Trauma and TV news workers with Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald

Trauma and TV news workers with Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald

This episode focuses on Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald’s research in trauma exposure and mental health in TV news workers. We discuss how camera operators and reporters have different kinds of trauma experiences, the importance of social support, substance use, and symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:08):
Hello and welcome to this episode of Psych Attack. I'm Dr. Jasmine B. MacDonald, and today I talk about my own research in trauma and TV news workers with guest host Dr. Gabriel Tillman. I hope you're going well and have settled in with a warm cup of tea.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:27):
Hey Gabe, how's everything going?

Dr Gabriel Tillman (00:29):
Hey Jazz. It's good to see you again.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:31):
Yeah, so you, you were on Psych Attack in June, 2020, uh, when we had a chat about your work in mathematical psychology. Um, so welcome back to the show, but this time as a guest co-host.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (00:43):
Exactly. Trying out my first time as a host of a podcast and the first time I was on psych attack was my first time on a podcast as a guest. So a lot of firsts.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (00:53):
Nice. Today we're trying something new. Uh, this episode is all about my own area of expertise, which is the psychological implications of journalistic work. And Gabe's going to be asking the questions this time.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (01:06):
Yeah. So I'll try it from this end. I guess the interesting thing about us is that we worked together for a while and I guess we taught together and we did things like that that are all part of the academic world. But it wasn't until you started this podcast that you were like, Well, wait, wait a minute. What do you do for research? And what's all this other stuff that happens in your life? I could say the same about you. We did a lot of teaching and stuff like that together, but I didn't know a whole lot about the research you were doing. And so, you know, I'm here to put it back on you and find out more about what you have been doing before we get into your expertise and interests. Maybe we should start almost like what happened before we met each other really. Cause we met each other at that teaching junction. You know, what is your training and, you know, how did you get into what you're doing now, which is psychology, I guess we could kind of call it in that field. Yeah,

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (01:55):
Yeah, yeah. Totally. I think I, I tend to identify as a social scientist with sometimes incorporating, you know, behavioral scientists kind of thing because I actually did my undergrad in social work psychology and sociology. So I did this double [degree], um, in social work and psych mostly cuz I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do afterwards, but I thought it would be something clinical or therapeutic. And so I kind of giggled when you were saying that in, in the episode when we talked about your stuff, starting thinking you were gonna do therapeutic stuff and then, you know, um, it didn't end up being the thing that was most exciting for you. I found that the kind of thing that was most exciting was reading research and theory and the research subjects that I did in sociology. We had that in undergrad in a different way to what, what psychology had.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (02:45):
Mm-hmm. .

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (02:45):
And I was like, Hey, actually I, I, I used to sit in class and think, I'm pretty sure I could do this job. I'm pretty sure I could show up every day, talk to intellectual people, smart people about stuff That's super interesting, like psychology. But yeah, I actually, uh, thought I would be a journalist or an actress.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (03:03):
Mm-hmm. ,

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (03:03):
I went through school doing mostly like music, drama, um, creative arts kinds of things. And I guess that is, you know, you see that creativity coming out in putting the podcast together. Uh, but my mom had a friend who'd studied psychology and she was like doing a clear out of her books and stuff and dropped over this introductory psychology textbook and I found the chapter on sensation and perception and I was just like, this is the coolest thing. This is the most interesting thing, like abnormal psychology and mental health, which is a lot of the research that I do. It's fascinating, but it's kind of those things about psychology that are more like those shared experiences or where we have a "healthy" brain that does weird stuff like happens in sensation and perception. I just thought that was really fascinating.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (03:53):
Yeah. And it's sort of like once you start learning those facts, you realize that they're about you, that and the people that you know, and those are the things that it applies to, you know? Um,

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (04:04):
Yeah, exactly. And thinking about, you know, the kinds of films or music that I enjoyed and the way that those mediums made use of, you know, different perceptual tricks or, um, strategies and, and that was really cool. Like, I think the first thing, kind of a sad origin story, but the thing that excited me most was, I think it's the phi phenomena. It could be phi [pronounces differently]. It's p h i, and it's those lights, you know, like at, at a a US style cinema where the, the lights light up consecutively in an order and it, it makes it look like it's moving, but they're just lighting up one by one.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (04:39):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (04:39):
And that was the moment I was like, "Yes, psychology".

