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On Moral Injury

In the field: the burgeoning understanding of moral injury

Over the course of their careers, war reporters often end up spending more time in conflict zones than active-duty soldiers do, and many suffer from profound psychological trauma as a result. In “On Moral Injury,” published in the August issue of Harper’s Magazine, Janine di Giovanni sheds light on the alarming incidence of trauma among journalists. She focuses on an often-overlooked variant called moral injury, which is distinguished by the victim’s belief that they have failed to live up to their own ethical standards. Journalists who witness terrible atrocities face choices between their obligation to help and their duty to observe, and many remain haunted by their decisions for years afterward. Di Giovanni illustrates the psychological damage inflicted by these ethical dilemmas with harrowing stories from her own career as a frontline journalist. In this episode, di Giovanni joins Harper’s web editor Violet Lucca to explore some further dimensions of moral injury. They discuss the protections that news organizations should offer their reporters; the responsibilities that journalists have toward their subjects; and the moral injuries that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely inflict on us all.

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