Emotional Clusterfuzzle

After much thought, years of experience and conversations with others, I had reached this conclusion: Journalists handle emotions differently than other people. We have the ability to withhold emotions in many cases.

The topic was pretty well-covered in my news soulmate Stacey’s blog a few weeks ago, so I stayed away from it. But then, someone we both worked closely with for years – someone who was only 29-years-old – just died. So I got to see firsthand how a bunch of journalists handle devastating, shocking news that hits close to home.

Journalists tend to be desensitized. For every piece of video you think is graphic or every line in a script you think may have been too descriptive, a journalist likely saw or read a lot worse from that story. And while there are always the positive or fun stories throughout the day, we deal with a lot of grit that a lot of others don’t ever have to think about. Because we have the ability to withhold our emotions more successfully than a lot of people, some think we are emotionless. That simply isn’t the case.

But what this week has taught me is that many journalists don’t only handle emotions differently; we react to things differently. We make inappropriate comments or we just move on as if we never heard the news. I think it’s a way of coping and skipping the sadness…at least temporarily.

I wonder if this is a journalist thing or if it’s just something certain people do – with a lot of those people winding up in journalism. Were we always like this and journalism just gives us a way to hide our reactions that others may consider inappropriate for the situation? Or did the job shape our emotional reactions to things?

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Comments on: "Emotional Clusterfuzzle" (4)

  1. I think you’d find the same thing in other professions, like being a doctor. If we let every shooting, bombing, corrupt politician, missing kid or other sad story fully affect us, we’d never last. It’s not a desensitivity thing, but a necessary bit of armor we put between those events and our emotions so that we can cover them without breaking down every day. It’s like the immortal Dr. Cox says in an episode of Scrubs — “if you let every patient get to you, it will eat you alive.”

    • Agreed. And I love your use of Scrubs. Ha.

    • Stacey Readout said:

      When I blogged about this a couple weeks ago, a dear friend of mine, who’s a doctor in Pennsylvania, commented on the blog and said she felt she could really relate. She cries with patients’ families after telling them their loved one died … and has to be there to comfort them when delivering a diagnosis. She said it’s been interesting seeing how the new interns are handling the profession … she’s noticed more become withdrawn. The good thing about journalists (specifically producers) … it’s rare we see the tragedy first hand. We’re not in the field talking with crime victims or devastated families … we just disseminate the information given to us by those who were in the field. So in a lot of ways, I am thankful to be a producer vs. reporter. There’s another shield there that cushions everything. Make sense? 🙂

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