Financial straits at U.S. newspapers continue to take their toll on jobs. It’s hard to know what to do — or say — when a furlough or layoff affects people you care about (yourself included).
In the last two weeks alone, Hawaii’s largest daily newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, said it will cut 29 newsroom positions by the end of this month. The San Jose Mercury News and the East Bay Times, both owned by the Bay Area Times in California, laid off newsroom staff. The New York Times cut 68 posts, most of them in advertising. And smaller papers across the country halted publication, laid off staff or simply closed, according to a grim tally kept by Poynter.
We asked the American Psychological Association for guidance on how to react to such a loss. Dr. C. Vaile Wright, senior director of Health Care Innovation, shared the following advice.
As with other industries, many journalists have been laid off or furloughed during this challenging time. What are some coping methods for them to use while they face this type of change?
Wright: Journalists, just like everyone else, need to be engaging in self-care, including getting enough sleep, eating healthy and staying active as much as we can. It’s critical to stay virtually connected with loved ones via text, phone, video chat or social media, and to engage in a variety of coping skills, such as meditating, baking, and journaling, while also maintaining a regular daily routine. Finally, give yourself permission to take breaks from the news and social media — yes, even journalists. Staying informed is important but be mindful of how often, when and what type of news/social media you are consuming.
Many journalists tend to feel a sense of duty and commitment to story. How can those who are not working (due to layoffs, furlough, or other circumstances) cope with the feeling of missing out on the stories of the century?
Wright: Many people are feeling a sense of grief or loss during this pandemic, whether it’s the loss of loved ones or the loss of milestones or opportunities. Acknowledge the grief and remember that it will not feel or be like this forever. Strong social support can help you cope with problems, improve your self-esteem and keep you emotionally grounded. Check in with your colleagues in the newsroom, just as you would if you were in the office together.
How can the peers, colleagues and partners of those sorting through a furlough or layoff help them during this time? How can they manage those difficult conversations?
Wright: The most critical thing people can do is just reach out to others, and ask “How are you doing?”. I think sometimes we hesitate to do that because we are worried about what we “should” say or feel like if we can’t “fix” their situation, then there isn’t any point. But people just want to be heard. Focus more on listening, rather than offering advice or counsel. Validate their feelings. But you also need to be in a good emotional spot yourself to be able to be there for someone else. Self-care is critical in order to be a good friend, colleague, or partner. If you have resources, you can also give your time and acts of service. Bring them a loaf of bread you baked. Offer to buy groceries for them for the week, etc.