Addressing burnout in journalism means flexible shifts, more supportive culture

A recent large-scale survey from the Reynolds Journalism Institute and SmithGeiger explores responses from 1,140 active and former journalists.

March 20, 2024

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, in partnership with research firm SmithGeiger, recently released the results of one of the largest surveys ever conducted on burnout in the journalism industry.

“Honest, direct feedback about what it’s like to work in journalism translates to solutions that are grounded in reality,” said Randy Picht, executive director of RJI. “That’s the only way to move the needle, and that’s exactly what we got from this survey.”

Amid widespread pessimism (44% of respondents were pessimistic about the state of the industry, rising to 56% in southern regions), the vast majority of respondents agreed that greater flexibility in scheduling and work-from-home options are needed.

While some options, like a four-day work week (supported by 90% of current journalists and newsroom managers surveyed), might be more challenging for news organizations facing financial and staffing squeezes, others — like hybrid shifts that allow employees to complete their work from a combination of in-office and at-home work, or flexible scheduling that is more accommodating of life outside of work — could be implemented more easily.

“In a media landscape marked by uncertainty, SmithGeiger researchers wanted to explore viable journalism burnout solutions that balance professional and personal success,” said Andrew Finlayson, executive vice president of digital media strategies at SmithGeiger. “Journalism cannot thrive unless journalists can keep the passion for their important work.”

To that end, the results offered plenty of reason to believe journalists are willing to stick around if they feel heard. Ninety-one percent of current professionals agreed with the statement, “I love what I do.”

Read more from the Reynolds Journalism Institute

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