How do news teams handle mental health?

The past 18 months has been a peak time for news reporting: bushfires, COVID, NZ volcano, Black Lives Matter, US election -many involving extremist protestors.

Just trying to cover the news can be stressful for journalists and crew. Even Nine News boss Darren Wick’s lawyer told a court his client had suffered anxiety over detention of 60 Minutes crew in Beirut, and dealing with the challenges of bushfires and COVID-19 coverage.

TV Tonight recently asked both Seven and Nine about monitoring mental health in the newsroom.

Seven Network Director of News and Public Affairs Craig McPherson said, “There’s regular outlets for them to go. We’re very mindful of that like, I guess, most businesses need to be, by having a telephone line, regular discussions with those really at the front end of it: the news directors, the Chief of Staff, EPs. We’re all mindful of the extent of what they are covering.

“Obviously with major extremes like a tsunami, or a bushfire, you’re seeing a lot of instant destruction. It’s the impact when you see something burned down, or you see lives taken by extremes of nature -as opposed to Coronavirus, which became a really heavy statistical story from day dot. COVID has a lot of human suffering in the human toll which we saw (accruing).

“So there were differences in the immediate impact on the workforce.”

Simon Hobbs, Director of Nine News Sydney said, “We’ve had the HR guys bring in mental health people when needed. We’ve got an Employee Assistance Program which we provide to all of our staff so they can just make a phone call. But we’ve specifically brought in people to be able to help deal with that sort of stuff, to just give people a chance to talk to someone about it, when they need.

“Don’t underestimate the pressure, particularly when COVID was at its height. Our guys have got to go out on the streets when everybody else is staying at home. So while we were always safe about it, during that particular panic in the early days of COVID, people were worried about it, rightly so.

“It’s been an enormously long and stressful year for all our teams.”

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8 Comments:

  1. Great initiative. In the 22+ years I have been in the Commonwealth public service, we’ve always had an employee assistance program to deal with any issue. It’s been available for our family members as well.

  2. Probably off topic bust still relevant are the people who are employed to monitor submitted social media content on Facebook and others.
    Yes, agree that sensitive people will find some difficulty being a broadcast news journalist as some foreign news outlets do show atrocities and grim scenes, these have to be sorted through by news staff for broadcasting.
    And lets not forget the news camera person who is usually in the front line risking life and limb.

  3. Mr Knox, thank you very much for penning this editorial. It is very justifiable. I have been in newsrooms as a guest and to say a good day for them is one at rapid pace is a vast underestimation. News reporters become just as shaken by the news content uniformly as much as the victims themselves. I have worked at three television networks and each have an assistance program for all employees, albeit if they are a contract or freelance. With the mental health epidemic we are in, and insufficient resources due to the demand, organisations in other sectors should implement this.

      • My pleasure. There is never an inopportune time to tackle mental health. It has been taboo for a very long time whether chatting about it in front of your inner-circle or show runners being permitted to use it as a narrative to full impact. I fail to comprehend the incongruity. You have an astonishing megaphone David, and your fourteen years of dedication to this site is more than enough corroboration of external validation.

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