Prioritizing emotional health

“In short, finding ways to bring a new sense of humanity in the newsroom.”

Prioritizing emotional health in the newsroom will move from a nice-to-have practice to a must-have mindset.

carla-zanoniEven before the politically charged climate hit its zenith on Nov. 9, editors were quietly speaking to each other about the sense of trauma and stress that came as a result of the increasing availability of footage of dead bodies, violence, and pandemonium from Aleppo, Paris, Nice, Orlando, and more. While foreign correspondents and crime reporters have always faced the brutality of conflict, the non-stop availability of images and news reports has saturated newsrooms to a point where trauma management has crept into once-isolated workplaces.

At a recent discussion on burnout during Newsgeist, journalists from around the country brainstormed ways to combat feelings of exhaustion, stress, and an inability to really disconnect from the news cycle and their work.

Some, including me, have already removed several social media apps from our personal phones in order to properly delineate between work and time off. And while everyone at the Newsgeist session agreed our use of our mobile devices was a contributing factor to our malaise, we admitted we were worried we’d be missing out — professionally and personally — if we hit delete.

It’s time to support each other in entering the withdrawal process.

Some ideas tossed around included building stronger communities in the newsroom, ones in which we can express feelings rather than suppressing them in an attempt to look unfazed and objective; managers making sure people are actually off when they take time off — no Slack or emails, group outings that are built around more than alcohol consumption. In short, finding ways to bring a new sense of humanity in the newsroom.

This comes at time in our newsrooms as many of us are working on ways to make our journalism experience increasingly sticky or “addictive.” As we meet mobile readers in their pockets, in their cars, or on audio devices at all times of the day, we might also ask ourselves how we are contributing to the health of the individuals for whom we produce journalism everyday. If we do not start by asking ourselves that same question and monitor our digital health, we will never be able to do that for our audience.

Carla Zanoni is executive emerging media editor at The Wall Street Journal.

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