 
Joshua Grant
Andrew Bolla
Arianna Gonzales
Roger Simon
Nevin Flores
Phil Thomas
Geraldine C. Carey
P. Gomes
Richard Lawson
E. Belikoff
Sebastian Bae
Nina Wadhw
K. Thiebolt
M. Katherine Maeve
Marge Jones
Greg Misztura
Ian C.
Melissa Simonian
Thomas Meizinger
Mary T.
Daniel Colome
Roy Neiderberger
Jim Connor
Phillip S. Balboni
Missy & Larry Matisoff
Dan Cogan
Jim Piper
Taffanni R. Spann
Richard Rega
M. Jackson
Marc Pflieger
Kerry Donahue
Mary Beth McNair
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Bill Hanson
The Susnik Family
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Mary Bell
Fred Burke
Thomas Thoren
Christopher M. Tetens
Kate Myers
Jason B.
Candace B.
Dave Henzel
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Christine Lombardi
James Brundage
Dan & Patti Poirier
Sarah Burns
David Kalitowski
Paige Spell
Marc de Konkoly Thege
Stephen Thomas King
Chelsea L.
Heather & Travis Kesterson
Julie Brown
Dion Brugger
Alec Perkins
Ralph Bendjebar
Laura Muha
Kevin Cullen
Roy Berg
Lore Boucher
Benjamin Leighton
Megan Weeks
Mike Hursh
Liz Berrien
Judy Mikeska
Bruce Chuikshank
Marine Vallet
Jesselee Kahaloa
Brad Smelt
Julia Glover


BUSINESS AND CORPORATE DONORS

The Purple Heart Art Project
William Rusch at Mobile Financial
William Foskey at J-Ninety Black
Alpine Digital, Tupper Lake, NY
Gabe Castleberry at 03 Designs and Apparel
Eric Montgomery at Bullets 2 Bandages
Tom Neilson at CRI Properties 
Caitlyn Kizielewicz at KizzComm
Hayes Roth & Joseph Orr at H.A. Roth Consulting
The Wrath Bearing Tree
Decon Laboratories, LLC
Tats Out Lats Out, LLC
Sofrito Mama's
 

ORGANIZATIONAL DONORS

Institute For Non-Profit News, Encino, CA
Wake Forest University, School of Law
Poirier and Carmichael Computer Salvage
Grassroots.org
VFW Post 2130, Tupper Lake, NY
The Bob Woodruff Foundation
BlueHost.com
Skidmore College, Saratoga, NY
9/11 Memorial, New York, NY

Donations consist of money, goods, professional guidance, and/or services that have helped The War Horse get to this point. 


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The Initial Donors List includes donors who have contributed money, goods, and/or services to The War Horse.