Everyone has had long workdays when wholesome nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle is lacking. Fatigue and stress plague these workdays, causing decreased performance in one’s career. For those in especially demanding careers, such as journalism, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is of particular importance. According to a new study, journalists show deficiencies in sustaining healthy lifestyles, causing a myriad of issues that carry over into their workplace. The health of journalists is undoubtedly important for Americans, as we strive for a free society empowered by knowledge and accountability.
According to a study by neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart, journalists have a subpar aptitude for analytical and creative thinking, multitasking, and regulation of biases and emotions. These results may be surprising, as journalists should be skilled in analyzing and reliably reporting significant information to share with the nation. Why are news reporters unskilled in characteristics especially fitting for their profession?
In the experiment by Dr. Swart, thirty-one journalists had their blood, heart rates, brain profiles, and food consumption monitored for several days. The results showed that the reporters were consuming insufficient amounts of water and excessive quantities of alcohol and caffeine. The journalists were also receiving little sleep. Given these findings, however, the reporters had average levels of stress. A healthy lifestyle is vital for a sharp, efficient mind. Poor health negatively influences a journalist’s ability to analyze information, multitask, and regulate biases. For example, low blood sugar from unhealthy eating habits may cause feelings of irritability, inability to concentrate, and animosity toward co-workers and others, as noted by Psychology Today Magazine. After the first bite of food, the feelings of irritability will likely begin to fade, and nourishment will cause greater capacity to concentrate and regulate emotions. Is that to say that poor nutrition is to blame for NBC journalist Brian Williams falsely claiming that Iraqis rocket attacked his helicopter ride? Well, now that’s a bit of a stretch.
Why are journalists such a dehydrated, alcoholic bunch? Dr. Swart believes that the strict deadlines journalists must follow and the strong reactions by viewers may push many reporters into an unhealthy lifestyle. (Not to mention the high stress of competition in the news business.) Despite these findings by Dr. Swart, three-quarters of Americans believe journalists are adequately keeping elected officials in check, as reported by the Pew Research Center. However, three-quarters of Americans also believe the media to be highly biased. Obviously, there is a bit of a disconnect here.
With reporters in proper health, journalism in the U.S. could reach better standards, as honest reporting becomes a substitute for extreme partiality present in the mainstream media today. The dangers of unbalanced news reporting are daunting. If Americans are consistently subject to bias news reports, personally held beliefs will remain unchallenged, and acceptance of objective truths may diminish, as explained in a previous piece by Liberty Nation. At the very least it couldn’t hurt for journalists to lead healthy lifestyles to maintain mental sharpness and emotional regulation for their own good as well as that of the nation.