Media Reporting, Mobility and Trauma

How to Cite

Snowden, C., & Green, K. (2007). Media Reporting, Mobility and Trauma. M/C Journal, 10(1).
Vol. 10 No. 1 (2007): 'mobile'
Published 2007-03-01

In the recent discourses of “The Information Age”, the mobility of individuals and of populations, capital, industry and information is considered critical to the formation of information elites and information societies (Cairncross; Castells). From these discourses a dominant view has emerged in which the digital mobility of information was considered as an essential and informing element of globalisation. It was also widely regarded as a development which would revolutionise news and information production and delivery. This view stemmed from an understanding that media information ‘flows’ as central nodes in social and economic networks are dependent on technology that provides fast, economical transport of information, which can be easily reproduced for mass distribution. Certainly, the news industry has a history of being an early-adopter of forms of technology that provide improvements in the capacity to produce, deliver and sell news and information. The reporting of news remains an essential element of information transmission, including and especially the reporting of all forms of traumatic events – from major disasters, to isolated incidents. To understand how new mobile technologies can both assist and damage journalists reporting on traumatic events, it is necessary to recognise that the word “trauma” is derived from the Greek and that its original meaning was to indicate an overwhelming of defences. Disaster situations in themselves constitute an overwhelming of defences either natural or built, but reporting on conflict, death and destruction also can produce an overwhelming of journalists’ mental defences; mobile newsgathering equipment and techniques facilitate the reporting of such events and increase the possibility of damage not only to journalists but also to audience members.

The use of all forms of communication technology has been and remains a critical factor in the transmission of such news, which workers in the media ‘industry’, especially journalists, are required to use routinely. Journalism historian Hanno Hardt argues that “for over a hundred years newsrooms, like factory floors, have been a laboratory for technological innovations and a battleground of economic and social interests (173). Earlier still, Schudson proposed that this “technological argument” was a causative factor in an earlier “revolution” from the 1830s in industrialised nations, which produced the model of modern journalism, now challenged by new communications technology. Among these newer developments the increasing mobility of information, which lighter, cheaper, more flexible technology such as mobile phones, digital cameras and laptop computers allow, together with access to the Internet are most influential. Such technologies also allow more people to report news, especially in traumatic situations. This is particularly the case in situations and places where existing media organisations are non-existent, poorly resourced or unavailable. The mobilisation of news and of news reporting itself is therefore one of the consequences of the diffusion of mobile communications technology, as the immediate reporting of events of an unexpected or traumatic nature is done by bystanders or unexpected witnesses, rather than, or as well as, by professional journalists.

Historical Context

In understanding the importance of mobility, and its importance to the news media, the work of Innis on the relationship between communications technology and the economics of news production and distribution is useful. The 1949 lecture, “The Press: A Neglected Factor in the Economic History of the Twentieth Century”, which assesses the consequences of technological change and the media is especially useful. In this analysis of the importance of communications technology to the construction of the media and to modern economies Innis argues that “differences in message transportability among media make all the social and cultural difference in the world” (qtd. in Marvin 119) and is emphatic “that it is difficult to overestimate the significance of technological change in communication or the position of monopolies built up by those who systematically take advantage of it” (Innis 47). Innis thus related the mobility of information and the processes of distribution directly to the economic development and power of media organisations.

Throughout their existence, news media organisations have continually sought advantages in two specific areas through the adoption of new technology – economic advantage in production costs and competitive advantage in news delivery. These factors have been critical in the early adoption by news and information media of any form of technology seen to offer either, but preferably both, of these advantages. While arguments can be advanced rejecting any advantages derived from “timeliness”, industry power brokers nevertheless continue to place value on being “first with the news”. New mobile technologies are thus on one hand merely the latest in a long line of technological innovations which are seen as offering competitive advantage to media organisations, while on the other hand they require adaptation by individual media professionals and the industry itself due to the effects associated with their use in the media production process (Snowden).

Historical assessment shows clearly that the introduction of new communications technologies has had a powerful impact on news and information media, but also on the journalists who use the technology and on the audiences who receive and consume news and information. From improvements in printing, leading to the development of newspapers (Innis “Penetrative Powers”, “Bias”, “Empire”), to the early electronic technologies of telegraphy and telephony, through broadcasting and information technology, to the Internet and emerging mobile communications technology, the processes and practices of media production have steadily changed and influenced the adoption of communications technologies. Most critically, the introduction of these technologies has not only affected the process of news production, but also the practices of news gathering and the perception of news by both its producers and consumers.

