War reporter trauma

Ian Stewart, former West Africa bureau chief for AP, was shot by a boy soldier while travelling in a car through Freetown in Sierra Leone in 1999. The bullet lodged in the back of his brain and left him paralyzed. He recounted the experience, subsequent trauma and “survivor guilt” at the weekend during a conference about journalism and violence held at the University of Western Ontario.

“How could I be (angry)?” Stewart said. “He was a kid, probably about 13 or 14 years old. He was a victim in a war where child was pitted against child.” link

During Stewart’s foreign correspondent career he covered six wars in seven years, was shot on three continents and imprisoned on two. He described his experience in Siera Leone in the book Ambushed: A war reporter’s life on the line. These days he studies the effects of trauma on former child soldiers and their families at the University of Michigan. In the pre-cconference build up Cliff Lonsdale, a journalism lecturer at the University of West Ontario, reflects on some of the common causes of trauma among war reporters,

“[Ian Stewart] was watching people die and reporting on the most horrendous things and feeling as though the world didn’t give a damn. It was only when a nice white boy from Mississauga ended up getting shot that the world thought this was an interesting thing,” explains Lonsdale. “Working under those circumstances, risking your life and feeling that you’re not actually making a difference – that has got to have some impact on your emotional life.” link