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.