Professor Publishes Research About Stress, Newsroom Support During COVID-19

Assistant Professor and TV2 advisor Gretchen Hoak recently published research about journalists' stress and organizational support while covering COVID-19 in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship journal of AEJMC.  

In “Covering COVID: Journalists’ Stress and Perceived Organizational Support While Reporting on the Pandemic," Hoak was able to publish a research study about how journalists are mentally and physically affected by their work by using organizational support theory and surveying 222 journalists during their first few weeks working from home. Her experience as a television/broadcast reporter, as well as her experience covering police and courts moved her to measure how stressful stories can foster stressful environments.  

“When the pandemic hit, I knew it had to be a stressful and potentially traumatic story for journalists to cover already, but then you add on all the complications of having to report from home, worry about getting sick, social distance, etc., and I was really interested to understand how all of that combined was impacting journalists,” Hoak said. 

While also teaching and working from home, Hoak gathered information and surveyed journalists to show that working in journalism and broadcast encourages flexibility and requires journalists to report in conditions that are unknown — and often without help. Many news organizations, she found, received no supplies, technology or extra training to help their journalists continue reporting through the pandemic. 

“This research also shows that you can’t expect journalists to do this type of hurdling long-term without holistic  support that includes logistical elements like technology and equipment, but also mental and emotional support,” Hoak said.

“Especially with stories like the pandemic, where journalists are clearly living the story they are covering, news managers have to be willing to accept that journalists are not machines. They are humans, and they need to be treated as such in order to continue to do their jobs well without suffering long term harm.” 

Hoak put herself under the difficult task of surveying and studying journalists in a lockdown environment during a lockdown, while many were still adjusting to those conditions, including herself. However, throughout the challenges, Hoak was able to measure these specific conditions over large periods of time and came to conclusions to better understand COVID-19 and its impact on journalists and newsrooms everywhere.  

“With this particular project, I’m very proud that I could get it out quickly and gather some really great data, all while dealing the pandemic myself. I think this research is important. It seems as though the general belief is that journalists just go out and do their jobs regardless and don’t have any repercussions from it. It makes me happy to be able to contribute to the changing of that perception.” 

The study shows that newsrooms/journalists were given more organizational support had lower levels of stress and higher levels of work commitment. This was especially true of  female journalists. The publication significance not only impacts newsrooms' organization, but how the pandemic has affected work environments for years to come.  

To learn more about the School of Media and Journalism, visit, www.kent.edu/mdj.

Read the article: "Covering COVID: Journalists’ Stress and Perceived Organizational Support While Reporting on the Pandemic"