In the aftermath of tragedy, lay the groundwork for Restorative Narrative

Journalists worldwide are working around the clock telling stories about the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 130 people in Paris.

In the aftermath of such a massive tragedy, it’s too soon to start identifying Restorative Narratives; it’s still too raw, too recent for authentic stories of resilience to emerge. Restorative Narratives take a deep dive into a person’s or community’s meaningful progression from a place of despair to a place of resilience. Headlines about people looking for hope in Paris, or photos of people wearing “I love Paris” shirts aren’t Restorative Narratives.

This is the time to lay the groundwork for what could become a Restorative Narrative later on. This is the time to practice good journalism — to tell the story of what happened and to connect with the people who were affected by letting them know you genuinely want to tell their story.

Often, journalists interview sources once or twice in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. Then, for a variety of reasons, they don’t keep in touch; other stories may get in the way, their editors may have different priorities, or they may not be accustomed to telling stories of resilience and renewal. They may just be used to telling anniversary stories, which typically don’t go deep into a person’s winding journey toward restoration. As a result, the sources’ stories of resilience, restoration, and recovery get lost.

The key is sticking with sources — not forgetting them when stories about the attacks begin to fade, but instead following up with them and seeing how they’re coping and if they’re beginning to find meaningful pathways forward. This is the foundation of good Restorative Narratives.

In the meantime, journalists need to keep telling the painful stories about what happened, the people who died, and the suspects. This news is important, and it’s news that many people want. A quick look at Google Trends shows that as of Monday morning, the top five questions people are asking on Google are related to Paris:


1.) What happened in Paris?

2.) Who were the terrorists?

3.) Who are the the Eagles of Death Metal?

4.) What is “Pray for Paris”?

5.) When is the curfew in Paris?


As important as these questions are, the answers can be difficult to report on and understand. They can lead us — journalists and news consumers alike — to feel helpless and hopeless.

One news organization, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, published a series of illustrations over the weekend aimed at helping people cope with traumatic news. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is one of a growing number of news organizations that are using illustrations to convey stories in different ways.

The illustrations reflect research that shows repeated exposure to traumatic news can cause acute stress symptoms, trigger flashbacks, and encourage fear mongering. They offer helpful tips not just about how adults can deal with the negative effects of traumatic news but about how parents can help children cope.

With permission from the illustrator, Lucy Fahey, we’re republishing some of the illustrations. Until stories of restoration and resilience emerge in Paris, these illustrations and other types of related coverage can be a refreshing change from the stories of terror…

Lucy Fahey

Lucy Fahey

Lucy Fahey

Lucy Fahey

To see all of the illustrations, click here.


Related: The case for Restorative Narrative: A strength-based storytelling genre that can improve storytelling | Register for a Poynter/NewsU Restorative Narrative Webinar with ivoh’s Mallary Tenore


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