Columbia Journalism School

Reporting Safely in Crisis Zones

This intensive program is aimed at preparing journalists, especially independent freelancers, to think critically about how to work effectively and safely in volatile situations such as war/conflict or disaster zones, with emphasis on prevention of harm.

When: April 16-19, 2014

Where: Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 2950 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

Overview:  Covering crisis presents some of the biggest challenges in the profession. The wrong move can kill someone, including yourself. Reporters must make quick decisions on whether to trust a translator or drive down a dangerous road. This course will show how to operate with caution in volatile situations, with an emphasis on conflicts. However, survival tips also relate to natural catastrophes like earthquakes. Most hostile environment training for journalists deals with ducking crossfire and kidnappers. Instead, we discuss how to avoid unnecessary peril, with careful preparations before, during and after assignments. Participants will emerge with a better understanding of how to hire fixers, shun attackers or protect computers.

Specialists will provide instruction in the following areas:
1. Risk assessment: making the right decisions before and during an assignment, setting limits, sound practices amid riots, snipers, mines, shooting, roadblocks, infiltrators and general mayhem.
2. Trauma: emotional self-care on troubling stories.
3. Cyber security: safeguarding sensitive communications and data. Codes, encryption and cloud computing.
4. Emergency first aid: tourniquets, triage, fractures and bullet wounds.
5. Rape/assault prevention, setting boundaries, delaying tactics, basic self-defense, healing.

Lead Instructor: Judith Matloff, adjunct faculty, Columbia Journalism School.

Course testimonials >>

Pricing: $975. Bursaries will be awarded by the Rory Peck Trust. RPT bursaries are for partial funding. These bursaries are offered ONLY to freelancers who regularly write for a journalistic/news media organization. Journalists who are employed fulltime by a news organization or others who are employed by non-news media companies are not be considered for a bursary, but may apply to attend the program. To be considered for an RPT bursary, submit a letter along with your application to the program, via email to, stating why you should be considered, detailing the news media organization(s) for whom you work, at least 4 work samples or links to published journalistic works, along with the names and contacts of editors/news managers supervising your work.

Apply: To apply for this course, a prospective student must send a CV and brief summary of his/her professional experience (up to 400 words) to with the subject line reading REPORTING IN CRISIS ZONES.  Admission notification will be sent upon receipt of student materials. Application deadline: Feb. 16. Register for this course >>

Please Note: Columbia University reserves the right to cancel and/or reschedule a course based on enrollment figures.  In the event of cancellation or postponement, the Continuing Education department will offer reimbursement for the course.  In other cases, all sales are final. Continuing Education does not offer refunds, credits or exchanges. We apologize, but there are no exceptions to this rule.

 Please email your queries to Program Manager Kate Kennedy, at


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