Telegraphy was an early technology which allowed news of traumatic events to be rapidly ‘mobilised’ by a fast and convenient communications technology. Lewis Mumford (“Technics and Civilisation”) observed the importance of telegraphy in allowing communication over distance, stating that:

With the invention of the telegraph a series of inventions began to bridge the gap in time between communication and response despite the handicaps of space: first the telegraph, then the telephone, then the wireless telegraph, then the wireless telephone, and finally television. (239)

The critical effect of the telegraph, in reordering concepts of time and space generally, but especially in the construction of news and information, was also analysed by Innis (“Penetrative Powers”, “Bias”, “Empire”), McLuhan and Carey (“Technology as Ideology”, “Communication as Culture”).

Carey argues that the change precipitated by the introduction of telegraphy enabled news to be commodified in ways previously unimagined, and that:

The spareness of the prose and the sheer volume of it allowed news – indeed, forced news – to be treated like a commodity: something that could be transported, measured, reduced and timed. In the wake of the telegraph, news was subject to all the procedures developed for handling agricultural commodities. (“Technology as Ideology”, 211)

Carey’s Fordist/Taylorist analysis of the importance of the telegraph also identified other consequences, which continue to influence assessment of communications technology in relation to news production. For example, he argues that the use of telegraphy led to the first great industrial monopoly with the formation of Western Union, changing commerce through the reconstitution of markets. According to Carey the development of telegraphy based news services such as Reuters, Agent France-Presse, United Press International and Associated Press, changed the language, context and practice of journalism. Arguing that the telegraph precipitated the industrialisation of time, Carey also proposes that ideological consequences were also associated with the adoption of telegraphy as fundamental ideas about time and place were altered by the wide-ranging effect of changes in technology use and related communication practices.

Most significantly, Carey argues that the demands of the wire services “led to a fundamental change in news” (“Technology as Ideology”, 210) because the content produced had to be understood in many different regions, yet at the same time the high costs of telegraphy meant content had to be concise. He suggests that this forced wire services to generate objective news, led to the condensation of language, de-localised news to suit the technical and financial constraints of the medium, and ultimately produced standardised news content available to wider audiences. Furthermore, the use of telegraphy laid the foundation for the 24-hour news cycle by extending the time frames in which news organisations were able to operate (“Technology as Ideology”, 228).

Another significant effect of the use of telegraphy by the media was the ability it gave, by providing faster access to news in distant locations, to journalists to report directly from locations where news was breaking or occurring. Additionally, access to news on a more rapid basis gave journalism and the entire news-making process a greater sense of urgency, which was conveyed in the construction and style of the news itself, but which also allowed reactions to news by its audiences to occur much faster.

Historians argue that public opinion about the Crimean War of 1854-1855 was influenced by news reports from journalists using telegraphy (Woodham-Smith cited in McLuhan 269; Knightley). But, the first global news event was the eruption of the volcanic island of Krakatoa, part of the present day nation of Indonesia, news of which was “spread around the world in minutes, because the undersea telegraph cables had just been laid” (Winchester). With the reports of the explosion of Krakatoa millions of people around the world were able to experience “a historic event simultaneously through newspapers and word of mouth. This changed the way people conceived of their world” (Gordon, D8).

Australia’s history too is indebted to journalistic reports of the significant news which helped to mobilise public opinion, including C.E.W Bean, and Keith Murdoch from Gallipoli (cited in Knightley; Duffy; Walker). Later, newsreel journalist Damien Parer (McDonald) in New Guinea showed how newer forms of communication technology could similarly be used in producing news from war zones.

Now, as we assess the impact of mobile communications technology adoption and use within the media and journalism, associated changes in the production and delivery of news and information must also be assessed. How journalists are affected by changes in the news production process, both professionally and personally, including changes in the levels of stress and anxiety, and the consequences of increasing exposure to trauma, are of immediate and particular relevance (Snowden).

The Drive towards Portability

Carey’s assessment of the changes linked to the telegraph provides a strong model for the assessment of newer communications technologies, including more mobile applications, for news media and for journalists. Carey’s analysis raises a recurrent question – how does each new technology not only create change in the present, but provide a foundation for future changes? (See also McLuhan; Postman; Meyrowitz; Fidler and Winston).

