Fender benders, house fires, shootings…the same stories over and over and you find yourself unable to motivate yourself beyond the bare minimum of slapping some video on a timeline and sending it to the server. Or you are a MMJ who mainlines caffeine while wearing multiple hats to turn stories for 2-3 newscasts by yourself and are starting to hate your job with the passion you once had for loving it.
Burn out. It’s a real risk even if you don’t see it in yourself. Some advice from your fellow journos on how they fight it:
James E.: “I think the best way to avoid Book Burn Out is to work at a level and produce stories daily that you would want to show in Book. Yoyoing talent breeds inconsistancy.”
Dan G.: “Find stories worth telling, that you want to tell. It may mean digging deeper and expending more effort searching, but when there’s a great story in front of you I think every reporter or photographer salavates and feels that rejuvinating rush again.”
Katrina G.: “I agree with all of the above… but if that’s not possible (for whatever reason)… physical exercise is a good stress reliever and making time for something other than work, helps reset the mind (glass of wine and a good movie, dinner with friends, etc).”
Rick P: “If you’ve been in the business any amount of time, you’ve shot about every story you’re going to shoot. And if you’re lucky, you’ve done it well a time or two. Those are the stories I hate telling the most. What new can you do with the traffic story? Or the city council plan to raise sewer rates? They are the stories I hate most, and the ones the Assignment Desk takes particular delight in assigning me. I fight the temptation of cruising through these stories by getting mad! Anger seems to bring out the best in me. It drives me to look harder for a new angle, a new way to tell the story, something I missed the other 300 times I did the story. And it almost always delivers results.
As for an empty tank during ratings, I find a table surrounded by like-minded shooters and a bottle of bourbon usually does the trick.”
Mike S.: “Something something, “…great vengeance and FURIOUS anger…!” I learned it by watching you!
One of the best mid-day redirects I turned started with about 15 minutes of being angry, then about 60 minutes of pure luck. Thankfully I was working with a great reporter.
Get mad, then get over it and work. If you waste too much energy on it, it becomes counter-productive. Or you can do what I did and jump out.”
Kevin E.: “Be happy with the little victories. You can’t expect to hit a home run every day, but at least doing some little thing to make a story or live shot better will give you something to cling to during those dark days. You’re doing the story no matter what… so find a way to be as creative as possible in the limited time available. And on the days when it all goes to Sh!t, make sure to have a good lunch!!”
James E.: “Exactly all you should be focusing on is the story at hand that you’re assigned to and doing all the things you know you should, then when you find the right place and time, you add something that makes the story stand out. Sometimes that will happen and sometimes not, but we are not in this business to never do the same basic story repeatedly, we are here to tell each story as it is, uniquely, because no matter how similar it is to the last 200 traffic stories, there WILL be something different. When you waork with a reporter use the second point of view to find those differences.”
Derek J.: “In my newsroom, we have a “quiet room.” It’s something I started and if you need to take 20 minutes, go sit in the room and breathe. Listen to some music, spray your favorite scent, punch a pillow, scream in the pillow, or call mom.
I’d rather have someone take 20 minutes than lose them the rest of the day because I had to send them home.”
Chris V.: “I spent a summer of my life working for minimum wage at blockbuster video. Periodically, creepy men would come in and ask me for the “adult” section. I would politely tell them that we were, in fact, inside a Blockbuster video. The next summer I painted homes. One summer, I washed dishes. At one point during that job I dropped a bowl full of guacamole onto the floor and watched as the green goop exploded onto a woman’s fur coat. I think she wanted to murder me.
I only bring that up, because today, many years later, I get paid to write and craft and generally produce stories that occasionally make a difference in someone’s life. Someone actually hired me to do this.
I still can’t fully believe it. So, when the burden of sweeps has fallen upon us once again, I find it best to remind myself of two things:
1.) There are a million other jobs out there that totally suck compared to this
2.) Nothing gets guacamole out of fur. Nothing.”
John G.: “From my experience, news directors and producers often assign sweeps stories based on whatever they think the public won’t turn away from, regardless of it’s actual news value. It is this kind of thinking that causes reporter burnout. One way to combat this is to turn the story assignment into a quest for interesting, compelling CHARACTERS to tell the story or somehow fit the topic. Great characters make our job a lot easier, and it’s more fun to look for a person than try to look for an angle and then make the story fit. My mantra for this process was always, “Find a character, find the story.” Hope this helps.”
Peg A.: “it’s been awhile for me, but when I was tired and frustrated I concentrated on simply making very very good images and sequences. I framed every shot and thought – “someone is paying you to make images – you have wanted to do this since you were 10 years old – you are a photographer!” I know – corny, but I had to remind myself that at its core I really loved my job.”
Seth V.: “Nothing a round of golf won’t usually cure for me, fortunately. I can always put a face on that tiny white ball if I need to”
In the end, if nothing is helping and you truly need someone to talk to who understands, there’s always (855) 9-JOURNO.
Have any other tips for fighting burnout for your colleagues? Feel free to use the comment box below with them or on the thread in Storytellers.