Dr Gabriel Tillman (04:42):
Psychology for you. There is a, a junction there though. So you've, you've gone from psychology to at some point teaching and doing academia and doing research. What, what sort of happened to get you into that research realm and academic, I guess?

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (04:56):
Yeah. Well in my social work training we had to do placements. At the time you had to do, uh, one research placement and one, you know, practical client facing placement. I kind of just really loved the research part a lot and I got really frustrated about certain things when I was, you know, doing practical experience in mental health around the changes that I couldn't make necessarily if I just went in at the ground level with a qualification, you know?

Dr Gabriel Tillman (05:25):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (05:25):
So, um, I like problematizing things and thinking abstractly and zooming in and out. I guess I also am a little bit of a planner and a, and like control. So the idea of running my own projects was really exciting for me as well.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (05:39):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (05:39):
Just kind of ran with that, went through honors. I did it in social work, not psychology only because it was integrated and that meant in my last year of study, cuz that that undergrad three majors took five years.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (05:50):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (05:51):
With placements. Yeah. I did my honors in social work and had it integrated and then yeah, went straight into a PhD and I kind of did like little bits and pieces as well in like volunteering for Headspace. I did a research, it was like a mental health research role with a place called Riverina Bluebell.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (06:08):
Mm-hmm .

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (06:09):
Um, and they were all about setting up an online, uh, like a website that would have all the resources and links to support for people in regional New South Wales, so around the Wagga area. And it was mostly targeted for like farmers and like people living in rural and remote areas so that if they came into Wagga or surrounding areas, they would know what resources to access. So yeah, that kind of got me interested in, you know, how do you integrate an interest in research and mental health theory, but also make sure that it's something that's really applied so that you've got the specific group of people in mind that you're always kind of coming back to. So yeah, I started at Charles Sturt Uni, my academic career there as the beauty of being at a regional university is you do your PhD there and you get to teach almost everything . Cause it's like...

Dr Gabriel Tillman (06:57):
You're it.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (06:59):
These, there's all these openings and you know, loved loved the team there but had always grown up in a regional area. Um, so wanted to branch out.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (07:08):
Mm-hmm. .

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (07:08):
Um, and yeah, I went to Sydney where we worked together at Australian College of Applied Psychology and then from there to Melbourne where I am now.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (07:17):
Yeah, wow.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (07:17):
Um, and so yeah, until now all academic jobs teaching and doing research, uh, and supervising students. But now I'm moving into a government role, with the Australian Institute of Family Studies and doing a, a research focused position with them.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (07:31):
It's an amazing way to think about it. Just kind of staring down the barrel of actress, social worker, researcher. And then after all these things considered you've, you're in the researcher pool, who would've thought.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (07:44):
? And like, the honest thought that I had when I was applying for these different courses was do I go to uni and study, like acting for stage and screen And because actually CSU has had a really, really good program and I was like, I'll probably be more likely to get a job and be able to feed myself if I do psychology or social work. So I was like, I was like, you can, you could surely dabble in acting but you can't kind of dabble in psychology.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (08:12):
You're like, I'm taking the safe bet . So that's a very interesting story. So like a lot of that I didn't know, this is like the beauty of kind of doing this is how much you find out about each other. So we've kind of painted the picture now that you're, you're in research where you do a lot of your research in sort of this area that involves trauma and news teams in particular camera operators and that sort of thing. And so we kind of need to set the scene here a little bit. What is this research area? Cause I've never really read about it before until reading up on what you've done on it.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (08:43):
Yeah, so the area I'm most excited about is journalists, but through, you know, broader research and supervision and collaborations and stuff, it's kind of turned into this occupational stress and trauma in groups that I like to refer to as socially invisible.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (08:59):
Mm-hmm. .

