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Producer Burnout
Angele' Anderfuren
Schieffer School of Journalism
Texas Christian University

About a fifth of local TV news producers in Texas at ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC stations are experiencing burnout or are at risk for burning out, according to a new research study. Additionally, almost half of the producers surveyed scored high on exhaustion and almost two-thirds of participating producers scored high on cynicism, both factors indicating potential future burnout problems for producers.

This study found producers who report feelings of burnout also reported unsatisfactory resources to effectively do their jobs, heavy workloads, and a desire to leave their jobs and/or their profession, among other factors. Women producers were found to be feeling more burned out than their male counterparts. Sixty percent of the producers who scored as burned out, at high risk, or at some risk were women.

Younger producers were at highest risk for burnout. No participating producers age 40 or over scored burned out or at risk of burning out. Seventy percent of the producers in the burned out, at high risk, or at some risk categories were in the 20-29 age group. Thirty percent were in the 30-39 age group.

Producer burnout was determined using a device called the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). The MBI is a series of 16 questions designed to rate a test subject’s scores in three key areas: emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy.

The data collected in this survey showed the majority (67.4%) of producer participants in this study were at a low risk of burning out. However, 6.5% scored as burned out, with another 6.5% scoring at high risk for burnout, and an additional 8.7% at risk of burning out. This was a combined total of 21.7% in need of help.

Exhaustion. Looking at the scores that make up the burnout scale, almost half (42.9%) of the participants were suffering from high exhaustion, 38.8% rated as having some exhaustion, and 24.5% had low exhaustion. Exhaustion is the key component of burnout. This should be a sign of potential future problems because exhaustion leads workers to distance themselves from their work, which, in turn, leads to to cynicism about doing one’s job. Because almost half of the producers scored high on exhaustion, stations should seek solutions to avoid full burnout.

Cynicism. A majority of producers (57.1%) also scored high on cynicism. Another 14.3% rated somewhat cynical. The remaining 28.6% rated low on cynicism.

Professional Efficacy. Interestingly, the element that seemed to keep more producers from scoring at some level of risk of burning out or actually being burned out was that an overwhelming majority (70.8%) of participants scored high on professional efficacy. The majority of producers in the study felt like they are effective in their jobs. Another 20.8% scored in the mid range on professional efficacy, with the last 8.3% scoring low on professional efficacy.

“Job Engaged” Producers. Producers that scored “job engaged,” the opposite of burned out, had several common characteristics. All of them said they love their jobs. They all also reported to be satisfied, somewhat satisfied, or very satisfied with their station’s ethical standards. Eighty percent said they just re-signed their contracts. Sixty percent produced their station’s late show, i.e. 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. newscast.

This study found that the higher the level of burnout, the more likely producers were to report that they feel like quitting frequently. This is yet another reason stations should take steps to manage burnout.

Stations can manage burnout and burnout risks by offering educational and training opportunities, having satisfactory daily schedules, and offering enough vacation time. Producers can manage burnout by seeking additional education/training on their own, as well as paying adequate attention to their life outside of work.



Page Last Updated
January 15, 2009

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