The Emotional Toll on Journalists Covering the Refugee Crisis

The Emotional Toll on Journalists Covering the Refugee Crisis
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The current refugee crisis reached a peak in 2015 when more than one million migrants arrived in Europe by sea. This report examines the emotional toll experienced by journalists covering a story of such unprecedented scale. The vast majority of those individuals who arrived in Europe in 2015 were fleeing conflict in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Many had already experienced significant physical and psychological trauma before embarking on their difficult journeys. And for some, the journeys themselves were so dangerous they ended in tragedy. It is therefore important to acknowledge that what the refugees endured far transcends what journalists as a group experienced. A number of proposals stem from the data collected, suggesting ways the media can prepare better for similar stories and provide support to those journalists in need.


Background to the Research

The immediate impetus for this research came from an industry-wide meeting of members of the International News Safety Institute held in January 2016. During this meeting, several news organisations noted the challenges their journalist colleagues had experienced covering the refugee crisis which had unfolded on the relatively safe shores of Europe, often close to home and bureaus, and on an unprecedented scale for which many news organisations were unprepared. It was clear that not all in the media were affected the same way, but among the most common reactions that emerged during a series of conversations with journalists and news managers were feelings of guilt at not having done enough personally to help the refugees, and shame at the observed behaviour of others. Emotions such as these were the unforeseen byproduct of journalists feeling compelled to step outside their traditional role as neutral observer, by helping refugees in ways that ranged from rescuing them from the water to giving them food, clothing, and money.

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The Emotional Toll on Journalists Covering the Refugee Crisis