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Journalists are advised to remember self-care when covering difficult events


Journalists are advised to remember self-care when covering difficult events

  • Journalists, psychologists, and public information officials who have reported difficult stories say self-care and communicating your needs is crucial to retaining a whole and healthy lifestyle after covering a traumatic event.Four panelists for the National Trauma Journalism Symposium talked with journalism students and other audience members at Franklin College Thursday about how to take care of themselves after difficult assignments. Along with tips from the panelists, students shared how they personally deal with processing tough emotions.Panelist and Northwestern University sophomore Cole Reynolds talked about the importance of developing relationships with co-workers. He reported on the hazing and racist environment in Northwestern University’s football team.“When I think about going into a career and going into a newsroom professionally, one of the things that I think is a goal for myself, wherever I go, is to build relationships with colleagues right off the bat because you can’t wait for a time of crisis to lean on them and try to get to know them,” he said.

    Reynolds found it hard to cover a story that so many people seemed to be against telling. The football coach being reported on was very well-liked in the college community.

    “I wish I spent more time ahead of time getting to know my colleagues a little better,” he said.

    Reporters may sometimes find it difficult to move on from covering a hard story when they are unable to talk with friends or family about certain aspects that were off the record

    “It can be challenging, but just saying … this is the way it is, I can’t talk about it. Just having [someone] on the phone is really helpful. Just talk about other stuff,” said Deidra Baumgardner, director of communications at Franklin College. “I can’t talk about work, but just having you there helps … Just identifying and figuring out what you need. That’s the process, identifying and knowing yourself, but then also letting those people around you know.”

    Panel member Stephen Black, director of behavioral health/social determinants of health at Major Health Partners, shared that when he goes through something hard, he turns to faith. He said focusing on his religion by reading the Bible is a way he relaxes.

    “It helps me be able to keep those rhythms and spiritual disciplines in my life, where I sit with the Bible and talk to my wife about passages, just reminding me of what grounds me that was critical for me, and those are really important,” he said.

    Baumgardner said coping strategies go hand in hand with physical self-care.

    “Sleeping, eating and moving your body in some way,” Baumgardner says. “Finding some type of way that helps you to unwind, to relax your mind, or even be able to turn off your mind, something like relaxation, meditation, giving you that social support—all those are really essential.”

    Panel member Kent Huber, a mental health counselor at Major Health Partners, says it is beneficial to have hobbies outside of work.

    “Finding those hobbies and interests that pull me away from the stress and the obligation,” Huber says. “Interests outside of your line work will keep your work from consuming you. The very nature of journalism is looking at journalism all the time. And sometimes that’s good to have something completely different than what you do for work.”

    FOOTNOTE: Mia Frankenfield is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.