Later developments in technology also had consequences for journalism as computer publishing technology saw the death of a range of printing trades subsequently increasing production responsibilities for journalists, permitting later publication deadlines, and lowering costs for proprietors. Among other effects, the later deadlines allowed newspapers to compete somewhat better with broadcast news and provided shorter turn-around times between editions. However, these changes also raised audience expectations about the immediacy of reporting in relation to events, especially those with catastrophe as their leitmotif.

In the electronic media, the progressive introduction of lighter and more portable equipment led to greater flexibility in outside broadcasting, while advances in telecommunications and improvements in technical transmission led to an increase in real-time broadcasts from diverse locations. New technology also brought new opportunities for journalists. In the 1970s, the digitisation of newsrooms introduced portable computers and modems into the journalist’s lexicon, allowing journalists to file while in the field (as long as a phone was accessible). The first mobile phones were introduced to journalism in the 1980s and quickly proved their value in allowing the rapid reporting of breaking news, and in direct reporting (Snowden). In the late 1990s, this capability was extended to photographers as digital cameras became available and as mobile phone coverage became more ubiquitous. The integration of mobile phones and personal computers, combined with satellite connections, now provides journalists with ever-increasing opportunities for on-the-spot reporting.

The concept of the ‘backpack journalist’ has now emerged to describe a highly mobile journalist equipped with the technology to produce material for different media (Stevens; Konrad). Less idealistically, this term may also describe a media professional rendered vulnerable by isolation and lack of access to support services.

In 2006 Internet based company Yahoo! recruited ‘backpack journalist’ Kevin Sites, to work on a special project to report from 31 conflict zones around the world over a 12 month period.

Using the latest technology, including high-definition digital cameras and satellite modems, Kevin will deliver stories via a five-fingered multimedia platform of text, photography, video, audio, and interactive chat – all available on one website. (Yahoo! News)

The company also encourages similar reporting by ‘civilian journalists’, and launched the ‘You Witness News’ platform for this purpose, inviting contributions of reports of events witnessed by contributors. The two initiatives are intrinsically linked, with Kevin Sites offering advice to ‘You Witness News’ members and the provision of links to his ‘backpack journalism’ project and reports. Reuters, a media company with roots in the telegraphic revolution of the nineteenth century, is a partner in this venture. However, submissions by ‘citizen journalists’ to ‘You Witness News’ via Reuters must accept that:

By submitting material (including a picture, a video, other images, audio and/or text) to Reuters, you are agreeing to be bound by the Terms of Use for Submitted Materials which give Reuters a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to publish and use any material you submit and to a use of your personal data in accordance with Reuters Privacy / Data Protection Policy. (Reuters)

The use of material produced by ‘citizen journalists’ or eye-witnesses to events by media organisations such as Reuters raises many questions, especially relating to ownership rights of the material and the benefits gained from its commodification. In this model of media production the physical cost of the production of such material is transferred to unpaid ‘volunteers’ who are not only not remunerated, but afforded no protection, either physically or legally, by association with a media organisation. In seeking to capture the content produced by citizen journalists there is significant potential for people to put themselves at risk in order to ‘witness’ events and report on them is significantly increased, but is scarcely acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Risk and Mobility

Increasingly, the use and adoption of communications technology by the media has progressed to allow the greater mobilisation of information across time and space, producing what Virilio describes as ‘instantaneity’ (“Speed and Politics”; “The Information Bomb”). In the news media real-time reporting of news and information production has increased in urgency to meet the demand for ‘24/7’ always on, always available, news media. This aspect of media reporting has become more critical with each new development in communications technology and, in response to the pressure of instantaneity, journalists have incorporated many forms of mobile communications technology into their working practices. This allows them to be closer to the action more rapidly, but also poses new professional and personal challenges for them, especially in relation to the reporting of traumatic situations, and the management of their own experiences of trauma.

An illustration of the manner in which mobile communications increases the instantaneity of news, while also increasing exposure to traumatic situations for reporters is the Fijian military coup of 2000. Reports of the coup demonstrated how effective journalism could take place in sudden, unanticipated events where there was access to suitable technology, but it also highlighted the extent to which journalists could be suddenly exposed to high risk, traumatic situations. The reporting of the Fijian coup by an online news site Fijilive saw news about the coup delivered around the world through a combination of mobile and online technology. Benning records that,

Reporter Tamirisi Digitaki, who had been covering a protest march in Suva led by ethnic Fijians, heard an announcement that gunmen had taken over Parliament. She hailed a cab, raced to the building and dialled [Fijilive editor] Gaunder on a cell phone, describing the scene.

