For years as an active Broadcast Journalist, I hardly got time off and was on duty back to back as the news never ends. This state of things was daunting for my family and pretty stressful for me. While people took breaks at weekends, I would be on duty on a fine Sunday morning. The profession had chosen me and I had also chosen it.
This kind of schedule that I had, meant that during many Christmas holidays I was either on an editorial team at work or I was in fact producer of the leading NTA network News At Nine or I was a newsreader or in some circumstances all of the above. And these were mostly during normal times. The stress would become heightened in difficult circumstances and one could remain in the newsroom for three days running if the situation was serious and would not even go home.
It’s a tough field. The public wanted information and depended on you for it. Your job was not to disappoint them.
With the Coronavirus pandemic up in the air worldwide with no vaccine and no end in sight, the public is glued to their Televisions, newspapers and Radios to get authentic information about what in fact was going on. The media has become where everyone is swimming now to get their voices heard above the din of politics, fights, disagreements between world leaders and the frustration of health organisations worldwide.
All of this in the face of grim stories of death and ailments. For the reporter and those gathered in the newsroom day in day out, it can be suffocating and overwhelming. Journalists are first of all human beings and in the face of overwhelming ceaseless bad news, they can suffer anxiety attacks and depression being so close to the stories and having to cover them. It is reported that many newsreaders and reporters who covered the 9/11 tragedy in the United States ended up with mental health challenges especially those who were directly involved in the coverage. So much research is out there to prove that indeed this is the case.
With Coronavirus spreading at such an unbelievable rate and being so contagious, media persons report other persons and have no one to talk about their own stress. In the middle of all of this, they must continue to bring you statistics, updates and coverages non-stop. As one who has walked their path and still does, I can speak for my colleagues worldwide and know that they are on the frontlines and are committed to bringing the stories for as long as it takes. Together with health workers everywhere in the world, they are battling the virus as best as they can. While the health workers are working with patients in hospital and doing their very best everywhere, the journalist is bringing us the efforts of the health workers, breakthrough in science and general information and stories of hope.
Mid-march I spoke to my Editor, Amina Alhassan at the Trust newspapers and she was tired and already stressed out. Why are you sounding like that, I asked her? Work is overwhelming, she said. I know I told her. You need to breathe and take snatches of breaks whenever you can find one. No one knew how devastating this was going to be. And here we are.
With Coronavirus spreading at such an unbelievable rate and being so contagious, media persons report other persons and have no one to talk about their own stress. In the middle of all of this, they must continue to bring you statistics, updates and coverages non-stop.
An American Newsreader from MSNBC broke down when she announced the death of a colleague from Coronavirus. Rob Osbourne, a news correspondent from ITV writes that “This is a marathon, we are in it for the long haul.” BBC in the meantime says they will continue to provide support for their staff by providing structures to keep them covering the Pandemic for as long as they can.
That support is what employers need to provide across board, across countries for media workers and journalists who have to continuously bring us the stories, the policies, the updates and the statistics. Media owners should protect their staff and insure them. They should also give palliatives, bonuses and provisions to make their jobs easier.
Journalists must also learn to take breaks and breathe and structures must not keep the same person exposed to this information for long without giving them short breaks to allow them refuel. Journalists also have families and the work they do and their absence from home can affect their families and put them under pressure. Journalists are advised to speak to loved ones as often as they can, try to get enough sleep and eat healthy.
Let’s think about journalists and media persons on the frontline. They need our prayers and our support. They are also heroes in these uncertain times.
I salute all our health workers worldwide who are doing amazing work. But I would also like us to raise our hands up for another set of persons in the frontline. Without the media we would never have known of the World War veteran in the UK, 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore who has raised millions of pounds for NHS charities to help with the treatment of Coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
Salute to the Media and the workers therein worldwide. Cameramen, editors, reporters, editorial staff, writers, columnists, newsreaders and their management.
Hands up for the Media! Our prayers are with you all.
~ Eugenia Abu is a well known television broadcast personality in Nigeria.