Bruce Shapiro: « Journalism is a trauma facing profession »

News professionals are particularly affected by trauma, because of what they can see and experience on the field or on social media. But the pandemic is changing things: it stresses the necessity to confront trauma issues, protect journalists and sources, and reinvent news coverage.

By Clara GUILLARD and Camille AUCHÈRE

Bruce Shapiro. © Lise Lovati
  • « Journalism is a trauma facing profession »: journalists are much more exposed to trauma than ordinary people because of the characteristics of the profession, particularly with the pandemic. 
  • But they are also particularly resilient, because on the field they are driven by the sense of mission, values, ethics, and support of their peers and colleagues. 
  • The Covid-19 pandemic is an extraordinary game-changing, innovative period. The newsrooms are beginning to address the issues of trauma toward journalists (their employees) and their sources (who sometimes have suffered from systemic violence). 

Journalists are « athletes of stress », Shapiro said. Because they deal with stressful conditions of work: they must meet deadlines, they face difficult and challenging situations and they need to engage empathetically with people, in an environment dealing with changing news and headlines. 

With the pandemic, a lot of pressure has weighed on the shoulders of news professionals: like everyone else, they face losses and grief. But on top of that, they had to reinvent the way they work due to the Covid-19 restrictions. In some cases, newsrooms have taken advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs, and many journalists have left the profession, as they considered the newsrooms were part of the problem. All of this created an ongoing situation of burnout within newsrooms, Shapiro said. 

Yet, Shapiro highlights that journalists are particularly resilient, in general, if they are well guided. They are driven by a sense of mission, an ethical corpus and are supported by peers who can help face post-traumatic stress. 

Shapiro sees this period of pandemic as an extraordinary and game changing opportunity to reinvent journalistic work. Newsrooms are beginning to address issues of journalists’ trauma and are also questioning their way of working, especially how to cover trauma related questions such as gender violences, or racism among others.

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