Most have never left the comfort of their big city offices, but a growing number of reporters and editors are claiming to suffer trauma from watching and posting violent videos on news sites, according to a new study of media and human rights workers.
Their coping mechanisms can be just as bad: heavy drinking, binge-eating and sex. Said the study: "Unhealthy coping mechanisms included frequent one night stands or, as a documentary journalist called it: 'Head-down sex with different people every night.'"
The study uncovered claims of PTSD and "vicarious trauma" from those working with video and audio showing terrorist beheadings and city shootings. The biggest impact came from the sounds of victims screaming.
"Whether it is a broadcaster, publisher, human rights or humanitarian professional, symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - which were previously only observed in professionals deployed in the field - are now evident amongst staff working in offices on what we call the digital frontline," said the study from British-based Eyewitness Media Hub.
In the report, titled "Making Secondary Trauma a Primary Issue: A Study of Eyewitness Media and Vicarious Trauma on the Digital Frontline," four in 10 said they suffered from watching the violent media.
"Forty percent of survey respondents said that viewing distressing eyewitness media has had a negative impact on their personal lives. Professionals have, for example, developed a negative view of the world, feel isolated, experience flashbacks, nightmares and stress related medical conditions. Many interview respondents reported being diagnosed with vicarious trauma or PTSD, self referral to professional counselling and some had even resigned where they had no organisational support," said the online study of 209 people, mostly journalists including Americans.
But in the tough-it-out world of newsrooms, just 35 percent of those impacted by the violent media they are posting or reporting on felt like they could take their concerns to the boss.
Instead, many found other ways to cope, including getting drunk, binge-eating, and even one-night stands, said the report.
"Reported coping mechanisms amongst staff ranged from non-existent to healthy to unhealthy. Unhealthy coping mechanisms included: excessive alcohol consumption or the use of drugs to numb out feelings after work; one-night stands; binge-eating, not leaving the house and isolating oneself from friends and colleagues. Healthier coping mechanisms included seeking out professional counselling; having a good cry; black humour in the office; looking at positive images, watching 'silly TV' and talking to colleagues and family members," said the study.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.