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (09:00):
So not if you said, you know, what's a role where people are exposed to trauma, People think police, they think of other emergency responders. That research is is super important and those roles are so important. But yeah, I just got really excited about this idea of, you know, camera operators in particular filming news and you never actually visually see them and if they're doing their job well you won't even think about them being there. Well one of the camera operators said to me, I was interviewing him around trauma stuff and I said, you know, you know, we don't even think about this. And he was like "Jasmine, that's cuz I'm doing my job right." You know, .

Dr Gabriel Tillman (09:36):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (09:36):
"I don't want you to think about the person behind the camera." I guess it's all about trauma exposure, the kinds of things people might come across in terms of what we refer to as potentially traumatic events. So in general conversation in the general population, people refer to trauma and, and burnout as well, which is another area I'm interested in. Just like the, they're just everyday words, but they, it's quite, you know, specific what a traumatic experience is or, or what burnout is. Um, so we talk about potentially traumatic events. Not all people who are exposed to a single event are gonna find that impactful or distressing for them. There's a range of pre-, peri-, and post-trauma exposure factors that make an individual more or less likely to have a negative reaction or become psychologically distressed after being exposed to an event.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (10:24):
So this area I got interested in just by chance. My husband as well is a software designer. So he used to work in this space where a bunch of creatives would come and go. And one of the people that I met through that did freelance work for local TV networks.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (10:40):
Mm-hmm. .

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (10:41):
And I'd ran into him one day and I... this is like the token Jasmine smile like, "Hey, how you going?" That's like , you know, um, me being all bubbly. And he, he wasn't okay. And he said to me, you know, "I actually just...", as in he wasn't himself, you know, he wasn't like really distressed but I could tell he wasn't quite right.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (10:59):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (11:00):
And he said, uh, there was a car accident at one of the local schools where this kid who would've been about 15 or 16 was on a skateboard and his friends were pulling him along, like holding a rope, skateboard surfing behind this car. And he fell under the car and was killed. And so this guy that I know got a phone call from one of the local networks and got asked to head to the school, take his camera and shoot what was happening. But there wasn't a brief, there wasn't a, "Hey this has happened, prepare for um, distressed kids prepare for distressed, or young people, prepare for distressed teachers, family." He just kind of gets there and has to work it out. And then he's got kids as well, you know?

Dr Gabriel Tillman (11:40):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (11:40):
So like that, it's not like he's gone away to film something, this is in his community. I was just kind of really spun out by this. I was thinking to myself, how do we know what we know about trauma and stress and not kind of have someone prepared before they go into that situation? And I was saying to him, "Did you at least get a bit of a debrief when you got back to the office?" And he just, I'll never forget the laugh, it was like, oh how naive. Like he, he didn't say that and he's a very kind person. It was just the realities of that industry that he found himself in a commercial news network. And then he proceeded to tell me all these stories of potentially traumatic events that he'd seen just in Wagga, and events that never made it to the news. But he still had to go film it and a decision is made later. Is this something that a grandma could sit at home eating her dinner and and watch at the same time? You know, is it too gory? But camera operators go out and film this stuff and we don't put a lot of thought into that. And so I kind of got really excited about like, everything I knew from psychology and social work and the helping professions in a medical context of burnout and self-care and impacts of trauma exposure. And this is a group I never thought of, even though I consume news cuz we all consume news, you know, all the time. Even when you're trying really hard not to. It's, it's always around.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (13:01):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (13:01):
That got me started on, on this area and thinking about "Cool. So what might be the difference between camera operators and other kinds of journalists?" Cuz at the time, uh, a lots of people looking at foreign correspondents and what it was like for them covering conflict and when it was domestic news, it was a lot of all these different roles bunched together called 'journalist'.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (13:21):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (13:22):
Or focused on reporter. And that makes sense, right? Cuz that's who you see on the tv. Um, they kind of got a lot of the attention.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (13:28):
Yeah. And a, a lot of the time I guess that you've kind of paired that with the person saying, or the camera people that you're saying they're just, they're design, it's almost like their job's designed to make them invisible. And so why would anyone try and take, pay attention to them if the good camera people are the ones that are invisible. When you talk about these kind of, this context, so let's say we stick within the newsroom situation and you say that there's like a whole crew that could be exposed to these traumas. Like who are we talking about? Like is it just the reporter or who is the other, other team members?

