The Unending Workload: Journalists Struggle to Disconnect on Vacation

The constant demands of the news industry make it difficult for journalists to truly take time off and unwind.

For journalists, taking a vacation often feels like a luxury rather than a true escape from work. The ever-evolving nature of the news industry and the increasing workload faced by journalists have made it challenging for them to disconnect and enjoy a much-needed break. From working on planes and trains to editing stories in hotel rooms and cars, journalists find themselves constantly tethered to their work, even when they are supposed to be on vacation. This article explores the experiences of Wisconsin journalists and sheds light on the pervasive issue of burnout in the industry.

The Struggle to Unplug

Many journalists find it difficult to detach themselves from work, even when they are on vacation. Shereen Siewert, founder and publisher of Wausau Pilot & Review, shares her experience of working from various locations, including a hospital bed and a kayak on the Wisconsin River. She admits that readers never knew the difference, highlighting the constant pressure journalists face to stay connected and deliver news in real-time.

Other journalists, like Logan Rude from WISC-TV News 3 Now and, have found themselves checking emails during their off-time. However, colleagues often remind them to sign off and enjoy their vacation. Natalie Eilbert, a reporter with USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, feels spread thin due to a lack of backup in her newsroom. The fear of missing out on breaking news stories and the worry of potential layoffs further adds to the exhaustion journalists experience.

The Importance of Boundaries

Some news organizations recognize the need for journalists to disconnect and enforce controls to ensure they have time off. Joel Patenaude, a producer for The Morning Show on Wisconsin Public Radio, praises his executive producer for making sure he is off the clock outside of working hours. While this may require colleagues to pitch in and help, it creates a healthier work-life balance.

However, the reality for many journalists is that the workload and pressure to constantly stay connected make it difficult to establish boundaries. Barry Adams, a reporter and columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal, acknowledges that his bosses would prefer complete disconnection, but he finds it challenging. As a journalist, the ideas and quest for stories never go away, and he often ends up reporting and taking photos while on vacation.

The Toll of Burnout

The issue of burnout in the journalism industry cannot be ignored. A recent survey conducted by the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the University of North Carolina revealed that 70% of local journalists reported experiencing work-related burnout. The tumultuous decade in the industry, marked by layoffs, consolidations, and the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken a toll on journalists’ mental health.

The survey also highlighted that journalists under 45 and women/non-binary individuals experienced higher levels of burnout. While online harassment did not have as significant an impact on burnout as expected, the survey revealed that 72% of respondents had considered leaving their current job. Higher pay and more time off were cited as factors that could potentially alleviate burnout and retain journalists in the industry.

The struggle to disconnect and truly enjoy a vacation is a common experience for journalists in Wisconsin and beyond. The ever-increasing workload and constant pressure to stay connected have led to high levels of burnout within the industry. While it would be ideal for journalists to unplug completely during their time off, the systemic issues within news organizations, such as understaffing and excessive workload, need to be addressed to alleviate burnout. As news consumers and citizens, it is crucial to recognize the challenges faced by journalists and support efforts to improve working conditions in the industry. Only then can journalists truly take a break and return to their desks refreshed and ready to deliver the news that keeps us informed.