In many cases, journalists, like police and firefighters, are the first responders when there’s an accident, natural disaster or violent incident. They often witness catastrophes and share firsthand information about the events and the victims in news reports. Often journalists are affected psychologically, facing trauma and becoming at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Natalee Seely, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at Ball State University, investigated the impact of trauma on journalists, In the multi-method study, she surveyed 254 reporters and photojournalists working in small and large American newspapers in 16 states. The researcher also interviewed 24 of the respondents by phone to get their detailed experiences.
She found journalists have little knowledge or awareness about work-related trauma and that they lack training on how to deal with the trauma they might experience.
Often they don’t realize that they can be affected by PTSD and other psychological issues such as emotional distress and trauma-related guilt. The study also found that the more trauma a journalist covers, the more impact they may experience. In their interviews, journalists shared that the gruesome incidents they experienced sometimes haunted them for months and that they had no desire to re-visit the incidents.
Training for journalists around this issue has been available on a limited basis in some newsrooms for the past two decades, but few journalists have had the opportunity to take part. Because of the widespread lack of training available to journalists in the U.S., the researcher recommends news managers begin offering more training and make awareness of trauma part of newsroom culture.
Seely, N. (2019). Journalists and mental health: The psychological toll of covering everyday trauma. Newspaper Research Journal, 0739532919835612.