Via The Guardian, another occupational health and safety issue: Emotional toll of reporting the refugee crisis surprises news organisations. Excerpt:
War zones necessitate a certain type of mindset and a certain type of preparation. But the scale and proximity of the refugee crisis allowed organisations like the BBC to send a mixture of people, from veteran correspondents to those new to foreign deployments.
“Because you have this huge range and mix of people it is impossible to identify the kind of risks that you might come up against, the kind of trauma you might experience, because if you’re dealing with a war zone, you kind of know what you’re dealing with but this was unprecedented,” says Jonathan Paterson, BBC World newsgathering deployments editor.
When Patrick Kingsley became the Guardian’s first ever migration correspondent following a stint in Cairo, he was optimistic.
“There was something quite redeeming about the hopeful journey that people were going on,” he says. At the time, he hoped his unique role would make a difference. But by the end of the year, an exhausted Kingsley had travelled to 20 countries and found himself questioning the value of his work.
“As time goes on … you’re just dealing relentlessly with the same wretched situation, whether you’re covering shipwrecks or seeing people being beaten up in Hungary. You’re seeing the same stupid responses from the EU and the same illogical policies that have no relation to what you’re seeing and people are telling you.”
Chetwynd says the challenges are exacerbated by the economic state of the news industry.
“One of the points that we as managers and journalists need to push is that it is actually incredibly important to keep doing this; we’ve seen the consequences and we have to keep mixing it up, we have to keep giving the people who are doing these stories other stories to do, being part of other coverage, give them a break from this kind of intense coverage day to day, but it’s a tough discussion to have just because of the state of our industry at this point in time.”
The taboo surrounding mental health also makes those decisions even harder. While it is certainly not the case that every journalist covering the refugee crisis has experienced an unexpected emotional toll, the issue seems greater than some are prepared to admit.
And although trauma affects everyone differently, both Chetwynd and Paterson say the crisis has taken an especially hard toll on many parents.