Losing your job has long been established as one of life’s most stressful episodes. But many of the 1000 journalists who lost theirs in a wave of redundancies in 2012 appeared unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster that was to confront them.

A majority reported negative feelings about the experience, describing it in a survey as “agonising”, “traumatising” and “catastrophic”. The survey was part of the New Beats project, which aims to track the career pathways of the swathe of journalists who have taken a redundancy in the recent past.

Researchers, including La Trobe University’s Lawrie Zion, first questioned the journalists in 2013 and followed up again last year. Their recently published journal article has for the first time given a snapshot of the journalists’ actual responses, while preliminary findings of the 2014 survey, in which 202 of those taking redundancy participated, reveal that for almost one in three the event signalled the end of their journalism careers.

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Of the 127 who found new jobs in journalism, almost exactly half (63) were supplementing their incomes with other work. Another 45 were working in different fields altogether.

A preliminary survey interviewed 95 of the 1000 journalists who were made redundant in what was a watershed year for the industry. Of those who participated in the preliminary survey, 85 said they had left their jobs through a voluntary process rather than via forced dismissals.

But “putting your hand up” for a voluntary redundancy, a respondent recalled, “was the least worst option, because market pressures and deteriorating working conditions in newsrooms were destroying the profession in front of our eyes”.

A few factors added to their predicament, says Zion. “First was a layer of uncertainty — ‘Should I put my hand up? Will I be made compulsorily redundant? What will happen to my job?’ ”

The journalist-cum-academic says that the contraction of the print industry, the rapid digitisation of mastheads and changing power dynamics between journalists and their audiences did not sit well with many of the journalists, some of whom had been in the industry for 40 years.

Some of them found the shift in the work culture “a bit too chaotic”, adds Zion.

The majority of those taking part in the survey were senior journalists with a mean age of 49.1 years and an average time working at their organisation of more than 25 years. The long working span had acted as an impediment to their exodus, making the experience more emotionally wrenching than for some younger members of the departing cohort.

This is a shortened version of Krati Garg’s article on TheCitizen.org. Read the rest here