Resilience. It’s a quality familiar to many journalists. The ability to process hardship — whether personal, professional or both — and rebound stronger.
But sometimes even the most resilient can struggle, especially right now.
Here are three ways journalists can strengthen resilience on the job.
1. Write everything down. During a Journalism Institute conversation about resilience and community, author Connie Schultz offered the following advice.
Schultz: If you’ve never kept a journal, I recommend it now. The process of writing helps us figure out what we’re feeling and thinking in the moment. I’ve often said when I’m working on my columns, I’m not quite sure how I feel until I’m in the process of writing them. Because I have to articulate and I have to narrow down exactly what I think matters in the moment. …
Who tells this history? Who will be the storytellers this time? We may think we’ll never forget this moment. We’ll remember the history of it, but we won’t always remember how we felt in that moment. … It’s coming at you so fast. … It’s so unpredictable day-by-day what’s happening and taking those notes helps us make sense of this.
2. Support your colleagues. Remote work can be isolating, said McClatchy Southeast regional editor Robyn Tomlin, who emphasized the importance of community building during a Journalism Institute program on resilient leadership.
Tomlin: There’s three buckets that I think about in terms of building resiliency, especially in what we’re going through right now where we’re working remotely. It’s very difficult to replicate some of the different ways that we interact with each other. One of those is around communication, making sure that we are communicating frequently, clearly in all the channels that we need to, and that people know what we expect, what we need, what we want from them and what we want for them.
The second is in building community, making sure that we all are collaborating, working well as a team, and have each other’s backs. And I think that that’s an important element.
Then the third is around caring. That is everything from checking in with people as individuals to ensuring that we’re doing things like building fun even into these weird environments. … Trying to find ways to make sure that not only that people understand that we care about their work that we care about them as individuals, and that we’re there for each other.
3. Tell the story of how you’re trying. We recently interviewed The University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth on how journalists can pass along grittiness and determination to their children during times of stress. She mentioned honesty as a path toward resiliency.
Duckworth: I don’t want to give trivial examples in a very nontrivial time, but say there is a parent who’s been unable to really focus and get work done and is increasingly stressed out. I think it’s okay to say to your kids, ‘Hey, I’ve really struggled to be productive and to stay focused. My mind’s in a million places, and I asked my friend, and she had this idea, and now what I do is I really just try to take the first hour, and have this whatever it is that you’re doing.’
I think you are modeling a resilient response that isn’t perfect but you’re just telling the story of how you’re trying, and always emphasizing what you learned.