Veteran special forces commando and author Jamie Zimmermann has reiterated the importance of managing your safety when reporting in a war zone.
The author of The Promise, who trained and mentored hundreds of commandos over his 15-year special forces career, told Macleay’s second International Reporting Conference foreign correspondents need to do their research and always have a risk management plan.
Mr Zimmermann said it was imperative to understand the dangerous environment of war. Preparation may entail anything from learning first aid and understanding transit corridors to survival techniques, dealing with the stresses of fatigue, and even hostage coping techniques.
“In those combat zones… if something happens, the best thing to do is compose yourself, then observe,” he said.
When questioned by journalism students on the restrictions placed on war reporters, Mr Zimmermann said there “must be a balance between emotion and the significance of the story”.
Journalists must consider their personal belief systems as well as the newsworthiness of the story in order to create a successful, appropriate story amid an atmosphere of turmoil and conflict, he said.
Senior Channel Ten news reporter and experienced foreign correspondent Hugh Riminton agreed with Mr Zimmermann that PTSD affected journalists as well as soldiers.
“If you go out into the darkness, the darkness will touch you,” Mr Riminton said. “You cannot expect that you will not be touched and changed by this… you want to be changed.”
“You go out to these places because you want to know what’s happening there. And you will know.”
Melbourne student Jessica Poulter later interviewed a guest to the Melbourne campus, Dr Alex Wake, a senior lecturer in RMIT’s School of Media and Communication, who added further insight to the issues raised by Mr Zimmermann and Mr Riminton:
Report by Jessica Staveley, Periscope video interview by Jessica Poulter. Photo of Jamie Zimmermann by James Mott.