Counsellors called in for 'traumatised' CNN staff

 CNN has put grief counsellors on standby in New York, Washington and its headquarters in Atlanta to help staff cope with their experiences reporting the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the aftermath.

Experts are on hand to talk to staff, who have been told that they can spend up to three days speaking confidentially to the counsellors.

At the BBC, the director of news, Richard Sambrook, has also sent an email to staff telling them a counselling service is available.

Chris Cramer, the President of CNN International Networks, said it was "patently obvious" that people have been traumatised by what they had seen. A former head of newsgathering for the BBC, Cramer has championed the cause of helping journalists deal with post traumatic stress, and is now honorary chairman of Newscoverage Unlimited, a non-profit initiative to help news people who experience trauma as part of their work.

"People are doing their jobs and that keeps their minds off it, but they know there is someone available if they want to talk about it at some point. It’s unlikely they will do so now, but later they might," said Cramer, who was caught up in the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980.

He added that he included those who saw images of the aeroplane strikes on TV screens in the newsroom as well as those whose job it has been to report from the scene in the aftermath of the devastating strike on the World Trade Center.

"People here in Atlanta have been traumatised, it’s affected them deeply. Some journalists have been wandering through body parts, it would be extraordinary if they were not affected by that," said Cramer. "Up until now people have thought this was something war correspondents had to deal with. But the frontline has come to New York and Washington, and for thousands of journalists it will be the first time they have been through something like this."

Veteran CBS anchor Dan Rather twice broke down when he appeared on comedian David Letterman’s Late Show, which was repeated on ITV2 on Tuesday.  "We have had two correspondents weep on air," said Cramer. "It didn’t look inappropriate to display emotion during that time."

l The last remaining western journalist in Afghanistan, CNN correspondent Nic Robertson, has been forced to leave the region after the Taliban made it clear it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners. The British journalist filed his final report from the city of Kandahar on Tuesday before making his way to the Pakistan border.

By Julie Tomlin

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