As the situation escalated Digitaki was able to report the unfolding drama, continually calling the office of Fijilive with more reports, in the process breaking stories and informing both a local and global audience of the coup as it happened.

At one point, as she camped out in front of Parliament, shots were fired into the building that put her directly in the line of fire. She knew that a Reuters staffer had been injured earlier. She crouched down to avoid getting hit and dialled Gaunder.

Tell my parents I love them,” she told him as bullets flew over her head. “I think I’m going to die here.”

But she stayed put and continued dialling Gaunder with reports (Benning).

The reporting of the Fijian coup in 2000 was significant because it was one of the first major news stories anywhere that relied primarily on the use of mobile and online technology by relatively inexperienced journalists. Without permanent staff in the country news organizations around the world relied on local reporting for their own reports. With radio, television and newspapers quickly closed by the military, traditional sources of news were stifled and the situation was judged so dangerous that “there was an exodus of foreign journalists from the country” (Robie).

In addition to Fijilive, the reporting of journalism students at the University of the South Pacific (USP) who also reported on the coup using the same convergence of technology also became a source for news and information about the coup, with the added complication of having to transmit their material to a website hosted in Australia by the University of Technology in Sydney after their website was closed by USP.

For a student journalist at state-owned Radio Fiji, it was a baptism of fire. Tamani Nair was in the newsroom, listening to a live broadcast from Parliament when it was interrupted by shouting and gunshots.

Nair and a senior colleague, Samisoni Pareti, were sent to the sprawling complex, arriving before the police or any rival news team. They found the gates locked and guarded by masked gunmen.

“We were told, ‘Get the hell out of here!” said Nair, who is in his final year of studies at the University of the South Pacific. “So we hid in nearby cassava bushes and watched what was going on.”

They filed a brief report by cellular phone that made the 11am newscast. (Robie)

The reporting of the 2000 coup in Fiji demonstrated the capacity of relatively inexperienced reporters equipped with mobile communications and with access to online technology to report efficiently and effectively to a global audience. But, it also demonstrated how such reporters could be catapulted into highly volatile, high risk situations.

Reporting of war in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003 saw some of these practices highlighted, with the use of mobile satellite phones in the former, and the use of a range of mobile technology in the latter, demonstrating the growing extent of their application. But it was reporting of the Asian Tsunami in 2004 that gave a different and broader focus to this kind of reporting in traumatic situations. While the London bombing of 2005 has become the event most associated with the use of amateur mobile phone footage in a major news event (Twist; The Guardian; Owen), it was the Asian Tsunami six months earlier which set the precedent for the use of mobile technology by participants in traumatic events as a model for reporting of these situations.

As news of the scale of the Asian Tsunami emerged,

the television screens showed footage of water-logged coastal cities and towns along the Indian Ocean and there was talk of thousands of people, vehicles and furniture swept out to sea.

Then there was curiosity. Giant walls of water. What is that like? How did it happen? Did anyone see it coming? Can I help?

The answers were in text messages, jerky amateur footage and online. Everyday technologies like digital cameras, mobile phones and weblogs have become the source of riveting accounts of survivors all the way from Aceh, Indonesia––the epicentre of the quake––to the ravaged coastal towns of Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. (Srinivas)

Such was the extent of the reportage from the sites affected by the Tsunami that British daily newspaper The Independent said,

Never before has there been a major international story where television news crews have been so emphatically trounced in their coverage by amateurs wielding their own cameras. Sandy MacIntyre, the director of news for AP Television News (APTN), an agency that supplies 500 broadcasters worldwide, told the newspaper that APTN instructed its staff to hunt down amateur footage. (Srinivas)

In 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, and in the aftermath, citizen journalists and journalists reported its effects to the world instantaneously. They also found themselves ‘bearing witness’ to the general disorder that followed, and assisting survivors and trapped people when rescue authorities did not arrive. For example, while officials of the Australian embassy were unable to enter New Orleans to trace its citizens Australian journalists were able to rescue Australians from the besieged city (The Age) and report on their own activities. The moral and ethical dilemmas such situations pose for professional journalists are not new, but are heightened by the increased mobility of contemporary transportation combined with the mobility of communications technology. For citizen journalists, such dilemmas may not even be considered until they find themselves in a situation where they choose to assume the role of a reporter. For professional journalists, such dilemmas represent an additional potential source of trauma, as journalists grapple with the competing needs to inform their audiences while respecting the rights of individuals. Such dilemmas are reflected in the inability of the journalists’ union in Australia (the Australian Journalists’ Association section of the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance) agree on how such issues should be approached in practice. Sykes and Green note:

The journalists’ union, the MEAA, itself recognises the potential for harm when journalists are covering traumatic incidents. In the final report of its Ethics Review Committee, in 1996, the union recommended a Clause 14, which ultimately was not included in the final version of the Code of Ethics, as the MEAA attempted to reduce the code to a manageable and memorable size. In the culled Clause 14, the MEAA said:

At times of grief or trauma, always act with sensitivity and discretion. Never harass. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice. Interview only with informed consent.