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (14:01):
I kind of am influenced by that social psych thinking about relationships and groups of people. And so there weren't many papers before my work and I'm not sure since, um, that would talk about the crew, it would be journalists. But I think it's important to emphasize there's a lot of different roles that come together to put together a journalistic product. But we'll focus in on TV news, which could be, you know, the bulletin at the end of the day or the start of the day. But it could also be programs, you know, current affair programs.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (14:30):
Mm-hmm. .

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (14:31):
So one of the veteran reporters and then producers that I spoke to talked about the Rolls Royce version of a news crew. And that would be your camera operator, a separate sound recordist, your reporter and a producer. If you had those four go out on a story, which the current affair programs typically do, that's, that's a really solid crew. Um, more likely we're gonna see the camera operator doing the sound themselves. One of the things that I came across and wasn't aware of before this research is if you are thinking about a neoliberalist approach to business and having a news organization, the only person you need to send out is the camera operator.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (15:10):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (15:11):
Because the reporter could contact people later and do a piece-to-camera. They could do a voiceover from the office. You really need those images. It's not internet or TV based news if you don't have images. And lots of people would say in the industry, "if you don't have pictures, it didn't happen" while there's all these different roles. Oh, we also have things like editors, copy editors with newspapers. Yeah. So, and various managerial roles as well. Cause we have to remember like this content is filtered through in different ways. So for instance, you could have two people trained in camera work and one might actually go out into the field and record all day and they'll come back and bring the tapes, um, to the office and they won't edit their own work. They might have, um, someone in the edit suite who puts a tape in, doesn't know what they're gonna see. And then it could be some, you know, horrible car accident that's quite gory and they have to edit out the parts that wouldn't go to news along the process of putting a piece, uh, a journalistic product together. There's lots of different people in that, in that, um, kind of flow. But we will see more and more, you know, you, you'll see it when you put on news. Um, especially if it's a remote coverage like we've seen with Cleo Smith in the last couple of weeks where we don't have the Rolls Royce. We have often the one reporter who does both.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (16:27):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (16:28):
They might report and set a camera up and do whatever takes they need to do . Um, but yeah, people are more and more being pushed to kind of not specialize, but be able to do everything themselves, which has its own risks.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (16:41):
Yeah. And so we've got this sort of set out now, I guess, of a team. You know, you talked about the Rolls Royce of the team, but it, it definitely consists of different roles. There is roles within a news crew that potentially have different exposures to these traumatic events. Is that what we're kind of getting at is that there's different exposure frequencies or probabilities, I don't know how you would want to frame it.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (17:04):
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I think because of that interest in perceptual psychology from before I even started studying, I was thinking about the fact that camera operators are majoritively viewing through a lens.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (17:18):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (17:18):
And to get that content, you have to focus for longer, get closer and engage in a visual way that's different to a reporter. And now on the flip side, reporters for example, do a lot of interviewing and that the process for them may be less visual, but it's more kind of verbal and the communication skills are quite different. And so, you know, if you think about potentially anxiety symptoms or depressive symptoms, there's these different aspects of processing and sensory input in this job across those roles that might mean they have differences in their experiences. So yeah, when I was reading the literature, I did a series of five systematic lit reviews that took five years to get published. Just like, and to work through all this literature and all the different kinds of psychological distress journos can have. Yeah. It was just kind of grouping them all together. And I'm not a journalist so I spent some time doing ethnographic observation, which basically means I was like the unpaid unskilled like prac person who just followed them around and just observed. And I found these really like a lot of things that I expected around, you know, who needs to get close while the reporter might be talking to this person, the camera operator's getting up close to what the horrific content might be. So there's that, that kind of level of exposure difference. But there was also some really interesting organizational stuff and like pecking order stuff and um, these differences in the relationship of the, the dynamic I guess of what the camera operator is expected to do compared to the reporter that impacts their relationship. And so we know social support in terms of mental health is the most important thing. So a healthy outcome surely is gonna mean a team that's really cohesive and works together. But there's actually a lot about commercial news at least that sets up a pecking order, separates them and therefore can, can mean that they don't, um, kind of support each other and maybe not as resilient in the face of a traumatic experience.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (19:20):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (19:20):
Or they're sent out by themselves three o'clock in the morning to drive three or four hours to cover a car accident or something and then drive home all by themselves like ruminating on what they've just seen.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (19:32):
Yeah. And, and so maybe just to unpack that a little, there's this idea that we have camera operators that are exposed to these traumatic events disproportionately to say a producer or something like that. And then what's also seems to be apparent is that if someone's exposed to the trauma, like a camera operator, they also have disproportionate access to support. So not only are they seeing the trauma more often, they probably have less support from the news crew team, the people that are, you know, sitting in offices and the people that are in those other higher up positions.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (20:07):
This is coming from interviews with Australian reporters and camera operators. Um, this, these findings. But essentially the work that I've done kind of demonstrates, or what I was told by these participants is, uh, and, and actually observed. I'm trying to be really tentative, but yeah what you're saying is accurate there's separation, right. So it is physical. Camera operators typically aren't in, in the newsroom. So I remember going and observing this crew and just feeling so thankful that this organization had me there and "they're like, great, this can be your desk." And I'm looking around, I'm like, where the camera people, you know, where's the, the tech crew?

