Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reporting an Occupational Hazard

It's tough to practice journalism in China -- as media is state controlled, and most reporters are not properly trained. I've heard that if they do go to journalism school, most of what they learn is theory rather than actual situations.

So perhaps it is a shock to their system when aspiring journalists enter the field and find it much tougher than they expected.

There are now concerns that journalism could be an occupational hazard after a 28-year-old anchorwoman from Zhejiang Province died last Wednesday while on a business trip in Shanghai.

While the TV station she worked for, Zhejiang Satellite Television denied Liang Wei, dubbed "the iron woman" died due to a heavy workload, her colleagues felt the job caused Liang to suffer from chronic fatigue.

"She worked very hard, always thinking about her job," an unnamed colleague said. "Her abrupt death reminds us that we journalists, who work under high stress, have to pay closer attention to our health."

Her death follows that of famed CCTV anchorman Lou Jing, who died of cancer in June. He was 48.

A reporter, Cai Jingxin from Guangzhou Television Station said the public doesn't understand the tough work conditions journalists go through on a daily basis.

"It's an admirable yet tough job. We're on edge because we always have to get ready for breaking news and our viewers have no idea how hard we work on a story," Cai says.

A survey of more than 460 Zhejiang Province journalists by the Wenzhou Journalist Association in July said 90 percent said they suffered from physical and mental fatigue. Cub reporters are more likely to develop cardiovascular or digestive problems due to overwork, erratic schedules and stress. The report also found journalists work on average 10 hours a day, and one-third suffer from insomnia.

Half of those surveyed regularly had headaches, or shoulder or neck pains, and nearly the same number admitting to anxiety and depression.

In 2005, the General Administration of Press and Publication said there were 700,000 journalists in China so that's a lot of people walking around either with pains, insomnia or depression.

Competition in media is a given, as good journalists are hungry for a good story. But it's quite interesting to hear reporters here complain about the stress of competing for a scoop as media is state-controlled here. The government is the one that determines what stories and issues are covered, not the news outlets. It's the few good reporters who get into trouble trying to go beyond boundaries and then suffer the consequences of their actions. That kind of stress and physical ailments I can understand.

So if your only stress is trying to beat the clock in time for broadcasts, then the work flow of the organization needs fixing to make things more efficient. With better technology too, there should be no excuse not to be able to file a story in on time.

Or are all journalists in China slobs who don't look after their health at all?

1 comment:

gung said...

there is stress in every walk of life. being in journalism is one of the more heavily stressed. this is due to the dead line on time. in china there is added concern of political issues. saddened to hear the untimely death of the young reporters. also need to grief the unreasonable prosecution of the reporters on the crappy buildings and the subsequent suffering of the people in szechuan after the quake.