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ICFJ: Covid-19 impacts journalists negatively

  • Published at 04:17 pm October 20th, 2020
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Representational photo Bigstock

Journalists are working in a severely pressured environment

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted many journalists and newsrooms in one way or another across the globe, alongside jobholders in different sectors,  

This was said in a study published by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) on October 13.

ICFJ teamed up with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University to conduct the survey of journalists in seven languages, to better understand the effects of the pandemic on the news industry worldwide,

The results of their English-language survey were based on responses from 1,406 respondents across 125 countries.

The Journalism and the Pandemic Survey explored journalists’ physical and mental health, the spread of misinformation, the economic effects on newsrooms, changes in the way journalists work and challenge to press freedom.

The report demonstrated that journalists are working in a severely pressured financial, physical and psychological environment during the pandemic, according to researchers Emily Bell, Julie Posetti and Pete Brown. 

This will be the most enduringly difficult professional period many have experienced during their careers, they said.

Mental and physical health

According to the report, 70% of respondents rated the psychological toll as their biggest challenge during the pandemic while more than 80% of respondents noted at least one negative psychological effect, including anxiety, burnout, difficulty sleeping and a sense of helplessness. 

Over 70% of respondents said employers failed to offer flexible hours, time off, social support or regular check-ins, to name a few. 

The data does not indicate much better support for journalists’ physical health, despite the worldwide health crisis as one in four journalists are still traveling to the field at least once per week to report. About 45% of them were not even provided a mask when they conducted in-person reporting. 

Widespread misinformation

Reporters saw misinformation circulate most on Facebook (66%), Twitter (42%) and WhatsApp (35%). 

A large majority, 82% of respondents reported misinformation to the platform they found it on, yet almost half said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the platform’s response.

While regular citizens remain the number one purveyor of disinformation, political leaders and elected officials come in at a close second. 

Economic impacts

The report’s findings indicated that this economic crisis is top of mind for most industry employees. 

Three in four respondents said their priority during the pandemic was the survival of their publication.

Underscoring the economic impact, almost four in five respondents with access to information about their newsroom's finances reported at least a 50% decline in revenue. 65% of respondents said they have less job security now than before Covid-19.

Threats to press freedom

One in five respondent journalists reported that online harassment was “much worse” than before Covid-19. 

ICFJ report said the pandemic has affected relationships with sources, as 48% of survey respondents said sources were concerned that speaking to journalists would lead to negative repercussions such as job loss, legal consequences or physical violence. 

Some good news

Despite the many challenges, more than 40% of respondents perceived an increase in audience trust during the pandemic while only 4% felt that trust declined. 

One in four respondents experienced more positive feedback and received more engagement from their readers. 

This may have been a result of more dedicated engagement work from many reporters, as 24% of respondents reported spending more time identifying audience needs.

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