Dorie L. Griggs

Some Observations From the Outside

By Dorie L. Griggs
First Published in Southern Newspaper Publishers Association eBulletin
October 23, 2003

For the past three years, I have researched the news industry -- particularly the psychological and emotional support available to journalists. I am sorry to report my findings are not that encouraging.

In the United States, programs have existed in large corporations for years to enhance employee satisfaction. Employers realize that employees who are strong, physically and mentally, miss fewer days of work and help make the company more productive. Employee Assistance Programs exist, but they tend to be under utilized.

An executive with at major news outlet told me recently that his company offers support to journalists, but the resources are not being used. The company's problem is getting front-line reporters to understand it's OK to seek emotional support.

In conversations with journalists in all media, however, I find an openness to my work. Working journalists, who are witnessing crimes, death, war, understand quickly that they need support. They welcome conversation on how to process the horrors they have seen. People who work in human resources, especially if they were once on the front lines of the news reporting, understand the need for support from both a former journalist and a business perspective. Publishers who were once reporters also understand the personal pain that needs processing after years on the front lines.

So why isn't more being done?

My guess is that journalists and their employers have a way to go in understanding the importance of taking care of their emotional selves.

This is my observation.

If reporters spent even a little time processing their emotions and feelings, they would be healthier people and their reporting on victims of crimes and disasters will be more compelling. Companies must finds ways to make seeking help less stigmatizing. Changing a company's culture is a slow process.

The payoff is that learning ways in which to deal with trauma is healthy. It is also good for the long term professional health of the industry. I have compiled a source list of articles and web sites that relate to journalism and trauma. To review the list, click here.

The information provided in this column is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice.

Dorie L. Griggs holds a Master of Divinity degree and her ministry is to journalists. Contact her via e-mail: dorie@stanleyleary.com

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