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Trauma Inflicted Upon Journalists in Country of my Skull

“We sleep between one and two hours a night. We live on chocolate and potato chips. After five years without cigarettes, I start smoking again” (Krog, 51).

This quote written by Krog is seen in chapter three of Country of my Skull as she explains the emotional conflict that journalists like her are forced to deal with throughout their careers reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The film, Long Night’s Journey Into Day did not address the emotional burden brought upon the reporters. This was something I had thought about; how it must be extremely difficult to put one’s emotions aside while having to film and interview innocent people who are experiencing a very painful level of grief. I was so glad that Krog touched upon this in Country of my Skull because it was something that really interested me. I am a particularly sensitive and empathetic person, so I do not see myself as fit for the role that Krog is able to fulfil, although she does struggle.

There is a sense of strength that such journalists are required to possess in order to perform their jobs efficiently. Krog was affected by the stories in such an extreme way that she was drawn to return to a past addiction portrays the severe emotional trauma that comes with being a journalist. Krog shows that the amount of emotional strength it takes to quit an addiction like smoking cigarettes can be easily lost when an emotional trauma of equal or greater force interferes.

Krog continues to write, “we develop techniques to lessen the impact. We no longer go into the halls where the hearings take place, because of the accumulated grief. We watch on the monitors provided. The moment someone starts crying, we start writing/scribbling/doodling” (Krog, 51). She shows readers that they are forced to come up with ways to deal with the trauma inflicted upon them. I thought it was very interesting that she also wrote that the journalists are, in a way, each other’s therapists; as they are going through the same thing, they are there for each other to ease the intense emotional burden.

The emotional burden of being a journalist and having to report on such sensitive cases is something I have not thought about prior to watching Long Night’s Journey Into Day and reading Country of my Skull. Learning about this actually gave me a much better appreciation for the work that these journalists do. Their careers are not just reciting information about cases; they are often faced with hardships and are forced to find their own ways of putting their emotions aside to lessen their own agony.

The Role of the Journalist : Covering the TRC Hearings

William Tradd Stover

This focuses on a more subtle idea that the text presents: journalism. Since Krog had that position and was forced to deal with the realities that came with it, I wanted to explore this concept a bit in thinking about what a journalist would have gone through.

In Long ‘Night’s Journey Into Day’, the viewer is able to see the stories unfold in front of their own eyes. In some of the shots from the film, reporters are seen crowded around like in any other big case or event, avidly listening and almost misplaced in how they are dispersed. In this book, the reader is given the clear perpective of a journalist during this time, one that has real, complex emotions about what is going on.

As I think about this work being largely made up of a journalist’s viewpoint, I think first about what having that title entails. Usually, at least in America, people hope that reporting will be fair, balanced, and rather objective in most cases. In this case, it is hard to fathom what it must have been like for someone covering the cases and hearing testimonies to do their job ‘properly’ and objectively. There is a feeling of anger toward foreign news people that just want a story and do not have the same sort of passion for what is actually going on behind the camera lens and notepads. It is almost impossible to report on these hearings without some sort of emotion poking through in some form.

Krog is in a peculiar position given that she is an Afrikaner and is forced to deal with her nation’s history of injustice and gruesome behavior. The TRC’s hearings were obviously excruciating for the people involved, and having to report on such a thing is a really interesting and intimidating concept. I imagine that it was difficult for Krog to place herself into a group during this time of attempted reconciliation, being an Afrikaner woman. Was she responsible in some way for these spiteful acts? Was she different because of her womanhood? How could she do her part in giving victims the respect that they deserve?

When I think of all the media present at the hearings, I think of a certain picture that I looked up that really almost gives me chills. It is a photo of Jeff Benzien reenacting what he would have done to torture a black man during the apartheid rule. It is a really jarring sight, and I can not help but to think of all the people in the room that witnessed that. Something like that represents years of injustice and division, and it can be dwindled down to a click on a camera: fascinating.

This post is a little all over the place, but I was really intrigued by so many things. The ideas of journalism as a means of story telling, identity, self-placement, and ownership really struck me.