Scott Maier at a news accuracy workshop in Vienna to editors and reporters at Kurier, one of Austria's leading daily newspapers.

SOJC professor Scott Maier and Psychology professor Paul Slovic were awarded a $4000 research grant for their project proposal, “Overcoming Psychic Numbing: Creating Better Media Coverage of Mass Atrocity.”

The project is one of four chosen this year by the Genocide and Mass Atrocities: Responsibility to Prevent Initiative, and is funded by the Savage Endowment of International Relations and Peace. The initiative “strives to harness the experience of academics, policymakers, and advocates around the world to establish a movement toward lasting change in both international and domestic contexts.”

In order to discover the effectiveness of media coverage of atrocities, Maier and Slovic will conduct a content analysis of news stories along with psychological testing of the emotional effect of stories on a panel of readers.

Using the idea that people consider the death of one person a tragedy and the death of many a statistic, Maier and Slovic plan to explore how different types of coverage of atrocities influence reader response. For example, when covering the genocide in Darfur, was it more effective for journalists to find the “right” person to illuminate the larger story or to highlight the staggering statistics and the impacts of genocide?

The findings will offer guidance for journalists as they work to find the most effective way to draw attention to brutalities in the news.

“I am grateful and humbled to take on this cross-disciplinary research,” Maier said. “We hope the findings will offer guidance on how to get beyond psychic numbing and compassion fatigue when drawing attention to the world’s most disturbing and intractable conditions.”