American journalists are increasingly struggling to cope with the on-the-job stress and trauma of reporting the news and posting about it on Twitter. "I crawled in bed and cried for our pre-pandemic lives," CNN's Brian Stelter wrote in April 2020."Tears that had been waiting a month to escape."
Fortunately, the Poynter Institute has developed a course for traumatized professional journalists that includes a long list of "self-care" strategies to alleviate the stress of having to cover, for example, the brutal "whipping" of Haitian migrants at the southern border—whether or not it actually happened. (The Poynter Institute's fact-checking website, PolitiFact, was unwilling to issue a verdict.)
"Take time to be sexual—with yourself, [or] with a partner," reads one item of the list of suggested coping strategies. Perhaps Stelter could learn a thing or two from his colleague, disgraced CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who is an experienced practitioner of this particular form of self-care. Poynter does not, however, recommend forcing your colleagues to watch.
That's not to say that Stelter's methods are frowned upon. "Allow yourself to cry" is also included among the recommendations, as is "Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself," and "Find ways to increase your sense of self-esteem." Most professional journalists seek to accomplish this by discussing the indispensable role professional journalists play in "speaking truth to power" by relentlessly exposing the spelling errors in Donald Trump's tweets, for example.
The self-care suggestions often overlap. One way for a journalist to increase their self-esteem might be to "wear clothes you like," such as a fedora or a $380 cashmere sweater embroidered with a slogan like "facts first." Additionally, the Jeffrey Toobin method of self-care would presumably help one "decrease stress in your life," provided the care is administered in a more private setting. Not all media companies will be as understanding as CNN.
Journalists are urged to practice "spiritual care" as well. Strategies include making time for reflection, spending time with nature, cherishing optimism and hope, as well as singing and meditating. The lesson plan also suggests that journalists "be open to not knowing," which isn't bad advice, it's just easier said than done in the world of professional punditry.
Some media organizations have enlisted the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism training and research organization based in Florida, to instruct their employees in the art of self-care. On Monday, journalists from KATU News, an ABC affiliate in the Pacific Northwest, took the day off to attend "a seminar to help deal with on-the-job stress and trauma."
Please keep America's long-suffering journalists in your thoughts and prayers.