Media experts have raised concerns about the risks of trauma faced by journalists in Nigeria, requiring trauma awareness in journalism curricula so that they are informed, responsive and sensitive.
Media experts spoke at a roundtable on “Integrating Trauma Literacy into Journalism Training in Africa: The Roadmap” held virtually and physically at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Ogba, on Thursday in Lagos.
The event was organized by the Journalism Education and Trauma Research Group (JETREG), Sub-Sahara Africa Research Hub.
The panel discussion, which was co-organized by Dr. Dele Odunlami, Associate Professor, and Dr. Qasim Akinreti, Former President of the Union of Journalists of Nigeria (NUJ), Lagos State, had many physical and virtual participants.
The keynote speaker, Professor Ola Ogunyemi from the University of Lincoln, UK, said that journalists are exposed to so many traumatic events on a daily basis that it damages their mental health, hence the need to address the risks of trauma.
Ogunyemi said that only resilient journalists can cope with the stress and occupational trauma of the modern age.
According to him, JETREG, with more than 250 members, is concerned about the safety of journalists, hence the call to incorporate trauma literacy into the journalism curriculum.
Ogunyemi said that journalists must be equipped to learn how to deal with work stress, depression and fear.
He urged employers to give their reporters time off and always learn to differentiate between their personal and work time.
In his remarks, Dr. Yemisi Bamgbose, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Broadcasting Organization (BON), said there was a need to develop a curriculum on journalist burnout and trauma.
According to him, research has shown that things are not so rosy in the business of news gathering and dissemination, noting that journalistic and media work has become very stressful.
“The job is classified as high stress work,” said Bamgbose, a veteran broadcaster.
He listed sources of burnout among journalists to include a toxic environment comprising low wages, non-payment of wages, work overload, property interference and discrimination, daily commutes on poor roads, insecurity, deadlines, lack of motivation and poor employee relations.
Bamgbose added that what journalists see in the line of duty, such as daily coverage of accidents, rituals, building collapses, could traumatize them.
“What journalists hear from their interaction with people who have escaped a traumatic experience can also affect them throughout life.
“What journalists write and their daily exposure to various negative offensive images could also be sources of trauma.”
He added that mistreatment and threats to life by police, military, thugs, and the community were also sources of trauma for journalists.
On the coping mechanism, Bamgbose urged the experts to instill in the curriculum resilience, preparation for psychological reactions and the dilemma that journalists might face at work.
Prof. Bolanle Akeredolu-Ale, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria, reiterated that trauma literacy should be involved in journalism education.
Akeredolu-Ale, a communications professional and researcher, who urged the NIJ to take the lead, said there could be a certificate program in trauma literacy in journalism.
Also speaking, the Rector of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, said that no story should be more important than the lives of journalists.
“Only the living write history. Think about your safety and well-being,” Adefaye said.
According to him, the institute will begin to develop materials on trauma literacy for journalists.