Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Research: Injury Reporting and Reporter Trauma

Over the past two years, Jason Foster and I have published three articles on how the media covers workplace injuries. The most accessible summary of this research is this Parkland Report. The crux is that media coverage misrepresents who gets hurt, the type of injury sustained, and the cause of injury.

Last week, I ran across an interesting doctoral dissertation from New Zealand entitled “Journalism and everyday trauma: A grounded theory of the impact from death-knocks and court reporting”. This study examines how (mostly female) reporters’ health is affected by reporting on fatalities and upsetting court cases. (Death knocks is a term meaning gaining family comment on a fatality, often by knocking on their door.)

The study reveals that journalists struggle to attain balance in the workplace—learning about newsroom norms and balancing journalistic objectivity with their own emotional reactions. To maintain this balance in light of the constant barrage of upsetting experiences can require some workers to emotionally detach from their work or undertake forms of emotional labour. One risk of this work is burn out.

An interesting question the study raises was whether media managers tended to overlook the emotional impact of this work on employee’s health because of the no-fault basis of New Zealand’s injury compensation system (which, like Canadian workers’ compensation, precludes employees suing their employer for compensation). Essentially, the researcher queries whether the absence of accountability (through OHS or WCB) means society countenances the injury.

This study raises interesting questions about the effect of injury coverage on reporters and may be a profitable area for further research about the reporting of occupational injury in Canada.

-- Bob Barnetson

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