Mike Walter

Inside Media: "Breaking News, Breaking Down"

September 12, 2009

Guest: Mike Walter

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

Journalist Mike Walter was used to covering tough stories, but the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, proved to be the most trying of his career. Witnessing American Airlines Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon wounded his emotional well-being.

"I did my job that day, but a number of times I broke down crying. I struggled to come to terms with what I saw," he said.

Eight years later, the former WUSA 9 news anchor has turned to filmmaking, chronicling how journalists cope with reporting terror and tragedy in his documentary "Breaking News, Breaking Down." Much of the production follows Walter in New Orleans, where he and colleagues from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma help rebuild a city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Calling the film "a labor of love," Walter believes it gives journalists permission to talk about their own experiences.

"Journalists are not equipped to deal with trauma," he said. "It affects everyone and is not as identifiable as a [physical scar.]" Walter explained that in the past, many journalists turned to alcohol to cope. The Dart Center project offers journalists an alternative approach to coping.

"Breaking News, Breaking Down" has been screened at film festivals in the United States, Toronto and Australia. It will be shown in Sweden in October.

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