A wake-up call for the industry, supporting AAPI journalists & getting paid by the click?
A weekly reminder to pause & take a breath. The news can wait.
Welcome to journowell, a new weekly newsletter focused on mental health for journalists. My name is Michael and I am a digital producer at a national news outlet.
This is your weekly reminder to pause & take a breath. The news can wait.
First off, the views here do not reflect my employer in any way. Also, a disclaimer, this is not medical advice.
ICYMI: I explained my background and why I decided to create this newsletter in another issue.
Important stories this week
In the weekly newsletter, I will bring stories from the past week related to journalism and mental health. As always, reach out if you have any ideas or something for me to include.
Key read: Journalists ‘at increased risk for mental health impacts’ related to COVID-19
A fascinating commentary by Hannah Storm, a media safety expert and CEO of the Ethical Journalism Network, published in Poynter helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in struggling with my mental health, especially in the last year.
“Traumatic events and large-scale crises, like the pandemic, serve as a magnifying glass on existing conditions for individuals and communities who are touched by them. The data tells us that journalists are exposed to traumatic events at a higher rate than many soldiers. As such, they are at increased risk for the mental health impacts related to the losses and tragedies associated with COVID-19.” - Dr. Kevin Becker, a clinical psychologist and trauma specialist
It’s well worth the read, but here are my key takeaways:
Storm argues this year should be a wake-up call to the journalism industry.
Challenges: Job security, online vitriol, attacks by leaders, misinformation ‘infodemic,’ being hyper-connected, disconnected, working remotely and, of course, the massive rush of news.
Journalists are resilient. However, resilience doesn’t equal immunity to mental health challenges, according to professor Anthony Feinstein.
It’s an even larger issue for minority communities.
Newsroom leaders need to take care of themselves & their teams.
Action items: Rethink newsroom remote workflows, setting boundaries like not ‘always being on’ and take time to listen more to your colleagues.
The article also pointed me to another newsletter published by a journalist who lost his job in the pandemic. In Sanity, Tanmoy Goswami reports on mental health, plus the intersection of mental health, technology and business.
Supporting AAPI journalists
This has been an incredibly challenging week for the AAPI community and the journalists covering the murders in Atlanta
Earlier in the week, we put out a bulletin with mental health resources from the Asian American Journalists Association.
Since that came out, more frustrating stories have come out from newsrooms. This from AAJA’s Broadcast Advisory Council:
Since the shootings, we have heard some deeply concerning problems in newsrooms across the country, including in Atlanta.
“Are you sure your bias won’t show if you cover the Atlanta shootings?”
“You might be too emotionally invested to cover this story.”
We have heard from broadcast members — and from members across newsrooms who volunteered to cover the Atlanta shooting — who have expertise, language skills, and the cultural competency in the community, but were not assigned. AAJA urges newsrooms to offer coverage opportunities to AAPI journalists who are uniquely positioned, sourced and skilled to cover the unfolding news — and who want to be a part of it.
This issue is compounded by the lack of diversity in newsrooms:
At the same time, we have heard from many of our members who are the only, or one of few, AAPIs in the newsroom, who have asked for nuanced coverage of the shooting story and been rejected. The burden of being “the only one” in the newsroom creates a professional and emotional toll on these journalists who may feel responsible for representing the entire AAPI community, often without the leadership titles to make editorial or staffing decisions.
According to a report in The Guardian, UK-based Daily Telegraph plans to use a system to link factors such as subscriptions or page views to pay.
“It seems only right that those who attract and retain the most subscribers should be the most handsomely paid.” - Editor Chris Evans said in an email to staff, according to the Guardian.
It appears this change isn’t happening immediately, but it brings up an interesting topic for discussion. Let’s set aside the arguments about the economics or concerns about delivering important news.
I’m curious, if your newsroom switched to a compensation model similar to this idea, how would that impact your mental health?
Following Up: Online harassment
Last week we discussed the public dispute between New York Times American culture and technology reporter Taylor Lorenz and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson.
I have two follow-up stories if you want to dive deeper into the topic. The first is from Washington Post Media Columnist Margaret Sullivan:
The second is a local angle from Greenwich Time:
I am working on a resource library, as I compile all of the things that have helped me. Please reach out with any ideas you have too - my email is geheren [at] hey.com.
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If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.
Journalists also often accumulate anxiety from reporting on serious, monumental topics on a daily basis with no break or sense of relief.
-Mari Devereaux, Co-Editor-In-Chief, The Columbia Chronicle
In a column published in Columbia College’s student newspaper, Mari Devereaux delivered a strong message: To document history as it happens, journalists must find time for their mental health.
As students, Devereaux shares how balancing journalism + college classes create a unique challenge for student journalists. She offers smart advice, which is the reason we created this newsletter.
If journalists burn themselves out in the long haul, then what? Who will be left to report on these issues? We need to take care of ourselves in the short term and allow ourselves to take breaks, rather than spiraling out of control. This may mean investing in therapy, finding a relaxing outlet for our stress or putting a limit on the amount of work we do weekly.
If Devereaux leads her student newsroom with this attitude, I have no doubt she will be a strong leader in the workplace. We could all use an editor, news director, etc. who values mental health. I have been lucky in the past to have that.
I am just getting started with this newsletter. My goal is to turn this into a community of breaking mental health stigma in the newsroom. The weekly newsletter is free & as I grow this, I plan to add more features behind a subscription to help support this side-gig that I am doing.
However, the best way to support this is to share it with your friends in the industry.
Thank you everyone for all the support & for sharing.