Journalism and Trauma

“Of all the levels of resilience I have explored so far, the need for connection is the strongest of all.”–Anne Devenson, journalist

The need to address journalism trauma

TRAUMA IS CUMULATIVE. When unaddressed, trauma can get in the way of their work–their focus, memory, news judgment, even their connection with colleagues and family.

Exposure to pressure and stressful events, can take its toll on the quality of work and relationships. The effects of stress and trauma doesn’t have any difference whether you are a war correspondent or a desk editor

The need to help journalists deal with trauma in the newsroom and during coverage gave way to the creation of a peer support program, in partnership with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.

It aims to build a support network among journalists and media workers inside media companies and coverage beats, at the same time promoting greater sensitivity among journalists during coverage of traumatic events.


How we reach out: Journalism and Trauma Peer Support Program

Awareness. Through trainings and manuals, NUJP provides colleagues with tips on what trauma is, how to take care of themselves when assigned to challenging stories, how to spot early warning signs of emotional weakness, and where to seek help when experiencing prolonged stress.

Peer support. Research shows one of the best indicators for resilience is the level of support a journalist gives and receives from peers. NUJP trains journalists in media organizations and develops them into support teams who will listen to colleagues who feel overwhelmed about work.

Clinical intervention. Aside from peer counselors in newsrooms, NUJP taps health specialists to facilitate seminars and counseling sessions with journalists who want to seek professional help in processing challenges they face in their day-to-day work, in the field and in newsrooms.

Management training. An open, sensitive, and consistent management can help lessen the risk for post-traumatic stress among journalists, according to studies. NUJP taps management in discussions and workshops to ensure the physical and mental well-being of their editors, reporters, and staff.


Take care: Tips on self-care and caring for fellow journalists

1. Know your limits. If you’ve been given a troublesome assignment that you feel you cannot perform, politely express your concerns to your supervisor. Tell the supervisor that you may not be the best person for the assignment. Explain why.

2. Take breaks. A few minutes or a few hours away from the situation may help relieve your stress.

3. Find someone who is a sensitive listener. It can be an editor or a peer, but you must trust that the listener will not pass judgment on you. Perhaps it is someone who has faced a similar experience.

4. Learn how to deal with your stress. Find a hobby, exercise, attend a house of worship or, most important, spend time with your family, a significant other or friends — or all four. Try deep-breathing. The Eastern Connecticut Health Network recommends that you “take a long, slow, deep breath to the count of five, then exhale slowly to the count of five. Imagine breathing out excess tension and breathing in relaxation.” All of these can be effective for your mental and physical well-being.

5. Understand that your problems may become overwhelming. Before he died in April 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote, “I’ve been immersed in it too long. My spirit is wobbly and my mind is confused. The hurt has become too great.” If this happens to you, seek counseling from a professional.

Source: “Tragedies and journalists: A guide for more effective coverage”


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