Breaking News Stories
Covering Specific Victim Populations
Other Considerations
Special Challenges in Reporting
Special Challenges in Reporting
High Impact Stories
Working With Service Providers
Creating Ethics Policy
Victims Right to Privacy
Self Care for Journalists
Resources and Promising Practices
Glossary and Endnotes

Link to A News Media Guide for Victim Service Providers
Link to Crime Victim Outreach Tip Sheets



Self Care for Journalists

Page Index
a. Spend the time you need to process your thoughts and feelings
b. Take mini-breaks whenever possible
c. Derive confidence from your skills and experiment
d. Learn about trauma
e. Turn to supportive peers
f. Turn to family and friends
g. Explore opportunities for spiritual and creative expression
h. Make the time to work out
i. Take care of your body

j. Seek help sooner rather than later

What Journalists Can Do To Take Care of Themselves

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma in Seattle looked at how journalists are affected by their work and the risk factors that can make them more vulnerable to problems. Research Director Elana Newman noted that a study of 131 journalists in Washington and Michigan in 1999 showed that the majority of journalists studied (86 percent) had witnessed traumatic events and subsequent research tends to confirm those findings.

Newman found that the good news is that many journalists are relatively resilient. Less than 6 percent of 875 photojournalists surveyed and less than 5 percent of 906 print journalists studied in 2003 appeared to suffer symptoms of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). (It should be noted, however, the study samples were not randomized so the actual rates remain unknown. Newman also notes there is concern that rates of PTSD may rise over time.)

Man sitting at a table in front of a laptop computer scratching his head in confusion (Staged with Professional Model).

Other research shows that reporters exposed to higher numbers of traumatic assignments had a greater likelihood of suffering PTSD. Both novice reporters and veterans also appear to be at higher risk of problems. Reporters who were also exposed to trauma in their personal lives may also be more vulnerable.

The challenge for news organizations and journalists themselves is to understand the risk of secondary victimization and take steps to prevent problems. Michigan State University’s Victims and the Media Program guarantees that all journalism students will receive specialized training in reporting on victims of violence and catastrophe, as well as advice on how to protect themselves when doing these stories.

The following advice is adapted from materials available on the program’s Web site ( This advice is not just for reporters but also for photographers, videographers, editors, and anyone at a news organization who deals with disturbing text or images.

When dealing with crime and crime victims, journalists should—

Man resting in a hammock with a laptop computer on his lap (Staged with Professional Model).

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma offers a self-guided tutorial for journalists that explains the signs and effects of traumatic stress and how to cope with its effects. This information is helpful to increase knowledge about how trauma affects crime victims, as well as reporters who may be continually exposed to traumatic events. The tutorial can be accessed at:


15. Personal communication with Bonnie Bucqueroux, 1999.

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