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June 7, 2024

Sky News journalist and psychotherapist shares mental health tips

James Scurry spoke about why he was encouraged to take himself off covering the murder of baby Jacob Crouch.

By Clara Aberneithie

Journalists must appreciate that their mental health has a direct impact on the quality of their work, a Sky News senior producer has warned.

With 15 years in the Sky newsroom, James Scurry explained the emotional toll of journalism and the lessons he’s learnt since training as a psychotherapist.

He said: “If you’re not that interested in whether you’re okay, think about whether you’re concerned about your story being okay.”

Without being in a stable mental state yourself, Scurry argued that you cannot provide a safe space for people to tell you their stories. He warned against conflating numbness with resilience.

He said: “If someone says to you that they have clinical depression, ask them about their life, take a moment because you’re not going to get the story unless you do.

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“Without that consideration, you’ll put a story out there which is threadbare, inaccurate and boring.”

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Scurry was speaking at Media Strong, a symposium exploring the impact of journalism on the mental health of those working in the field hosted by City University in London.

Why Sky News producer took himself off Jacob Crouch story

He recalled his experience covering the murder of ten-month-old Jacob Crouch who was repeatedly assaulted by his stepfather.

Scurry said: “I wasn’t tortured as a child but let’s just say that I understand cruelty…

“I was put on the Jacob Crouch story, and I listened to his parents laugh about how they tortured him to death, and it was utterly unbearable.

“Thank god for Sky News, they’ve got incredible mental health support…

“The best thing that happened to me was [Sky News editor of people and development] Sam Foster taking me aside and telling me to take myself off the story… and that was so healing to have her say that.”

Two weeks after being taken off the story, he was covering the Lucy Letby trial “with no problems”, which he argued was “evidence of good trauma-informed care.”

Scurry also stressed the importance of psychological education in the newsroom.

He said: “Emotional distress comes down to some form of dysregulation in the body’s nervous system…

“We need to understand that if you’re dysregulated, you’re going to do a shit interview because your prefrontal cortex is offline so you can’t access your executive functioning, meaning you won’t ask the right questions.”

He added: “I used to be the person who said that I could handle editing gruesome footage, but I run a mile from it now because I know that after 15 years with Sky, I’m full to the brim with vicarious trauma.”

Over 200 journalists attended the Media Strong event in-person and another 150 attended via the livestream.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
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  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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