A former reporter from The Age suffered psychological injury after a decade of exposure to 'disturbing' events
An Australian court has ruled in favour of a journalist who sued her company for forcing her to cover years’ worth of traumatic events.
The Victorian County Court awarded the woman, identified as “YZ” to protect her identity, $180,000 in compensation for suffering psychological injury while working for Melbourne-based newspaper The Age.
YZ claimed the company assigned her to cover criminal cases from 2003 to 2013, during which she was “exposed to a wide range of disturbing and graphic traumatic events”.
After complaining that she had “had enough of death and destruction”, YZ was moved to The Age’s sports desk. However, she was once again assigned to cover the Supreme Court where she encountered highly traumatic cases.
YZ’s ordeal had severely affected her mental health, forcing her to leave the company in 2013, court documents said. She claimed the media outfit did not have a system in place to help employees deal with the trauma of their work, and offered no support or training to reporters who had to cover traumatic events.
The newspaper allegedly failed to intervene when she and her colleagues complained about their assignments.
When YZ told editors about her difficulties in coping with the trauma of her work, she was still transferred to cover criminal cases.
The Age responded by challenging her claim of post-traumatic stress disorder due to her line of work, arguing that a peer-support system would not have made any difference to her experience.
The newspaper also denied it knew, or should have known, its journalists were at risk of psychological injury. It also claimed YZ was aware “by reason of her work she was at high risk of foreseeable injury”.
Judge Chris O’Neill of the Victorian County Court said a number of YZ’s symptoms were “still present” and that the reporter “remains vulnerable to flare-ups of the condition indefinitely”.