It was December when a local news director penned a letter that went viral. It was an open letter to journalists “at the end of the toughest year of our careers.” “If I had told you in January you’d produce from home, track from your closet, master Zoom, and anchor from your living rooms this year,” wrote Julie Wolfe, “you would have laughed. And then cried.”

Journalists have been crying for quite a while now, especially with a president in office calling their work “fake news,” but even with President Trump gone, reporters are working through a news cycle that is “traumatizing.” Michael Tracey explains:

PEN America recommends an “emergency hotline … providing personalized, trauma-informed support in real-time.”

It is a brutal news cycle, what with the Derek Chauvin trial retraumatizing everyone all over again. And check out the way the Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop describes three recent mass shootings; see if you can spot the difference: “It’s only been two and a half weeks since a white gunman killed eight people, six of them Asian women, at spas in the Atlanta area,” and “Last week, a gunman killed ten people at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. This week, a gunman killed four people, including a nine-year-old, at an office complex in Orange County, California.” Funny how only the Atlanta shooter has a race — and that why no one trusts the media these days.

In addition to the bleakness of the news, many journalists—and women and reporters of color, in particular—are under direct attack. Trump may be gone from the White House, but the anti-press hostility he stoked lives on, and online abuse seems only to have gotten worse in recent months.

The brutality of the news cycle, abuse, and the general bad state of the media industry are putting journalists under intense strain. As a result, many talented people, and especially those from oppressed groups, have been prevented from doing their best work—or have decided to quit their jobs altogether.

They can always build solar panels.

Bruce Shapiro, who leads the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, offered self-care tips for reporters who “feel emotional distress covering the violence and abuse their communities face”; they include putting your phone away, getting help if you need it, and “pacing your trauma load.”

Yes, put your phones away.


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