For Black journalists, working Chauvin trial drains emotions

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This image released by MSNBC shows Correspondent Shaquille Brewster, right, on location covering the the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minn., on Wednesday April 7, 2021. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (MSNBC via AP)

NEW YORK – At the end of a stressful day, Sara Sidner seeks the friendly wag of a dog's tail. Shaquille Brewster turns to sports on TV, and Julia Jenae talks things out with colleagues.

Each is covering one of the nation's biggest stories, the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin. Each is also a Black journalist, reporting on an issue of great racial significance and forced — as part of their jobs — to watch video of George Floyd's life ending again and again.

“You really feel the consequences of it,” said Brewster, who at age 28 is delivering repeated reports on NBC News and MSNBC programs.

The National Association of Black Journalists has taken note of the assignment's potential difficulties, calling on news organizations to make resources available to help employees cope. Reporters covering the trial may be susceptible to trauma tied to their own experiences or previous stories about encounters between police and Black people, said Dorothy Tucker, NABJ president.

For some of the Black journalists covering the trial, it is important to bear witness.

“I had zero trepidation,” said CNN's Sidner. “In fact, I felt it was my absolute duty to do this.”

The Los Angeles-based Sidner covered the story soon after it broke last May and wants to see it through — even though it will never really end for the people involved or touched by it.

Whenever Court TV’s Janae travels to Minneapolis from her network’s Atlanta headquarters to cover the case, she purposely visits the street corner where Floyd, a Black man, declared dead after the white police officer’s knee was pressed to his neck for more than 9 minutes.