The excision of Clause 14 from the code leaves journalists with a lack of clear direction on how to behave in critical incidents, increasing the opportunity for trauma.

Effects on Journalism

As historical precursors have shown, new technology affects the way journalists gather information, the way it is delivered to audience members and their response to and expectations of news reporting. One problem that newer mobile communications technology creates, however, is that the increased speed of communication leads to pressure for journalists to work faster, to deliver instantaneous assessment of complex situations and to put aside, in the interests of speed, the slower process of reflection and analysis. This produces an increasing sense of urgency and workplace stress, as media professionals observe themselves (Snowden). For some, this can be experienced both as anxiety and excitement. For example ABC foreign correspondent Leigh Sales

remembers when she got the call to go to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “You’re simply told to take the first available plane,” she says. “The adrenaline starts, you don’t sleep, story angles and approaches are going through your mind.” (Webb)

Another ABC journalist Tim Palmer, who was one of the first reporters to file stories from Aceh after the Tsunami, noted in an interview:

by the time we got to Aceh it was so bad that we were struggling for petrol and water … there was no one there to tell us – that we’re in this hell with bodies all around us in the mud at midnight. You stop having that shock … and you go into survival mode. I didn’t feel hungry for two and a half days. My body shut down and said ‘I’m going to get by on what I’ve got and don’t eat anything here. There’s lots of bodies, don’t eat.’ Seeing a child killed in front of you is by far the worst thing. Even with something massive, like the Bali bombing, only a few hours later, it is a few hours later, it’s totally different. If you’re standing there in the five minutes after it happens…there’s this psychological shockwave that goes out behind the explosion that is so damaging. (Thompson & Wong)

There are other effects, of course. The capacity to broadcast/podcast/publish actuality of a news event taken on a bystander’s mobile phone or digital camera, and broadcast it via mobile Internet access raises questions about the definition of journalism (and journalists). The increasing amount of such reporting is producing more ‘civilian’ or ‘citizen journalists’, who are encouraged by media organisations to provide material. While amateur journalists have always existed, the scale of their involvement and contribution to the news industry is increased by the nature of mobile communications technology, which makes such reporting more possible. The consequences for these often accidental reporters will be seen as the practice develops, but the consequences for journalists are already becoming apparent.

Effects on Journalists

For journalists, new technologies represent a tradition of technical innovation within the industry that has brought improved access to information, greater immediacy and reproduction quality of news publishing, great speed and fidelity in broadcasting, and real-time ‘on the spot’ reporting from almost any situation, anywhere in the world. But the opportunities have been balanced by exposure to new difficulties or threats. In particular, journalists are required to learn new skills and the print and broadcast journalists of old must become the multimedia journalist of today. In addition, what once were discrete skills, such as photography and editing, become required skills for more mobile journalists.

A major effect of the new technology is timeliness. In most reporting situations, timeliness confers competitive advantages – being first with the news is reflected in increased ratings, readership, reach and circulation. However, in certain circumstances, rushing to publication produces negative effects both for the news publication, for news sources and for the producers of the news themselves. Where tragedy is involved, for example in murders, road deaths, war or natural disaster, the desire to explain the news event through the words of witnesses or relatives is understandable. Increasingly, we are able to hear and see responses to situations instantaneously; most famously, attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001 exemplify such reporting, but events in the Asia Pacific have also illustrated the level to which mobile communications has become integral to the reporting of news. For example, in Australia in 2006 reporting of the Beaconsfield mine collapse exemplified this. Here, apart from the drama of the rescue operations, journalists and audiences received updates of the welfare of the trapped miners via reports of their mobile phone conversations with rescuers, and witnessed veteran journalist Richard Carleton collapse ‘live on television’ after a stressful interview (Cubby et al.). In a report of the journalist’s death, Cubby et al. noted that although,

Sometimes critical of the media circus that gathers around tragedies and disasters, Carleton often found himself a part of it. At Beaconsfield, he joined TV, radio and print journalists who descended upon the small mining town a week ago for round-the-clock coverage of the rescue. Of a similar media scrum in Bali around Schapelle Corby he said the media beat up stories, then took the moral high ground about the coverage. “The truth is, it was a circus and we all played a part in making it so.”

