SPJ 22 Journalism Conference • Oct. 27-30, 2022

Panel focuses on stress in the newsroom

By eijnews

Experiencing trauma while working is natural for journalists and should be addressed, not ignored, said panelists at a discussion on trauma at EIJ13 Sunday morning.
Panelists discussed handling and confronting trauma in the journalism industry. Mike Walter, a news anchor at CCTV-America, hosted the panel where journalists shared their stories and methods of dealing with trauma.
Vikki Vargas, KNBC-TV reporter, says she began to feel personally affected by stories she covered when she had a child.
“There was a story of a woman whose then college-aged daughter was murdered, but there were all these connections I had to this family and that story,” Vargas said. “My daughter was in a crib, and I came home and slept on the floor in her room.”
Mike Walter, who hosted the panel, said covering 9/11 made him realize journalists suffer from trauma.
“I went into reporter mode, but throughout the day I broke down and started crying, and I couldn’t figure out why,” Walter said. “The concept of talking about trauma and journalism… if you have asked me three years before 9/11, I wouldn’t have thought that was an issue.”
Walter recently made a documentary called Breaking News Breaking Down, which “traces the lives of journalists who have covered some of the most dramatic stories of our time.” The documentary features John McCusker, a New Orleans photographer who lost his home after Hurricane Katrina.
“I have a friend who says it [is trauma] not a weakness, it’s a wound,” Walter said. “If you went to work and you had your arm in a cast, everyone would sign your cast.”
The panelists also spoke about the stigma attached to trauma, but said in recent years, trauma is spoken about more openly in newsrooms.
“[Trauma] is not a character issue, it is not a willpower issue. It is an issue of the nervous system,” Gina Ross, the president of the International Trauma-Healing Institute, said. “Since 9/11, trauma has become the middle name of all of us.”

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