Journalism in a time of permacrisis

“The work ahead needs to include supporting the whole person in the workplace and ensuring we have the energy, joy, and spirit to show up fully for our selves, our teams, and our audiences in difficult times.”

A few days ago, the Collins Dictionary announced its word of the year for 2022: permacrisis. Defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity,” permacris is the context in which journalism and journalists operate today, and it’s a context that requires a more trauma-informed and care-oriented approach to our work.

Indeed, the new global discourse on mental health and sustainability in the workplace brought about by these times of crisis has extended to journalism and the people who work in journalism. In the face of great uncertainty and change, many people are suffering — from limitations on press freedoms, from vicarious trauma and stress, from inflation, conflict, layoffs, violence, hate and countless other issues.

It’s urgent not just to imagine new ways of doing things but also to get started building them. Last year, I wrote about care as a core tenet of journalism and noted the importance of considering the way we do coverage, ensuring financial resources are available to support mental health, and creating space and infrastructure for community care. This year, fresh out of SRCCON:CARE, I want to continue this thread, because I see its potential growing with renewed discourse, trainings, policies, and practices.

At SRCCON, I found myself inspired by facilitators like Emma Carew Grovum and Hannah J. Wise, who talked about how we build and maintain psychological safety on a diverse team, and Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán, who encouraged us to think about the idea of curiosity as a form of care in the journalism we do. Mar Cabra and Kim Brice reminded us of the role of organizational leaders in enabling healthier work environments. My co-facilitator, Jen Mizgata, helped us think in new ways about the structures that workplaces can put in place to enable care. André Natta and Diana López gave us space to think directly about dread and its relationship to the commitments we make in our field.

While trauma-informed journalism, burnout, and vicarious trauma have long been recognized as critical issues in journalism, broad discourse in the vein of care (much less an entire conference!) was less imaginable just a few years ago. In a time when it feels like so much of our world is upside down, the work ahead needs to include supporting the whole person in the workplace and ensuring we have the energy, joy, and spirit to show up fully for our selves, our teams, and our audiences in difficult times.

I think about Project Optimist and La Converse, two new, innovative publications whose leaders I met while I was coaching for LION’s Building and Managing a Team Lab. Both publications are working to establish values and working practices that better support care and mental health, working within frameworks such as solutions journalism and community-powered journalism.

In a recent edition of Project Optimist, founder Nora Hertel wrote beautifully about her own efforts to prevent burnout in herself while developing a series on solutions for preventing burnout. And La Converse’s Lela Savic has called for the news industry to “consider how much space [we] are making for mental health, work-life chemistry, boundaries, respect, compassion. We are more than our jobs. Let’s make space for us to be more than our jobs.”

Operationalizing this discourse is part of the work for 2023. It will require opening up crucial funding support to enable resources for organizational care, establishing policies and practices to support both employee and leadership wellness, talking openly with teams about what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to workplace culture, centering the voices and perspectives of the most marginalized, and paying attention to audience needs for psychological safety when it comes to the daily stress and anxiety of news today.

And we can start simply. Take deep breaths, drink plenty of water and remember to check in on your loved ones. Building from Savic’s call, I offer additional values, like grace, care, forgiveness, healing, and joy — all words that come to mind for me as we navigate what will certainly be further crises ahead.

An Xiao Mina (aka Ana) is a technologist, author, consultant, and coach who works with media entrepreneurs and leaders.

A few days ago, the Collins Dictionary announced its word of the year for 2022: permacrisis. Defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity,” permacris is the context in which journalism and journalists operate today, and it’s a context that requires a more trauma-informed and care-oriented approach to our work.

Indeed, the new global discourse on mental health and sustainability in the workplace brought about by these times of crisis has extended to journalism and the people who work in journalism. In the face of great uncertainty and change, many people are suffering — from limitations on press freedoms, from vicarious trauma and stress, from inflation, conflict, layoffs, violence, hate and countless other issues.

It’s urgent not just to imagine new ways of doing things but also to get started building them. Last year, I wrote about care as a core tenet of journalism and noted the importance of considering the way we do coverage, ensuring financial resources are available to support mental health, and creating space and infrastructure for community care. This year, fresh out of SRCCON:CARE, I want to continue this thread, because I see its potential growing with renewed discourse, trainings, policies, and practices.

At SRCCON, I found myself inspired by facilitators like Emma Carew Grovum and Hannah J. Wise, who talked about how we build and maintain psychological safety on a diverse team, and Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán, who encouraged us to think about the idea of curiosity as a form of care in the journalism we do. Mar Cabra and Kim Brice reminded us of the role of organizational leaders in enabling healthier work environments. My co-facilitator, Jen Mizgata, helped us think in new ways about the structures that workplaces can put in place to enable care. André Natta and Diana López gave us space to think directly about dread and its relationship to the commitments we make in our field.

While trauma-informed journalism, burnout, and vicarious trauma have long been recognized as critical issues in journalism, broad discourse in the vein of care (much less an entire conference!) was less imaginable just a few years ago. In a time when it feels like so much of our world is upside down, the work ahead needs to include supporting the whole person in the workplace and ensuring we have the energy, joy, and spirit to show up fully for our selves, our teams, and our audiences in difficult times.

I think about Project Optimist and La Converse, two new, innovative publications whose leaders I met while I was coaching for LION’s Building and Managing a Team Lab. Both publications are working to establish values and working practices that better support care and mental health, working within frameworks such as solutions journalism and community-powered journalism.

In a recent edition of Project Optimist, founder Nora Hertel wrote beautifully about her own efforts to prevent burnout in herself while developing a series on solutions for preventing burnout. And La Converse’s Lela Savic has called for the news industry to “consider how much space [we] are making for mental health, work-life chemistry, boundaries, respect, compassion. We are more than our jobs. Let’s make space for us to be more than our jobs.”

Operationalizing this discourse is part of the work for 2023. It will require opening up crucial funding support to enable resources for organizational care, establishing policies and practices to support both employee and leadership wellness, talking openly with teams about what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to workplace culture, centering the voices and perspectives of the most marginalized, and paying attention to audience needs for psychological safety when it comes to the daily stress and anxiety of news today.

And we can start simply. Take deep breaths, drink plenty of water and remember to check in on your loved ones. Building from Savic’s call, I offer additional values, like grace, care, forgiveness, healing, and joy — all words that come to mind for me as we navigate what will certainly be further crises ahead.

An Xiao Mina (aka Ana) is a technologist, author, consultant, and coach who works with media entrepreneurs and leaders.

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