Dr Gabriel Tillman (20:47):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (20:48):
Um, cuz you gotta remember as well, like they're physically different when they're out in the field, they're more likely to drive the van and they're also carrying gear. So if you think about a hostile or dangerous situation, they stand out because of that as well. Um, there tends to be a little bit of a demographic difference and a dress code difference between reporters in the office and camera operators in the office.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (21:09):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (21:10):
I'm looking around and I don't see any camera operators and worked out. Okay. The newsroom typically is, you know, you have access to your chief of staff, the manager of the news room, and then you have usually the reporters there and the chief of staff most typically will be a reporter.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (21:27):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (21:27):
Um, but they, they could have a camera background, but it's more likely they'll have a reporting background and then you've got your camera crew often in the edit suite. In some metropolitan contexts, it's like the it crowd where they're literally in the basement.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (21:41):
. Yeah. I see.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (21:43):
So you have this physical separation, which couples with different kinds of training and the idea of, you know, um, the reporter is the talent. They're the one that most likely went to university, cuz camera work in TV traditionally was a, a trade. There's now lots of uni degrees where you're going become a videographer and do camera work. But there's this kind of difference of, uh, journalists or reporters being people who are like trying to make a difference, um, working on their communications style, use to arguing a point. So if they've got an issue in a newsroom, the chief of staff is gonna know about it. So whether that's mental health related or not, and then you've got this group of people who are like more inclined to be behind the camera, are physically separated and their manager isn't likely to have the background that they have. So, you know, from a social psych perspective and an organizational perspective, we just know that people are attracted to and relate to similar. So if you've got a manager with a similar background, you are likely to hear your, or see your concerns heard out in a different way.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (22:50):
Mm-hmm. and not relating as closely to the chief of staff could be an issue because that person probably has more power. Like, well they have a bit of power in the, in the, the business. Like, you know, they have, they talk to the people that are above them. They have, they have resources sort of at their fingertips as being chief of staff. So not being able to be linked to that person for a lot of the reasons you lined out is problematic.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (23:18):
Oh, definitely. Yeah. And we know what do you do when you wanna remember something or to pay attention to it, You put it in your line of sight, , you know.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (23:25):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (23:26):
It's almost like a toddler with objects permanence like .

Dr Gabriel Tillman (23:29):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (23:30):
This group of people, you know, are kind of behind the scenes even in the organization. And there were reporters and camera operators that were telling me this hierarchy and this divide can very much be reinforced by management and by chief of staff. And the times where they have on both roles have had a better experience is when they've worked under someone who gets the importance of the unique skills each role has and how it's important to work together and kind of have a, a cohesive group.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (23:59):
Mm. And so what, what do you think would be this disillusion of roles and, you know, say if you're a cameraman who's previously or camera woman that's previously in the basement so to speak, but now you're being asked to be the journalist and the camera person, is this sort of something that's going to start affecting these trends that you're noticing the fact that roles are combining and roles are having, you're having more than one hat, essentially. So maybe you do get to sit in the same room as the chief of staff?

