A survey of WGA East members who work at ABC and CBS news operations has found that nearly half of those responding said that President Donald Trump’s constant attacks on the media have taken a toll on them. Trump, the most virulently anti-press president in modern American history, has called the “fake news” the “enemy of the American people” and “our country’s biggest enemy.”
“The current political climate is taking a toll on our broadcast members,” WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson wrote in a recent letter to the union’s members and council. “Although members who took the survey were almost evenly split on the question of whether President Trump’s attacks on journalism had an impact on them – 46% said ‘yes’ and 54% said ‘no’ – many wrote comments that suggest the environment has become more difficult.”
One respondent to the survey wrote, “I’ve encountered more people that seem to act aggressively towards journalists or ‘the media’ in general.”
Another commented: “Extremely upsetting personally to be attacked in your profession. And I think at times we’re treating things a little too gingerly – trying to equalize sides when in fact at times the balance is off.”
Said another, “It feels like more people are quick to scrutinize how we tell the news than before, even though our decisions are unbiased and fair.”
Those surveyed included news writers, writer-producers, graphic artists, assignment editors, desk assistants and others employed at the two networks’ news operations and at local television and radio affiliates.
The survey also found that broadcast news is not an easy place to work, even without Trump’s constant attacks. According to Peterson, “Two-thirds of the respondents said the 24/7 news cycle creates pressure to be fast, rather than thorough, and fully 60% said they experience burnout on the job. Nearly 73% said the rapid expansion of online news sources and new technologies have created a more demanding pace and expectations. Less than 24% said online news and technology have had an overall positive impact on their workplace.
One respondent wrote, “It’s increasingly hard to do a thorough job on stories with small amount of time devoted to issues.” Another complained of “increased demands, specifically on digital content, while [management is] reducing staff, without lessening existing demands for TV product.”
Members also were asked to describe the most negative aspects of their jobs – and the most positive. On the negative side, there were comments like these:
“The constant influx of news is exhausting. The current political climate can sometimes contribute to disrespect of journalists. Not enough time to tell the whole story.”
“Undervalued by employer. Unreasonable deadlines due to personnel cuts. Unreasonable demands because management doesn’t understand the skill set and technological knowledge needed to complete the job well.”
“The constant pressure. The increased number of jobs we’re expected to perform flawlessly. The lack of appreciation for the work performed.”
On the positive side, members cited:
“The people I work with, the fact that it is a union job, getting to write every day.”
“The work itself. The WGA health benefits. The fact that people get paid for overtime.”
“It’s a huge platform, well resourced (comparatively) and competitive. Great work environment; hard hitting news; free bagels on Friday.”