Ethical dilemmas, work-related guilt, and posttraumatic stress reactions of news journalists covering the terror attack in Norway in 2011

J Trauma Stress. 2015 Apr;28(2):142-8. doi: 10.1002/jts.22001.


News journalists working on crisis-related assignments may experience dilemmas with regard to how to conduct their work without causing additional harm to first-hand victims. In this study, we investigated how exposure to journalistic ethical dilemmas during the Oslo/Utøya terror attack in 2011 and subsequent work-related guilt were related to the development of posttraumatic stress (PTS) reactions. Norwegian journalists (N = 371) covering the terror attack participated in a web-based survey 8-9 months after the incident. We found that females reported more ethical dilemmas during the assignment than males (n = 356, d = 0.51). We also found that being on the scene was not related to more exposure to dilemmas (n = 311, d = 0.01). Moreover, we discovered that work-related guilt had a significant indirect effect on the relationship between exposure to ethical dilemmas and severity of PTS reactions (n = 344, completely standardized indirect effect size = .11, 95% CI [.04, .19]. The results showed that exposure to ethical dilemmas may affect the development of long-term psychological impairment. We concluded that media organizations can prevent postcrisis impairment by preparing employees for possible exposure to dilemmas during crisis-related assignments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Emotions
  • Ethics, Professional
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Journalism / ethics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terrorism / psychology*
  • Work / ethics*
  • Work / psychology
  • Young Adult