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Bust newsroom burnout without breaking the bank

April 16, 2024 | By Suzanne S. LaPierre – Independent Media Reporter @Bookmouser
The topline: An increasing number of newsroom employees and other journalists are struggling with burnout, but there are solutions within reach for employers that will help staff.

Burnout among newsroom employees has risen to critical levels. According to a recent study by the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), 84% of current journalists and 88% of those formerly employed as journalists say burnout has impacted them personally. Over 90% of both groups say they have observed burnout among colleagues. More than a third of all journalism professionals surveyed agreed that covering news is increasingly challenging today, compared to the past.  

Burnout often appears as exhaustion, mental distancing from work, and reduced efficiency. For individuals, quality of life is impacted. For businesses, retention and productivity of the workforce are at stake. On a societal level, widespread burnout among news professionals threatens to jeopardize the high-quality reliable journalism necessary to maintain an informed public and a healthy democracy.  

Solutions for newsroom burnout 

The remedies to address newsroom employee burnout proposed in RJI’s study, The Burnout Crisis in Journalism: Solutions for Today’s Newsoom, sidestep those many executives currently find prohibitive, such as hiring more staff and raising salaries. Instead, the study focuses on solutions deemed most desirable among staff that are within reasonable reach of employers. The findings offer insight proactive leaders can utilize to improve career satisfaction and work-life balance in the workforce. 

A total of 1,140 participants from across the industry, representing all 50 of the United States, completed the RJI survey. Of the participants, 39% were currently active journalists, and 21% were currently active in management. Former journalists and managers made up 15% of the survey participants, while 12% represented other aspects of the profession, and 12% were students and faculty members in journalism higher education programs. 

Survey respondents chose two of 10 solution areas to address in more depth. Tellingly, the top five selected included: 

  • Work hours and flexibility options. 
  • Coverage responsibilities and workload. 
  • Changes in newsroom culture. 
  • Time off and vacation options. 
  • Additional or improved benefits. 

The other five solution areas which garnered less enthusiasm were: management training, career support, mental health support and resources, newsroom team building, and trauma training and resources. 

Critical issues to address burnout

Agency: Journalists and other newsroom professionals express a clear desire to have more control over their workflows, job responsibilities, work environments, schedules, and output. 


Journalists and managers want more flexibility when it comes to hours and work shifts – including the option of four-day workweeks, hybrid shifts, and remote work options. 


Acknowledging the valuable work of employees would help reduce burnout, according to 84% of current journalists and managers, and 93% of former journalists and managers. 

Time off

Participants almost universally agreed that more vacation time would help with work-related fatigue. 100% of former news professionals and 94% of current managers and journalists say that more days off would ease burnout. 

The authors of the study put forth concrete solutions to mitigate newsroom employee burnout. Many of these can be enacted relatively quickly and without major financial consequences: 

  • Offer employees a four-day workweek option. 
  • Allow more hybrid shifts. 
  • Enable remote work from home at least once a week. 
  • Offer more flexible shifts, enabling employees to choose when they work, as long as they complete the required hours and/or deliverables. 
  • Evaluate and adjust workload balance among individual journalists and teams. 
  • Provide additional days off. 
  • Let workers have more input on content and how work gets done. 
  • Evaluate newsroom culture with an eye towards increasing recognition and acknowledgement. 

Newsroom burnout ripples across the pond 

Journalist burnout is reaching crisis levels outside of the US as well. Research from the UK finds more journalists disconnecting from social media to preserve work life balance, and even to avoid threats and harassment. However, this move could potentially stymie their careers because social media plays a key role in discovering and connecting with new audiences, boosting important news content, and facilitating investigative research.  

Before publications join new online platforms, it’s important to weigh ramifications in terms of employee workload and digital safety. Where such risks are unavoidable, newsrooms should consider ways to mitigate potential impacts. For example, rather than suggest employees manage stress on their own, UK researchers advise facilitating group discussions among colleagues aimed towards shaping long term policy. 

As in the US, UK journalists studied are weary of leadership shifting the burden to staff by suggesting they distress by using their free time to pursue therapy, yoga, or meditation. These activities often leave underlying systemic issues in the workplace unresolved.  

News executives worldwide must act on mitigating burnout now to sustain the vitality and integrity of the profession. In the U.S., strife around upcoming national elections is sure to increase strain on journalists. Proactive steps such as those suggested by the RJI study can help reduce stress, keep top quality professionals on the job, and sustain a landscape of abundant, reliable information for the public. 

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