Conference Paper

A focus on exposure: Potentially traumatic events and the psychological implications for TV news camera operators

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Abstract

TV news camera operators are exposed first-hand to the emotional and visceral experience of filming individuals and communities in times of adversity and disaster. Despite this, there are currently no empirical studies focusing on camera operators’ psychological well-being or trauma exposure. This study explored what it is like to cover potentially traumatic events (PTEs) as a television (TV) news camera operator, and the psychological implications of this work. An online quantitative questionnaire was completed by both camera operators and other TV news workers (n = 134). The questionnaire included measures assessing demographics, professional and personal trauma exposure, and trauma reactions. The findings suggest that a high proportion of professionals currently working in the TV news industry could exceed clinical cut-offs for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Camera operators are not only exposed to as many PTEs as other news workers, they also experience elevated levels of psychological distress equivalent to that of other news workers. The findings of this study serve to raise the status of the psychological implications of journalistic work for TV news camera operators. Previous trauma exposure and reactions research in journalist samples posits that reporters are an at-risk population and worthy of increased industry support and further research. Therefore, the finding that camera operators and other TV news workers have comparable levels of trauma exposure and trauma reactions makes camera operators a noteworthy population by association. Hence, camera operators are equally as deserving of acknowledgement in terms of the potential psychological risks and implications of their work, as well as the accompanying support and research interest.

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