Over exposure: The trauma exposure of TV news camera operators and reporters


Past research indicates that journalists experience elevated levels of trauma exposure, as well as elevated levels of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and burnout symptoms. Understanding the kinds and nature of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) journalists are exposed to is the first step in safeguarding individuals against adverse trauma reactions. However, research in this area has predominantly focused on quantifying trauma exposure and reactions. The present study aimed to explore individual subjective experiences and processes associated with exposure to PTEs. Two research questions were addressed: (1) What kinds of PTEs are TV news camera operators and reporters exposed to through their work? (2) When covering work-related PTEs, what are the factors that camera operators and reporters suggest result in greater psychological distress? In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 Australian TV news camera-operators and reporters. Data analysis was conducted according to a systematic and transparent thematic analysis. Participants’ exposure to PTEs were classified into the following themes: accidental and death-related events, direct involvement in events, man-made violence, medical events, natural disasters, and car accidents. Participants were most likely to recall exposure to man-made violence and car accidents; they reported car accidents, harm to colleagues, and harm to children to be the most distressing PTEs. The key factors believed to make a PTE impactful included the participant’s ability to relate to the circumstances of the PTE and their level of preparedness. The present findings have spotlighted numerous experiences and processes that have previously gone unconsidered or been under-considered, and hence insufficiently legitimised.


MacDonald, J. B., Fox, R., & Saliba, A. J. (2019). Over exposure: The trauma exposure of TV news camera operators and reporters. Australasian Conference on Traumatic Stress, 13–14 September. Sydney, Australia. (Paper)