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Taiwan reporters not 'brain dead,' just overworked: survey

2014/10/26 16:06:27

Media Workers Rights Group releases its survey Sunday.

Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) A new survey shows that nearly half of Taiwan's reporters say work makes them physically or mentally ill as their hours are stretched to the limits of endurance -- and they are crying for help.

In a survey of 155 reporters, the Media Workers Rights Group found that 71 of them said they have serious muscle pain or other physical troubles or are mentally disturbed.

The respondents' illnesses, in the order of percentages, are spinal or shoulder pain (14.83 percent), mental illness (13.54 percent), sleep abnormality (9.67 percent) and digestion problems (7.74 percent).

These and other illnesses, including eye, lung, heart and liver problems; obesity; affected pregnancy; and hearing trouble, are all caused by their tight deadlines and long work schedules, the group said.

Wu Chia-hsuan, a psychiatrist at Far Eastern Polyclinic, said that like nurses and resident physicians, Taiwan's media workers are overworked in a changing job market that favors seniors in terms of pay and workload.

"This is a structural problem," she said, noting that she has seen many senior workers retire, leaving a heavy load of work to young but low-paid newcomers.

Based on her experience with visiting patients, "I would suspect that your survey result of just 13.54 percent suffering from mental illness might be a bit too low a percentage," Wu said during a press conference.

Liu Chang-de, associate professor at the Department of Journalism of National Cheng Chi University, said Taiwan's media industry is indeed "sick" -- particularly when society as a whole is unhappy with media performance and its overworked, underpaid workers are the targets of complaints.

"The effect is that quiute a number of my journamilsm students who initially aspired to join in the industry have been scared away, preferring to go into other trades than the media," Liu said.

A healthy democracy needs a healthy media industry to inform the public of major current events that affect their lives and futures, Liu said, urging the media and other sectors of society to jointly seek a solution to the problem of plummeting morale among media workers.

The Media Workers Rights Group is composed of on-beat reporters working for different outlets, all impacted by Internet technology and dwindling resources. Their average age is below 40.

The group hopes to use surveys like this and other topics to arouse public awareness of the worsening working conditions faced by the workers for the country's fourth estate.

(By S.C. Chang)