Equipping Journalists With Tools for Emotional Balance

Drummond, William J.
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p79
This article provides a former reporter's personal account of using Eastern concepts to prepare future journalists to cope with the stresses of their jobs. I've seen my share of war zones and heard enough shots fired in anger to last a lifetime. Then, after 20 years of teaching journalism at the University of California, I came to realize that being a journalist can damage one's mental as well as physical health, even apart from the coverage of war. My wife developed breast cancer seven years ago. To help ease her discomfort from chemotherapy, I enrolled in a massage therapy course in July 2003. The 150-hour course was based on principles of Chinese Traditional Medicine (CMT). I earned a diploma as an acupressure massage practitioner and immediately enrolled in additional CMT training. I wondered whether the self-care strategies I learned as part of my CTM training might actually find a place in journalism education. The three-unit course for graduate students met for one hour three times a week, two meetings for lectures and a meeting for demonstrations in bodywork. Little by little I introduced concepts from CTM. As the course developed students were encouraged to share their experiences and reactions to what they were learning. The 13 students in the class began to take a longer, more philosophical view of the work ahead of them. They accepted the idea that journalism can be corrosive, unless one takes protective measures. As the semester drew to a close, I asked myself what had been learned. First, journalism education needs to make self-care a central part of its focus. Second, the industry itself needs to revise the prevailing suck it up approach.


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