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (24:29):
Yeah, I mean this is interesting. I think if that's happening within a network Yeah. Likely that would mean people are gonna gravitate towards, you know, a small, a smaller news team and a smaller space altogether. I think where we tend to see this happen more though is in those like outreach or satellite spaces. So you might have someone who isn't based metro or based where the major office is and they just do, they cover a certain geographic location and so it's just them. And they'll have their, their camera and audio set up and they'll, you know, write their own pieces and send it in and they're probably freelance.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (25:09):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (25:09):
And so they're expected to do more with less stability in their job and also, uh, you know, not the support of full-time ongoing work...

Dr Gabriel Tillman (25:18):
Mm-hmm. ,

New Speaker (25:18):
so all of that, if we think of stress diathesis, regardless of the fact that we have this group that's exposed to some really, like, honestly some really cool stuff. They, they have an awesome job. They get behind the scenes access to some really cool things...

Dr Gabriel Tillman (25:32):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (25:33):
But they also get exposed to a lot of unexpected distressing content. And then on top of that, burnout is a real thing. Stress and competition.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (25:43):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (25:43):
Um, because, you know, I, I talked to a lot of people who said, "Well, how could I possibly turn down doing this story or having to do more work when I know they could replace me so quickly?" It's, you know, a really competitive industry.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (25:56):
Mm. And what about sort of the loneliness aspect? You know, let's say you had a reporter and a camera person see a traumatic event, these sort of, that maybe that drive home where you could debrief with the, at least with the reporter, whereas the scenario that you're kind of painting here is potentially someone going out by themselves seeing a traumatic event and then having nothing but their own thoughts to kind of marinate in for days or who knows how long. And so what do you think the implications of that are?

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (26:26):
It's a really important point, Gabe. This whole idea of working individually like this one person crew is just problematic in a range of ways. Like, it doesn't lead to a better journalistic product because collaboration, share of skills. Someone's specializing in camera work while someone's specializing in, how do I tell this story? What questions do I ask? And, and even people saying stuff like, "I would also like pretend not to be filming while the person was being, you know, a little bit difficult or while we were talking to them". Like they'd have these strategies amongst each other to make even someone who's difficult to interview to work around that.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (27:03):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (27:03):
So the product's gonna be better, but that isolation aspect is really important in this area. It's important because any person who's working in an occupational context where they see the extremes of society, not all of us go and see murders, sexual assaults, you know, the outcomes of, or, or being in the midst of terrorist attacks or war and conflict, car accidents. Like we can't underestimate how impactful car accidents are on journalists that consistently came up.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (27:35):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (27:35):
If you're seeing this by yourself, you have all this adrenaline to get there and then you have all this time, you know, slowly to get back and ruminating on it and editing footage, they would talk to me about the importance of that ride back to the station in the van. And it wouldn't be, you know, like an emotional debrief. It would the ability to just go, Hey, that was a bit hard, that that was really rough.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (27:59):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (27:59):
Or whoa, that was ex, that escalated quickly, you know, to have your feelings and your experience validated and acknowledged as real by somebody else.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (28:09):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (28:09):
Is actually the most important, one of the most important factors in terms of a stress reaction after a traumatic experience. The interesting thing is that you could be a camera operator or a reporter who covers something by yourself and have a great social network of friends and things, but you are not gonna show up to a barbecue and say, "covered this really gruesome thing yesterday. I'm really bothered by this."

Dr Gabriel Tillman (28:32):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (28:33):
The people I interviewed were saying things to me like "I'm, I don't get invited to stuff anymore. The things I'm, I'm covering and wanna talk about, my friends don't wanna talk about it a picnic or a barbecue." So that isolation is, is real, you know, often having firsthand experiences, not just covering things secondhand so they're involved in the story somehow.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (28:53):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (28:53):
Uh, which makes it even harder. So to have to, to physically have that safety and that backup of having other people around you, um, is really important.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (29:01):
The thing that is, I found really interesting about your work though, is not only were you painting this picture where there's, you know, not that much support and they're exposed to these traumatic events, but that if you start to just compare them, you know, camera operators to the population or the general population, the actual prevalence of exposure to events in the workplace and even personal events is higher.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (29:24):
I am a pragmatist through and through and one of the things that I find most frustrating when I read a paper, especially when it's mental health related, and they're gonna report something like depressive symptoms, PTSD symptoms, you know, whatever it is, burnout.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (29:38):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (29:38):
If it's reported out of context, I just get so frustrated. .

