Resources for journalists covering the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is putting journalists to the test. A nonstop news cycle filled with tragedy after tragedy undoubtedly takes an emotional toll on the people behind the bylines, cameras and news reports that are so critical to communities coping with this unprecedented public health and economic crisis.

Journalists, too, need help dealing with the stress, anxiety and secondhand trauma they experience alongside the public they serve.

The Syracuse Press Club is here to support Central New York journalists. You’re not alone in the unique role you serve.

We want to remind you: Self care and mental health are just as important as physical health. Your well-being is necessary to do the critical job that you do.

Don’t forget to take a few deep breaths, unplug, go for a walk. Take time to find joy in life. Contact us if you need someone to talk to. Check out our tips below.

Central New York reporters waiting for a press conference on the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of Dennis Nett.

Self care tips for members of the media

Journalists whose jobs regularly demand a lot from them may think they are pros at dealing with stress. Studies suggest, however, that journalists actually need more help coping with work-related trauma. One of the keys to dealing with the stress and anxiety associated with covering the coronavirus is being aware of the toll your job can take on you over time. Recognizing the warning signs and getting help addressing them is also important. Below are links to resources for members of the media, including a self care tip sheet from the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, and a list of ways journalists can fight stress from Poynter’s Al Tompkins. Tompkins and his wife, licensed psychotherapist Sidney Tompkins, also discuss strategies for dealing with newsroom stress in a very helpful video.

Tips for reporting on pandemics

The pandemic has upended journalists’ lives and altered how they do their jobs. Some reporters have been assigned to cover new beats. Others have had to sift through an ocean of possible stories to decipher what is most important, all while being mindful of their own health and safety. With so many angles to the coronavirus story and new developments coming all the time, it can be overwhelming. The Dart Center provides a helpful list of suggestions for reporters covering the virus. The Columbia Journalism Review also has a useful article examining if sensational stories about panic buying actually fuel more panic buying. Their advice on how to keep hysteria out of your reporting is especially timely.

Where you can turn for help

When the stress or pressure becomes too much, everyone is entitled to ask for some help. That goes for journalists, too — however prideful or experienced they are at coping with challenging or traumatizing work.

There are resources and people willing to offer assistance. You don’t have to look too far. During the coronavirus pandemic, federal, state and local governments have increased access to mental health services. New York state offers a hotline for residents who urgently need to speak with someone.

For those fortunate to have full-time employment, health insurance plans are a great place to find mental healthcare offered through your employer that you may not have taken advantage of yet. These resources can include remote visits with a therapist or psychiatrist, and employee assistance plans that include free hotlines to connect with a counselor. Some of our members have written about these resources. Check out the links below (send us links to your coverage, or what you’re reading about mental health here.)

Wellness apps, videos and more

There are a lot of ways to practice wellness and mindfulness in the comforts of home, quietly by yourself. Meditation and yoga are just a couple ways of finding some peace and calming your mind. If you’re new to these practices, endless numbers of apps are available to teach you these skills. New York state has partnered with Headspace for free guided meditations available online. Check out this and a few other of our favorites below.

Our final tip: There’s no right or wrong way to practice self care. What’s important is that you take the time for yourself, to find what works for you.

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