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Faster pace, higher workload, fewer staff: A new study shows that the current transformation in journalism is leading to even greater stress and worries about the future among employees.

“What I remember most impressively was the portrayal of a young print journalist. She said that she now hates writing – which for her was the best thing about journalism – because she has to do so many things on the side,” says Rainer Nübel. He is co-author of the study “Work Pressure – Adaptation – Exit. How journalists experience the transformation of the media” by the Otto-Brenner-Foundation.

Together with his colleagues Burkhard Schmidt, Simon Mack and Daniel Rölle, he examined the consequences of digital change, the economic crisis – and the associated staff cutbacks – and the loss of trust in the media for journalists. “My main motivation was to ask: What do the media do with their makers?” says Nübel.

To do this, he and his team conducted interviews with 20 full-time journalists from print, radio, TV and digital media. When selecting the respondents, they made sure to reflect the structure of the industry as faithfully as possible: the average age of the respondents was just under 48 years, slightly above the average of 46 years. Eight people were female. Three out of 20 respondents, all male, held managerial positions. Based on the results of the discussions, the researchers also developed an online survey in which around 160 people took part.

Both studies show that the already great pressure on journalists is increasing as a result of the transformation in the German media industry. According to Nübel, one reason for this is the digital transformation, “which has changed the job profile and increased work intensification”. At the same time, the economic crisis is a problem for the private media, which has resulted in staff savings due to lower sales and advertising revenues. “And as if that weren’t enough, there is also the aspect of the loss of trust in the media in parts of the population, which journalists also perceive as such,” says Nübel.

All of these challenges triggered negative feelings such as frustration, insecurity and fears about job security among the study participants. Two-thirds of those surveyed online stated that they “feel tired even before work and that the stress of work is unbearable”. In particular, those surveyed between the ages of 30 and 40 would increasingly think about quitting their job.

Although the results sound alarming, it is questionable how representative they are in terms of the selection and number of interviewees. Nübel therefore emphasizes: “Our study is a pilot study, a start. You have to go deeper now and ask what coping strategies journalists can work out together with management to improve their sensitivities.”

The German Association of Journalists (DJV) makes a similar statement about the results of the study. “Today, the radical austerity policies of media companies are taking revenge in their editorial offices,” says Frank Überall. From the perspective of the DJV chairman, the personnel managers of broadcasters and publishers should make greater efforts to reduce the work pressure and to accompany journalists professionally through the digital change.