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Broadcasting Through Crisis

The shootings in Colorado reminded me how stressful it is for broadcasters when a crisis happens.  And it doesn’t have to be the top story to have an emotional effect on a news person.  Routine stories like fatal traffic accidents, domestic or sexual abuse, and fires all hold the potential to become stories that haunt journalists with their graphic details. The stress this creates can wreak havoc on your voice and performance.

And it never stops in the news business.  The hurricane will hit, wars will happen, terrorists do exist in the world.  What novelist, Michael Connelly, says of police work is true in the news business, “Every case is a battle in a war that never ends.”

I often tell clients that you have to stay in training to do this job well, like the athletes we’re seeing in the Olympics.  On a daily basis it helps if you plan ways to stay healthy and emotionally balanced such as eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and finding times to relax.

And when a really big crisis happens like the shootings in Colorado, it’s important to process what you’ve been through.  You can’t be ready for the next crisis if you haven’t dealt with the past one. This might mean journaling about traumatic events or talking them out with someone to be able to get past the feelings.

There are great resources available to help in the process. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma website is packed with information.  Also, check out this article from the Poynter Institute on coping with the Colorado shootings.  There is even a self-guided, on-line training course in Trauma and Journalism offered by The Poynter Institute.

And in September, I will be publishing the second edition of my book, BROADCASTERS’ SURVIVAL GUIDE, which will provide helpful information to keep you ready to deal with the stresses of broadcasting.  Look for more information on this new e-book next month.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Constantino de Miguel August 15, 2012, 8:59 am

    I thought the opposite happens. Most journalists become “immune” to the tragedies of this world, not because they are not human beings without sensitivities, it is because they look into the horrors of this world on a daily basis, therefore to protect themselves, they kind of insulate themselves against emotional collateral damage. This is true for 90% of journalist, those who are on the newsroom, drafting the news wire or article, or those who are the anchors. For those who are on the field, yes they get affected and there might suffer some kind of trauma.

  • Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. August 15, 2012, 11:08 am

    Thanks for your insightful comment! You’re exactly correct that the reporters are the ones who suffer the most stress in terms of what they see first-hand. On events like 9/11, however, most people in the newsroom are watching feeds coming in with pretty awful images on them–Much worse than what the tv audience ever sees. This can cause significant stress as well. In both cases, I’ve had clients who suffered from post traumatic stress. I have a new book coming out that talks more about this. Watch for it on my site. The title of the e-book is Broadcasters’ Survival Guide.
    Thanks again for your thoughtful comment!

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