How did your day start?

Was it stressful?

Here’s how mine started Thursday morning.

Nursing my morning brew, a co-worker and I happened to hear a voice message left by an irate caller on Civil Beat’s landline.

Here’s what he had to say:

“Civil Beat: Stop bashing Trump with fake news. Inflammatory news from dumb people like Ed Case — idiot — crazy Mazie Hirono — double idiot — and Schatz, who was never even elected. These people are lost and stupid. …

“President Trump is the greatest. No more money for Civil Beat. Myself and many others are starting a campaign to stop contributions to Civil Beat. [Unintelligible] for fake news.”

For the record, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has been elected twice to his position after having been appointed to the Senate in 2012.

And Civil Beat itself did not “bash” Donald Trump this week per se. We simply reported that Sens. Schatz and Hirono and Rep. Case support the House impeachment inquiry launched this week (and that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard does not).

But no matter. This caller had a beef with Civil Beat, and I started my day learning there is an active campaign to snuff my paycheck.

Welcome to my little world, the world of journalism, where the current occupant of the White House calls us enemies of the people even as our industry continues its financial decline.

Local media covering a press conference ahead of Hurricane Lane’s forecast arrival in 2018. Fortunately, the storm was later downgraded, allowing everyone to exhale. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Already mildly disturbed by the phone message, I checked my email hoping for an encouraging word. Nope. The first email that caught my eye warned of more layoffs, buyouts and closures in the news business. Damn.

I then moved to moderating the comments on Civil Beat stories, part of my daily routine. It included one on a Beat item I wrote Wednesday pointing out that there was an error in my reporting. Great.

Next I went to Slack, an internal communication system used in our office. The first message I saw said this: “arrests happening at sherwoods,” along with a Facebook video showing that such an occurrence appeared imminent. (That’s exactly what happened.) Geez.

I looked at the time. It was only 9:30 a.m. I had another cup of coffee, probably the last thing my blood pressure needed. Then I went back to work.

In fact, Thursday was not all that bad, and my job is not always stressful. But I raise the issue because journalism is a stressful business and editors, managers and producers are increasingly looking for ways to address it.

PTSD And Depression

At two journalism conferences I attended earlier this month on the mainland, the issue received much more attention than I could recall at previous gatherings.

Several speakers pointed to reports that consistently rank reporters in the top 10 most stressful jobs, invariably ranking not far behind active military personnel, police officers, firefighters, airline pilots, registered nurses and emergency dispatchers.

My job at Civil Beat is nowhere near the level of intensity that comes with the aforementioned professions. I am not confronting life and death situations in the course of my work.

Good advice: Tweets from Civil Beat reporter Nathan Eagle while attending the Online News Association 2019 conference in New Orleans. 

But many journalists do, especially those who cover mass shootings and natural and manmade disasters.

In the Trump Era, where journalists are continually harangued, the anxiety has only heightened. And social media and the internet make things even worse, allowing for anonymous, unrelenting trolling.

At least 20% of journalists say they have experienced depression, a rate three times the general population. Up to one-fourth suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

All that is compounded by the sense that one has to put up with whatever comes their way because they’re worried about having to look for a new job in a tight market long in upheaval.

Consider the following panel topics at the 2019 Online News Association and 2019 Excellence In Journalism conferences:

  • Are You Having a Journalism Midlife Crisis?
  • Self-Care for Journalists: Unplugging, Mental Health, Meditation and Balance
  • Rx for Online Harassment: Preparation, Response, Support and Self-Care
  • Bearing Witness: Vicarious Trauma and Living With A PTSD Diagnosis
  • Managing Newsroom Stress and Trauma
  • 5 Ways to Love Your Work (And Your Newsroom)
  • How to Approach Difficult Conversations: A Guide to Improve Your Newsroom Culture, Your Coverage and Your Life
  • Protect You and Your Family From Online Harassment
  • Staying Safe in Streets: Lessons from a First Responder Turned Journalist
  • Minimizing Harm: Social Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide
  • Oh Crap, Laid Off

The promo for one of the panels said, “You will see how it is not just the overwhelming news events but the culmination of repeated exposure to sad, tragic and sometimes graphic news events that weighs on journalists.”

The panels were not merely forums to bitch and moan. Most offered solid, pro-active responses. Here’s a few:

  • Balance your personal life and your work.
  • Don’t be afraid of leaving the office before your boss does.
  • Breathe. Exercise. Take breaks.
  • Confide in family and friends.
  • Don’t eat lunch at your desk.
  • Don’t become emotionally detached. (Shutting down the mind and body may provide an initial shield but will only cause longterm harm.)
  • Don’t overreact to everything. (“Not giving a shit is really underrated,” one panelist advised.)
  • Hug. (Within proper human resource boundaries, of course.)

There was also this advice: “Journalists drink too much coffee. Journalists drink too much alcohol. Journalists do not drink enough water.”

Many of these tips apply to many jobs, of course, not just journalists.

I left the conferences feeling better about my profession. And as soon as I returned to Honolulu, I headed to Tamura’s … and bought some bottled water.

Editor’s Note: Readers often wonder about the reporting and editing process and other news practices. We think it’s important to explain our decisions and do so from time to time in our ongoing series called “Behind The Story.” For even more information about how Civil Beat and other news outlets do their journalism, check out our “Understanding The News” section.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author