Burnout is not new, or unique, to journalism, but the multiple rapid challenges facing the industry has led to “a growing intensity” in scope – in short, an industry-wide crisis, demanding urgent attention, finds an extensive new study.

“While awareness of burnout is high, the topic may not be the daily focus of leadership to the degree this study suggests it could be,” notes the report.

Results from The Burnout Crisis in Journalism: Solutions for Today’s Newsroom, conducted by Reynolds Journalism Institute in partnership with the SmithGeiger Group, confirm findings of previous studies, and explore actionable solutions for newsrooms, journalists and educators.

Undertaken between October and November 2023, with findings released last month, the study included current and former journalism professionals, students, and educators across the United States. 

The report also drew extensively on existing literature, including: “fellowship projects … options for solving this crisis, how to slow the exodus of women leaving journalism, the use of reflection sessions to address stress and burnout, moderating newsroom slack channels to prevent burnout, changing the newsroom culture, and a range of trauma-focused reflections and related explorations.”

This helped researchers evaluate and determine how current shifts in journalism contribute to burnout; perception of its impact on individuals and their newsrooms, and seek potential solutions for local newsroom leadership to experiment with and test.

What’s more, the study is ongoing: RJI and SmithGeiger will build on the results by working with newsrooms to activate programs – workshops, seminars and partnerships – to tackle this burning issue.

Defined by the World Health Organization  as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” burnout presents as exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout can also lead to turnover, attrition, and loss of talent and diversity in journalism. Therefore, burnout is not only a personal problem but also a professional and societal one, as it can undermine the quality and credibility of journalism and its role in democracy,” notes the report.

Key findings: negative impacts on newsrooms today

Journalists are under increasing pressure, facing threats and harassment on the job, even in non-conflict situations, “as well as ethical and moral dilemmas in covering sensitive and traumatic issues,” as the study notes. 

Key factors negatively influencing newsrooms include:  

Having to do more with less
Budget cuts
Increasing distrust from consumers
Experienced professionals leaving the industry
Social media
Shifting trust in journalism is impacting professionals and may be negatively influencing their psyches and possibly contributing to the risk of burnout.

Significantly, the study notes that: “Despite these feelings, journalism professionals remain enthusiastic about the value and purpose of journalism, with 99% agreeing that journalism is essential to a functioning democracy.”

Actionable solutions

The research proffers top 10 steps for current newsroom staff and managers:

o Work hours and flexibility options

o Coverage and story responsibilities and workload

o Changes in newsroom culture

These macro-level elements, along with time off and vacation time options, new employment benefits, and management training each saw elevated levels of interest from current and former professionals.
Within each macro-level option, specific solutions were offered with each of the following drawing high levels of interest as solutions to dealing with or limiting burnout:

o Four-day work weeks

o Hybrid shifts

o More remote work

o Input on how work is done and jobs are performed

o Acknowledgement of the valuable work being done (#1 among former journalism professionals)


RJI hopes to construct case studies that show how newsrooms are being proactive in addressing burnout and welcomes newsrooms that would like to experiment with some of the solutions suggested by this research. Interested research partners can email RJI at: rji@rjionline.org.

See also: Addressing burnout in journalism means flexible shifts, more supportive culture — results of large-scale survey from RJI and SmithGeiger

The post What to do about newsroom burnout? A new study offers ideas appeared first on WAN-IFRA.