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Coronavirus disease COVID-19: Psychological recommendations for journalists


Journalists and helping the society

  1. Be aware that as media representatives, you are indispensable in crisis situations, you have a great opportunity to support, stabilize emotions in society, and you influence the specific behaviour of people.
  2. Strengthen and calm yourself mentally. Recognize and name your own emotions in order to control them. Try to act in a rational, structured, calm and ethical way.
  3. Do not contribute to spreading fear, panic and catastrophic forecasts. Remember that your reporting will affect readers and viewers. Keep in mind that the content of the message as well as the tone you use to convey it can impact how the society responds to the situation.
  4. Encourage. Present the ways people help and the ways they can help. Give room for encouraging reactions and opinions of people.
  5. Helping others helps. Communicate this value to others, look for it, pass it on, inform and write about it, depict it.
  6. Promote hope, the values of social cohesion, solidarity and community support.
  7. Promote helping especially vulnerable persons (elderly people, people with sensory, physical or mental disabilities, sick people, homeless people, members of minorities, foreigners etc.).
  8. Promote a sense of coping and resilience through appropriate examples and recommendations. Focus on positive examples. Encourage the perception “Together, we can manage!”.
  9. Use key and verified sources in the areas of health, hygiene and more. Repeatedly, inform people about the main recommendations. Beware of rumours, fictions and half-truths, because once they are published in the media, they get the “hallmark of truth” in the eyes of the public.
  10. Describe what is going on well, describe the activities of the rescue service teams or crisis management procedures.

Accountability to others

  1. You are responsible for those you speak to, and for those you work with, and for those who work for you. You can provide first psychic aid to affected persons (see the Application link below), you can help stabilize them.
  2. Introduce yourself clearly and respect if the other person does not want to talk to you.
  3. Treat people affected by stress and disaster properly, with humility and respect. Respect their privacy, needs and feelings. Act fairly.
  4. Be aware that the respondent may be in a state of psychological shock. Express your understanding, imagine yourself in his/her place, act sensitively, tactfully and with dignity. Speak calmly, slowly and clearly. Listen patiently. The other may speak hastily, may be poor in expressing himself/herself, be disoriented, anxious and restless, or conversely without emotions. From the first reactions, one cannot conclude how deeply a person is affected.
  5. Do not push affected people for information. Your word or picture can cause a secondary traumatization.
  6. When health care professionals and doctors treat or accompany, let them work quietly. The same applies to members of the Police, Fire Rescue Corps and key professions´ staff.
  7. Appreciate the extraordinary work and personal commitments of the staff of professions highly exposed during the crisis management, express your appreciation to them (nurses, doctors, Police members, firefighters, caregiving services, social workers, managers, lab technicians, cleaning services, transport or critical infrastructure workers, and others).
  8. In case you lead others, you are responsible for your journalists, provide them with a safe working environment, appropriate equipment, time for rest. Ask about their needs, keep supporting them. Do not expose them to risk. Give them credit. Even a journalist is not immune to stress, human misery and emotions he/she reports. The excessive load can manifest as fatigue, irritability, behavioural fluctuations, relationship problems or alcohol problems.

Accountability to yourself

  1. Take care of your own safety.
  2. Be aware of your capabilities and skills.
  3. Speaking to colleagues with similar work experience helps.
  4. Look for the positive aspects of life, be interested in other things as well.
  5. Try to relax and recharge your batteries. Balance your workload with rest. Enjoy hobbies, sports, family and friends, relax.
  6. Human misery you encounter at work can have an impact on our psyche and interpersonal relationships. Admit that we can each have our limits. It is possible to consult a doctor, psychologist, clergyman. The experience can be discussed anonymously on the Helpline.

Recommended sources

PhDr. Štěpán Vymětal, Ph.D.
Security Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic - Psychology Section
ICP 2020 The Crises, Disaster and Trauma Psychology Working Group Chair
EFPA - Standing Committee on Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Psychology

Version as of March 19, 2020

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