Trauma comes with the job in journalism, but the lack of acknowledgment for trauma’s effects on journalists has been a public health issue.
The reasons reach back to the newsrooms of the 1800s, says Dr. Desiree Hill, a journalism professor at the University of Central Oklahoma who has studied journalism and trauma.
“Journalists and managers believed that they were not susceptible to trauma … and that their role protected them. But of course, the evidence shows otherwise,” Hill says. And journalists did not want to admit to anything that would make them look weak or unable to cover major news. Women joining newsrooms in large numbers later also “did not want to admit to feeling traumatized, because it was difficult already to be female in the workplace.”
“There is also a feeling (in newsrooms) of – it’s not about us. It’s about the people who are suffering. To bring our own emotions into the situation can feel wrong,” Hill adds.
Hill was executive producer at KWTV in Oklahoma City in 1995 when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed by two domestic terrorists, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500. Her interest in the subject of trauma and journalists really began then, and she made a study of the event. “Timeline of Trauma: A case study of newsroom management during and after the Oklahoma City bombing” analyzes the transcripts of more than 60 interviews of journalists who covered the bombing, including leaders, news directors, editors and station managers.
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