by Lorenzo Canu and Nikita Kulikov
Journalism matters, particularly in times of crisis
We live in a world where journalism is a very relevant profession. While we cannot underestimate the impact on society (especially in times of crisis), the existence of journalism, providing accurate and trustworthy information, cannot be taken for granted.
Many media organizations are struggling economically. Today already, some people live in «news deserts» — places where there are just one or no local media sources at all. In addition, hostility toward the media and violent attacks on media representatives are on the rise, and there is also a growing tendency for governments of all stripes to exploit crises in order to curtail freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Each of these issues can be a cause of crisis in journalism.
Media freedom begins with the individual
While much attention is paid to structural or systemic issues surrounding the future of journalism (funding, media freedom), the individual situation of many journalists remains underexposed. When it is addressed, it is often in terms of the precarious economic situation and working conditions. Media freedom begins with the individual — and any restrictions on it have to do not only with political influence and economic capacity. Each journalist matters — as a professional and as an individual.
That given, the general well-being of journalists requires more attention. Here, the participants of the M100 YEJ workshop came to the conclusion that the mental health component, in particular, is very much underrepresented. While this reflects a general, and highly problematic “uneasiness” towards and stigmatization of the topic in many societies, in the context of journalism it warrants particular attention.
Mental health starts with you.
You should be open to help either yourself or your co-workers. Stay in touch with you: you should be the one considering whether that’s enough. We think that every newsroom should have a safe space to address any issue and be able to receive help.
That’s about building the environment around journalists which helps them build resilience and reduce the psychological toll of their work. In that case, media professionals can stay healthy and be more productive and passionate about their work. They just need to be given the right tools and knowledge.
The first step is, of course, acknowledging mental health is an issue. Without it, we won’t be able to cover it and come through.
Acknowledging is really the first step of solving — any crisis. We tried to figure out the crisis of independence of journalism: which political and economical influence our profession struggles with today and how mental health influences the independence of one individual journalist.
Our working group prepared a video of a few students from different countries, who tried to describe how do they perceive the independence of the media and the way its descend affects journalists.
«As long as we act, we won’t feel powerless»
Can we be both journalists and activists? Should we? That’s another important question we discussed. We still cannot figure out if a journalist as a representative of the «fourth state» should be an actor on the political, social, or economic stage. We believe there is no right answer to it. As one of the participants said, «journalism is harder than I expected». But we are not scared of hard.
This complexity comes from all different sides of democracy. How we can stay independent when interests groups can influence us with money or their political force? How can we remain mentally stable when we see and cover such horrors as a worldwide pandemic or war in Afghanistan? So we need to be independent from government or society to be objective or we need to communicate to as many people as we can to tell their stories to the world.
We need to be brave
Being a journalist is important and we cannot ignore crises that are happening continuously. We can struggle with them and write about them and see what happens then. We need to be brave and understand the importance of our profession.
We can keep drawing a «heroic image of journalist of being a hero» as so many people did before us. And not forget about the achievements of our colleagues from the past and bring them to our future. Their experience will help us with any crisis we have to face.