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Reporting on the Bridge Collapse is Traumatizing. How to Help Your Staff Through This and Other Tragedies.

With the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last week, we recognize that not only is this traumatic for the first responders and the families of the innocent people whose lives were lost, but also for the journalists covering them. What are some ways in which reporters can prepare to reduce stress while covering such devastating events? 

“...the reality of being a journalist is having to cope with many of the things first responders see everyday—crime, tragedy, and disasters. The big difference is that first responders receive hours of training every year dealing with these mentally challenging situations, while journalists receive next to none . . . What hasn’t been heard over the years is anyone asking us how we, ‘the journalists,’ are doing.”

The above is an excerpt from the book Journalists Break News. Don't Let it Break You, authored by Leslie Rangel, a news anchor in Texas and mental wellness coach, and Dr. Kate West, a journalism professor at UT Austin. Their book breaks down the problems of burnout and stress AND even includes several detailed interviews with other reporters who detail graphic stories of burnout, stress and trauma.

Some insights the book offers:

  • Using the “HUMAN method or system as a framework for building your resourcing toolkit” or in other words, “Humans First, Journalists Second,” which includes the following five steps:

    • H: Hold space and make time for YOU

    • U: Understand how YOU respond to stress

    • M: Manifest confidence to step into your power

    • A: Align with resourcing when you’re feeling off

    • N: Nurture a wellness plan to help stay balanced

  • From researcher Dr. Ana Zellhuber, a psychoanalyst and emergency psychologist, who offers ways to prepare for covering tragic events: “Just by planning how to protect yourself, you’ll get rid of 80% of the possibility of PTSD. Knowing what to do helps so the brain doesn’t question what you need to do.” She recommends creating three plans: “physical [surroundings], internet [online safety and preplanning to avoid harassment and attacks], and psychological [having an emotional plan].”

If you run a news organization, we highly recommend your reading and sharing this book to help navigate and support your staff right now! Those wishing to speak with Leslie Rangel and Kate West for more personalized ideas can contact us at

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