From ACP: Newsroom Toast part 2 – How do you stop burnout?

Vince Filak is the media adviser for The Advance-Titan at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He also teaches writing and editing courses and does research at the university.

Part 2: How do we stop the burnout? 

You’re exhausted. You’re falling behind in your classes. You aren’t sleeping. You’re stressed out to the max. I can tell you one thing — you aren’t the only one feeling that you can’t catch up or get ahead. We’re all students and we all have other time-consuming obligations outside of The Shorthorn. It’s hard to remember that when you’re stressed out about deadline or editing or making sure each of your photos have thorough cutlines before you have to go to work at your other job.

Not to worry. There’s hope for us yet.

The best way to battle stress and burnout is to take care of yourself. “You can’t accomplish anything if you’re sick or dead. It cuts into productivity.” Jokes aside, here are some ways to help with the burnout:

  • Coping techniques: daily exercise, regular meals, sleep, personal interests outside of the newsroom.
    • Yes, you read that right. All of these things are important, but the one that stuck out to me the most was ‘get out of the newsroom.’ We spend a lot of time together. It’s ok to not do everything together all the time. Something to note — going out with your work friends and complaining or talking about work doesn’t qualify as “interests outside of the newsroom.”
  • If you aren’t sleeping, you should probably go see someone about it. You need to be able to shut your mind off, and therapy is one way to figure out how to do that. People can’t function when they aren’t sleeping.
    • Sleep at home. Napping in the newsroom or your car or wherever isn’t good for you (or your health).
  • Find your simple pleasures and don’t forget about them. If you like to go on walks or look at pictures of dogs, do those things in small increments.

Additional tips for stopping and preventing the burnout:

  • Are you in a leadership role? Your staff can work without you if you need to leave. Just communicate with them and check in if you need to. Once you get the stuff rolling you figure out who you can trust.
    • The speaker told this story of a huge breaking news day where he was left in charge. Someone had died in a plane crash, and when the executive editor called in to see what was going on the speaker said “Well, aren’t you going to come in?” The editor responded with, “Why would I do that when I’ve got you?” And hung up. The speaker said that was the best thing to happen to him as a leader because that gave him the chance to grow.
  • You have to learn what you care about —save the screamers (a dramatic style of headline) for when they matter. If you care deeply about every tiny thing, you will exhaust yourself.
  • “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
  • Find the little problems and solve them quickly.
  • Remember why you did this in the first place.
    • You’ve done some good stuff; you just have to remember it.
    • Keep a tally or a list of small things you are proud of to look back on in stressful times.

At the end of the session, Filak opened the floor for some questions. These were the ones that stuck out the most to me.

Q: What happens if your numbers on the survey are extremely high?

A: Not all things are irreversible, but you’ll have to treat yourself better. If you love the paper/your job more than anything, find where you have outside stress and get rid of that. Having some stress is fine, but you want to be able to appropriately manage the stress the paper will cause you.

Q: How do you prevent an eager staff from burning out?

A: Really keep people in the newsroom. That’s the best/only way to keep the atmosphere. When you are connected to the people you don’t want to let them down.

All in all, burnout really sucks. I hope that we can incorporate some of these tips into our work and daily schedules. The most important thing I learned about burnout is that the best way to avoid it is to treat yo’self in small ways throughout the day.




This entry was posted in Training by Anna Gutierrez. Bookmark the permalink.

About Anna Gutierrez

Anna is a First Amendment advocate who does digital communications for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She graduated from UT-Arlington in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies, with a focus on organizational communication. She was editor-in-chief of The Shorthorn UTA's student-run multiplatform news agency. Anna loves planners, pineapples and all things Texas.

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