Covering coronavirus, layoffs & online harassment
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.
I’ll explain my background and why I decided to create this newsletter in another issue. For now, let’s get started.
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.
COVID-19 One Year
We will remember the last year for the rest of our lives. I have a few distinct memories from March 2020:
Trying to convince my co-workers that this would be something big and we should work on special coverage, but few believed me.
That intense night on Twitter (March 11) where the NBA suspended the season, and we learned Tom Hanks had been diagnosed with coronavirus. ESPN has a great look at that day and a podcast episode about it.
It was amazing to watch the news industry change so quickly. In broadcast, I recall watching anchors sitting further apart and most notably people working from home. The pace at which broadcast news evolved was incredible.
WGN-TV’s Mike Lowe did a fascinating look back at the last day before everything changed in Chicago.
This feels like the perfect week to launch this newsletter. The last year has changed the world for every human. However, many journalists have been struck by having to tell the stories of loss every day, facing public backlash for reporting on the pandemic and balancing the personal life with work life at home (for those lucky to work at home).
Let’s discuss: If you’re a journalist, I am curious how the pandemic has shaped your mental health?
Layoffs at HuffPost, Sinclair
If you’re hiring: HuffPost senior editor Jenna Amatulli posted a Twitter thread of journalists laid off this week.
The latest unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.2% last month1, down from the staggering 14.8% last April. Among the losses, journalism jobs are rapidly disappearing.
Additional reading: I found a great Forbes article focused on your mental health after a layoff:
Lean into your support system of family and friends
Focus on the elements of your life that will not change
Make your mental health a priority
Resource: There is a fantastic journalism job board on Substack. If you’re laid off or just looking for a job, this resource is well worth the subscription fee. A preview is below:
A public attack on New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz
There is a bizarre public dispute between New York Times American culture and technology reporter Taylor Lorenz and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson.
The harassment of Lorenz has been going on for quite a while, but this tweet appeared to spark the primetime interest of Fox News:
On the cable news airwaves2, Lorenz was described by a guest as:
"The journalism equivalent of the creeper creeping by the schoolyard asking the kids if they want any free attention."
Carlson also called her a “deeply unhappy narcissist.”
The New York Times issued a statement3:
“In a now familiar move, Tucker Carlson opened his show last night by attacking a journalist. It was a calculated and cruel tactic, which he often deploys to unleash a wave of harassment and vitriol at his intended target. Taylor Lorenz is a talented New York Times journalist doing timely and essential reporting. Journalists should be able to do their jobs without facing harassment.”
The public harassment against Lorenz has led to some terrible personal emails, including this one she shared on Twitter:
Additional reading: Online harassment of Lorenz is not an isolated trend4. Silvio Waisbord from George Washington University in Digital Journalism looked at the rising digital attacks on journalists. The study is well worth the read, but honestly, it ends with few solutions.
Collective solutions are needed for raising awareness about the magnitude and the consequences of the problem among news companies, policymakers, and the public. It is hard to tell whether news organizations know the scale of the problem, partially because journalists are unwilling to report every case of trolling or become inured to attacks. News organizations need to produce and analyze data on perpetrators, platforms used for attacks, and messages. They also need to engage with social media companies to identify sources and coordinate responses.
Let’s discuss: How have you successfully managed online harassment in journalism?
Each week, I want to focus on some mental health resources for journalists. This week I am going to begin with mindfulness.
I know, if you haven’t meditated before, you may feel turned off by the idea. As a journalist, I highly recommend checking out Ten Percent Happier.
Started by ABC News/Good Morning America weekend anchor Dan Harris, Ten Percent Happier is a company designed for skeptics on mindfulness. Its lessons are all based on research and focus on the real physiological reactions in the body.
This is why Harris decided to start Ten Percent Happier:
After having a nationally televised panic attack, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hypercompetitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
If you’ve missed Harris’ on-air panic attack, you can watch here:
I will go back to Ten Percent Happier a few times as resources because Harris has created quite a product line-up: books, app, podcast, newsletter and coronavirus-specific resources.
Let’s start with the book:
You can get the book on Amazon, at your local library or wherever you get books (support a local bookstore if you can).
This is such a fascinating book and reads like a step-by-step guide to making meditation work. It also provides insight into Harris’ worries about meditation in the journalism industry.
Should we read it together?
Disclaimer: The Amazon link is an affiliate link. I use this to help pay for some of the upkeep for the newsletter. You don’t pay extra, but I get a portion of the sale. You don’t have to use it, and affiliate links do not impact what I put in this newsletter.
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.
After Oprah’s blockbuster interview, I feel like this is a good quote to end the week with:
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” -Oprah Winfrey
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.
UPDATE: I am pausing the idea below to focusing on building my newsletter list.
We are just beginning, so the “paid version” is free for 90 days. Watch for Facebook and LinkedIn communities, more frequent posts, a podcast and constantly updating resource library.
However, the best way to support this is to share it with your friends in the industry.