HuffPost has a new series about journalists enduring their hard and stressful jobs. The headline blares that there is a “mental-health epidemic in the newsroom.” It’s supposed to prompt sympathy and elicit awareness. Maybe even pity. But instead, it mostly shows how weak this type of thinking is.
It’s also the kind of story that makes people hate our guts even more.
Sure, there are undiagnosed mental cases in all our newsrooms.
Everyone has an inkling of who they are.
But people are never going to feel sorry for journalists. We’re punching bags. We have the least desirable job out there, just below lumberjack, according to a recent survey that puts “news reporter” in last place. That’s the way it goes.
As someone who has experienced a lot of verbal hits and threats (and a lawsuit) over the years, it’s time for these whiny journo bitches to be quiet. You know, shhhh. Save it for someone who cares. Which is no one.
The story does open with a tough tale — a Times-Picayune photographer who attended PTSD therapy after covering Hurricane Katrina. The story says he lost his home and all of his belongings. A year after being in the trenches of his work, officers pulled him over for “erratic” driving. “Just kill me, just kill me,” he begged. “Get it over with.”
The next time he crossed paths with police, they used a stun gun and arrested him. He woke up in restraints.
But there’s a stark difference between watching the devastation left in a hurricane’s path and covering war zones to getting the occasional anonymous angry email from a lunatic commenter who — poor you — didn’t like your story and wants to psychoanalyze you in the worst of ways.
The latter group is actually given credence in HuffPost‘s report.
The writer, Gabriel Arana, explained how hard it is for journalists to be on social media (cue up WaPo race reporter Wesley Lowery‘s internal soundtrack).
“And as any reporter who’s ever been dressed down by an overzealous PR flack or threatened with a lawsuit will tell you, the job entails a good degree of work-related harassment — threats from sources and subjects, hate mail, abuse on social media. All this on top of the standard workplace stressors — deadlines, conflicts with coworkers and managers, malfunctioning equipment. ‘Being a journalist is more stressful than people realize,’ said the University of Tulsa’s Newman.”
HuffPost says we cope with this kind of hell with booze and cigarettes.
This is a key line in the story: “Specific data about journalists and mental health is hard to come by.” A few studies are cited — one from the mid 90s, another from 2001 and another that puts the range at 4 to 28 percent of journalists who have suffered with PTSD at some point. He writes that even if the stress doesn’t amount to a mental disorder, “flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety” take a toll. (Does my run-in with Bloomberg Politics‘ Dave Weigel at a HuffPost rooftop party count? In between relentless tweeting, he glared at me and every so often the traumatic scene returns in nightmares.)
Overzealous PR flacks? This is daily. Threats from sources? This is monthly. Abuse on social media? Please, I can’t even think about this. Keep Wesley Lowery and HuffPost‘s Ryan J. Reilly away from me! (And yes, I’m joking guys.)
And finally, hate mail?
It’s a gift. We should all be blessed with daily hate mail. If nothing else, it’ll keep you from thinking you’re above the rest and on your toes when you put your key in your front door.