Post-traumatic stress, personal risk and post-traumatic growth among UK journalists

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Sian Williams & Tina Cartwright

https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2021.1881727

Abstract

Background: Journalists covering traumatic news events can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, they may also experience perceived post-traumatic growth (PTG). The outcome may be affected by whether work-related traumatic stress has a degree of personal risk.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between PTSD symptoms and PTG among journalists who experienced work-related trauma and to examine whether positive associations would exist between exposure to personal risk and PTG.

Method: A web-based survey measuring post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic growth was completed by print and broadcast journalists (N = 69) working for UK-based media organizations. An open-ended question asked participants how media organizations can help to promote growth after work-related trauma.

Results: The findings show a significant relationship between PTSD symptoms and PTG (p = 0.04). Journalists working in war-zones had significantly more PTSD symptoms (p < .001) and PTG scores (p < .001) than those who did not. Journalists who described their worst, work-related trauma as having a degree of personal, life-threatening risk, also reported higher levels of PTG than those who did not (p < .001). This was consistent across all PTG subscales.

Conclusions: This study, the first to examine PTSD symptoms, personal risk and post-traumatic growth within journalists, suggests those working in conflict areas experience significantly higher levels of post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth, than those who do not. Those who experience personal risk also had high PTG levels. Media companies can help develop PTG by recognizing when personal risk plays a role in covering demanding assignments. Participants suggested organizations also needed to allow sufficient time for reflection and meaning-making for all those working in hostile environments.

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