ISSN: 1550-7521

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Review Article Open Access

Trauma vs. Duty: Confronting the Moral Obligation of Newsrooms to Protect Journalists From Psychological Harm

Abstract

Journalists are at the forefront of many dangerous and hazardous situations like wars, crimes, and natural disasters. Recent research in the field of psychology suggests that workers exposed to events like these have potential to develop trauma, which can in turn develop into mental disorders like post- traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This is why think tank Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma has been backing calls for additional organizational support from media companies for the protection of their journalists from trauma, as a proposed inclusion to the ethical and legal duty of media companies to keep their workers safe. A perceived duty of resilience and stigma attached to mental health however appears to drag efforts of opening up newsrooms to discussions on mental health.

This paper thus seeks to contribute to the discussion by providing an ethical analysis on the dilemma. Such an evaluation may pave the way for an understanding on the liability of the concerned parties to the consequence of potential psychological trauma in sending journalists out to cover traumatic events. In the ethical evaluation, it is found that both journalists and media companies have the moral obligation of protecting journalists’ mental well-being and among the steps to do so is eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health and resilience in newsrooms. This decision has been based on deontological evaluation of media companies’ duty to protect their workers, and the journalists’ duty to serve the public interest, as well as a consequentialist evaluation of other possible courses of actions to the dilemma.

Arianne Jeanel Calumbiran

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