Hutchinson, a trauma psychiatrist, argues that, “for competitive reasons, television stations direct and format their crisis coverage to engage what’s been labeled the ‘emergency attention system.’ This system involves an intense focus accompanied by fight, flight, or freeze responses” (cited in Fischoff). But such situations also raise questions about the effect of increased levels of stress and demands for urgency on journalists, and about their ability to manage these on a personal level. Thus there is a larger question relating to the greater mobility of journalists, the instantaneous production of news and its transmission via more mobile communications technology. It may be that these forces collectively, along with traditional stresses and pressure for efficiency, contribute significantly to the sense of anxiety in the media, and in society more generally. The consequences for citizen journalists who may put themselves at risk, without the benefit of training or any form of support, insurance or protection from liability, have yet to be fully recognised, let alone assessed, but are likely to be ignored until some hapless, aspiring foreign correspondent is killed or maimed trying to deliver a report.

It is increasingly apparent that journalists are vulnerable to the effects flowing from the greater mobility of communication and the intensification of work practices that accompany it. The need to be competent in a variety of news delivery modes (print, radio, television, online, mobile) can place journalists under considerable pressure, increasing the level of stress and anxiety that they experience at work.

Additionally, constantly evolving delivery systems mean constantly changing competencies are required with implications for professional development, education and training as convergence increases. For example, interviews conducted in the field are required to be edited and uploaded quickly on to websites, photographs must be cropped and uploaded and for the sake of speed, frequently articles are required to be published or broadcast without the supportive filter of informed and knowledgeable fact-checkers and sub-editors (Snowden).

Individual media professionals tend to regard the use of mobile communications technology as a powerful enabling technology (Snowden) that provides enhanced autonomy and self-directedness, which are highly valued social qualities. However, others find the requirements onerous, challenging and even traumatic. Of particular importance for the profession is the tendency for the qualities of autonomous operation to translate into increasing numbers of ‘sole agents’ as freelancers or self-employed media workers, who are responsible for their own occupational health and well-being, training and ethical practice. This rise in the positioning of media professionals as independent contract workers has been reported by the International Federation of Journalists, which argues that:

in a changing media landscape the use of freelance work in journalism is dramatically increasing. The ‘golden age’ of the traditional reporter ‘embedded’ in a secure and stable working environment is being gradually replaced by a new work form in which journalistic work or content production is increasingly out-sourced by media employers … in several countries, freelancing is by now the major work form in journalism. (Nies and Pedersini)

Alongside changes in the use and application of technology by the media there are significant changes in the industrial organisation of media professionals, and in their terms and conditions of employment. The consequences for the media require detailed analysis, especially of the increasing conflict between individual and corporate responsibilities as journalists use more mobile communications technologies to increase their productivity.

Increasing insecurity and uncertainty within media organisations, and competition for contract and freelance work in the independent media workforce, contrast starkly with representations of contemporary media professionals as independent free agents able to perform ‘anywhere, anytime’ with the assistance of mobile communications technology. “The search for a new collective identity” (Høyer and Lauk 1) by reconstituted media professionals in an era marked by significant developments in communications technology, is a considerable task, especially given the traditional, albeit self-appointed, task of the media as a gate-keeper and scrutineer of authority and all forms of institutional power. The elevation of stress and anxiety in the workplace and the increased exposure to trauma, are perhaps a potent, and toxic combination which taints news with an increased sense of urgency and heightened anxiety.

Yet, there are clear consequences for journalists in both experiencing and contributing to a heightened sense of anxiety and trauma, as reflected in the rising incidents of violence against journalists (International Federation of Journalists). Anthony Feinstein has also studied the long-term consequences of exposure to trauma on some journalists. In many respects, there is a cyclical pattern that follows the introduction of new communications technology into the media, which leads to new practices that intensify old processes and practices, increasing stress and anxiety among journalists, which is then reflected in the news process and news content. One of the key differences between the development of mobile communications technologies and previous technologies is that these effects will also be experienced, often in isolation, by the emerging population of ‘citizen journalists’.

Author Biographies

Collette Snowden


Kerry Green