Dr Gabriel Tillman (29:43):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (29:43):
So you can see that in my work and I, and when I'm working with other people, especially supervising, um, students, is cool. That's great. You have this cross-sectional data, you know, which means you've collected data from a group of people at a set point in time and we can see what's related, but we don't know what causes it. What we can do is say, Hey, what does it look like for fireys [fire fighters]? What does it look like for police? What about, um, so occupational groups that we might think are at elevated risk? And then we've got clinical groups, like in trauma, we would instantly go to veterans and we would instantly go to people who are survivors of sexual assault. Where do they fit? So maybe, you know, what we tend to see with journalists is elevated compared to the general population, the level of trauma exposure and their trauma reactions.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (30:29):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (30:30):
And reactions isn't just ptsd, it's depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, stress in general, burnout, and a really big one to consider is substance use.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (30:40):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (30:41):
Which historically has had an interesting context with journalists as well. .

Dr Gabriel Tillman (30:46):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (30:46):
And other occupational groups, . So yeah. When you compare domestic journalists to maybe journalists working in Mexico who have had their families, like there's a lot of corruption and they have had their families threatened those, those groups have elevated levels of distress compared to say domestic journalists in western industrialized countries. And then we can yeah, try to fit in and think in context, okay, these symptoms are elevated, the exposure is elevated, but in a practical sense, what does that mean? Because if you don't have that data and you can't put it in context, it's really hard to go to government or organizations and say, actually look where this group is. It's, it's problematic. And so I kind of started out by trying to demonstrate that camera operators in and of themselves are really important to look at. So even if I find that they're at the same level or higher, if at the same level as other groups, they warrant support, they warrant funding, they warrant, you know, being heard or considered in, in policy.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (31:44):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (31:45):
Um, so that contextualization is so important. And I guess that's why I don't just measure symptoms, but I do the qual [qualitative] work as well.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (31:53):
And it's sort of important in the sense that, you know, let's say we've made the statement that camera operators are exposed to traumatic events more often. They might be the kinds of people that don't mind that, you know, they got into the work saying, I want to be ex, well, not that they want to be exposed to that, but they have sort of the stomach to be able to be going to car crashes and going to these traumatic events. And so the fact that you've gotten this behavioral data or survey data that kind of says, well, not only are they exposed to these events, but there's actually measurements of their wellbeing that are elevated.

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (32:28):
Yeah, totally. So yeah, there's two points to that. And the first is, you know, looking at whether certain roles have elevated trauma and through the observation and, and interviews and all of this reading I was doing, I was so sure that camera operators were gonna have like massively higher rates of trauma exposure, but it actually remained pretty consistent across different news crew members. Um, reporters and camera operators might report quantitatively about the same levels of trauma, um, exposure. And even symptom-wise, there's not statistically significant difference, at least in my own work, between PTSD levels, depression, anxiety, or stress. The difference is how they're exposed. And as you said, that's where that aspect of, well who are they as people and maybe the kinds of differences we might have between someone who's attracted to camera work compared to being a reporter that might make that difference. And then organizational factors become important. And did they cover it by themselves or did they have social support?

Dr Gabriel Tillman (33:31):

Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald (33:31):
So totally talked to a heap of camera operators who were male in their early or later twenties or even early thirties who loved their work and were excited by it. The idea of going and chasing a bushfire to cover that, the idea of, you know, like being the first on a scene, all these things were really exciting to them when people experience guilt cognitions or some kind of moral disalignment with what they believe and how they act that can cause distress.

Dr Gabriel Tillman (34:05):

[The rest is under development]

Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)