I loved this study so much when I saw it and laughed so heartily, I was certain that it was a product of The Daily Currant or maybe The Onion. It might still end up getting Snopes’d, but I’ll just say that I’ve seen enough respectable publications pick up on it that I think it’s safe and worthy of being discussed here.
Dr Tara Swart conducted a study of journalists and found out that their lifestyle factors make them suck at their jobs. In fact, many fail to possess the most desirable intellectual qualities which are essential for their profession:
Low scores for executive functioning indicates less of an ability to regulate emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and think flexibly and creatively. Sleep, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness all drive executive function, and failure to perform these basics can cause avoidable decreases in cognitive performance. Many journalists reported no time for breaks, as well as low sensory integration, which can also negatively impact on cognitive performance.
Now, to be fair, this was a very small sample size. Dr Sward only invited 90 journalists to participate, and of those who weren’t excluded because they’re on anti-depressants (I assure you that this is really mentioned in the study) only 21 out of 40 ultimately completed the entire assessment.
So, one conclusion you could draw is that half of journalists are mentally incapable of objectively performing their duties and the other half are just lazy. This confirms many of my worst suspicions about the media, honestly.
To be fair, the test subjects did score higher than the general population on abstraction (being able to think outside-the-box and form conclusions that elude most people) and value tagging (being able to sift and pick out the most important information).
One of the experiments was to read from a sample such as the below paragraph and draw the most pertinent information from it. Try it yourself and let’s see how you do:
There is an unusual momentum propelling our nation’s values. Recently, our leadership’s most passionate initiatives haven‘t been aimed at building into our laws and institutions what Plato would think of as justice or wisdom.
Interestingly, every single journalist repeated the exact same key information that they discerned. In fact, what they drew was the same conclusion not just from that sample, but from absolutely everything they read or were told. It’s like they just intuitively know the vital information that their editors and audiences want them to find and they just repeat it continuously once they do.
Pretty spooky, I know.
When I was younger, I often flirted with the idea of changing careers and becoming a journalist. The idea of writing for a living has always appealed to me. However, I’ve always dismissed it as a pipe dream because whenever I read through my own work, it becomes painfully obvious that nobody in their right mind would pay for any of it. God knows none of the readers of this blog have ever offered to. Seriously, I’ve written a bunch of posts in which I defended Trump on all these election rigging accusations and I have yet to see a dime of any of that sweet Russian oligarch payola that’s apparently everywhere. I mean, I do it for free. It’s pathetic.
You know what, though? This study has shown me that journalists are workaholics who often drink heavily, ingest too much caffeine, don’t sleep well, struggle with publishing content on time, are constantly distracted by their families, stress about money, and experience trouble concentrating and thinking in a clear and unbiased manner. I confess I don’t think good, but that does resonate with me.
Apparently I already became a journalist at some point without even realizing it.