Quake Aftermath: Christchurch Journalists' Collective Trauma Experience and the Implications for Their Reporting


  • Sean Scanlon University of Canterbury




On February 22, 2011, Christchurch-based journalists were jolted out of their normal work routine by a large 6.3 magnitude earthquake that killed 185 people, wrecked the city and forced reporters to reappraise their journalism. This study considers how the earthquake affected journalists’ relationship to the community, their use of sources and news selection. A theory of collective trauma is used to explain the changes that journalists made to their reporting practice. Specifically, Christchurch journalists had a greater identification and attachment to their audience post-earthquake. Journalists viewed themselves as part of the earthquake story, which prompted them to view sources differently, use those sources differently and see advocacy as a keystone of their news work after the disaster. This study adds to a growing scholarship about journalists and trauma, but focuses on what the event meant for local reporters’ choice of sources and news selection rather than measuring rates of psychological distress.