Journalist Traumatic Exposure Scale

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Designed for researchers, this document aims to explain how to evaluate and use the Journalist Traumatic Exposure Scale in research studies. The language is simplified such to be useful to most beginning researchers who are familiar with basics in psychometric concepts, ANOVAs and regression analysis in research design.

The Journalist Traumatic Exposure Scale, or JTES (Pyevich, Newman, & Daleidan, 2003), is a 23-item self-report questionnaire, which queries journalists about specific trauma-related events they may have been exposed to while on assignment over a one-year period. Fourteen of these items measure the frequency and range of trauma exposure; the remaining nine items assess if particular traumatic events have occurred.

Scoring the JTES

  • Calculating the Frequency Scale (JTES-F)
    Total the number of traumatic events experienced by adding together responses to questions 1 – 14
  • Calculating the Intensity Scale (JTES-I)
    Add together the responses to questions 15 – 23.
  • Calculating the Range Score (JTES-R)
    If the response to question 1 is greater than 0, add 1 to the range score.
    Do the same for the responses to questions 2 – 14.
  • Calculating Overall Score
    Add together the responses to questions 1 – 23.

Use of JTES Scales in Research

Note: Last updated in February 2021

Table 1

Study Questions Answered With Use of JTES


Study’s Hypothesis Tested by JTES


Backholm & Bjorkqvist (2012a)


Predicting PTSD symptoms using past personal trauma exposure and work-related trauma exposure

Backholm & Bjorkqvist (2012b)

Examining if: (1) journalists who cover a school shooting, on the scene or indirectly, experience higher rates of psychological post-trauma distress than journalists who do not

cover that incident; (2) previous work-related or personal exposure to trauma has an impact on a journalist’s experience of covering a school shooting

Backholm & Bjorkqvist (2010)

Understanding the effects of personal and work-related trauma exposure on rates of PTSD, depression, compassion fatigue and burnout

Browne, Evangeli, & Greenberg (2012)

Understanding the relationship between

(1) trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms; (2) trauma exposure and guilt cognitions

Dadouch & Lilly (2020)

Predicting PTSD symptoms using work-related trauma exposure

Drevo et al (2013)

Understanding the impact of intimidation on posttraumatic stress symptoms

Lee (2018)

Understanding PTSD among Korean journalists

Nelson (2011)

Examining the utility of using emotional intelligence as a predictor of PTSD and occupational dysfunction        

Pyevich et al. (2003)

Examining if: (1) journalists with greater exposure to work-related traumatic events would report more negative beliefs; (2) cognitive beliefs would fully mediate the effect of work-related traumatic events on work-related PTSD symptoms

Smith et al. (2017)

Understanding the prevalence of work-related trauma exposure among journalists

The JTES was developed in 2003 for a specific study. Unfortunately, the original JTES was not inclusive of all forms of trauma exposure. It did not, for example, include kidnapping, online harassment, sexual harassment or repeated exposure to graphic user-generated content.

Researchers have since updated the questionnaire for specific studies – changes are detailed in the table below. When comparing results, it is important to remember that studies have used various adaptions of the JTES.


Table 2

Changes Made to Original JTES Measure When Used in Research

Type of Change


Specific Change

Changes in response format

Browne et al. (2012)

Frequency scale changed from open-ended response style to a categorical scale

Additional items added

Browne et al. (2012)



Four additional items were added after piloting the scale with British journalists (content not specified)



Backholm & Bjorkvis (2012a; 2012b; 2010)



Frequency questions changed to reflect on-site and off-site exposure



Smith, Drevo, & Newman (2017)

Three items added to assess perceived life threat and peri-traumatic emotions


Modifications to measure’s instructions or questions

Backholm & Bjorkqvis (2010)




Lee et al. (2018)

Instructions were changed to explicitly state that journalists could choose several alternatives when describing the nature of their most stressful assignment


The trauma exposures used in the original JTES were replaced with 14 modified events selected after reviewing journalism practice and experience in Korea: aircraft accidents, automobile accidents, collapse of buildings/structures, epidemics, fires, murders, natural disasters, railroad/subway accidents, sexual assaults, ship accidents, suicides, torture/kidnapping, war, and other events involving casualties


Instructions were changed to: “Please indicate how many times you have experienced each of the following events (cases involving fatalities or casualties) during the past year while you were on media coverage assignments. Here, experience refers directly to covering the events, writing articles, or getting involved with writing the article.”



Backhol & Bjorkqvis (2010)


An authorized translator working with a group of experts translated the scale into Finnish



Changing Response Scales

Various studies have modified the JTES scales. Brown, Evangeli, and Greenberg (2012) modified the frequency scale, which typically consists of open-ended responses regarding the number of times a journalist experienced a specific trauma. They altered the scale so it would be categorical: 0 = never, 1 = once or twice, 2 = every few months, 3 = most months, 4 = monthly, 5 = weekly.

Adding Items

Brown et al. (2012) also reported modifying the scales by adding four additional items, though the content of these items is not available. Smith, Drevo, and Newman (2017) adapted the JTES by adding three items to assess if individuals felt a life was in danger, or if they experienced intense fear or helplessness during the most stressful event they experienced. Backholm and Bjorkqvis (2010) modified the scales to provide information about the effects of direct and indirect workplace trauma exposure. Frequency questions were altered to address journalists’ experiences at the scene of an event, as well as experiences of journalists in the office or otherwise interacting with traumatic content indirectly.

Modifying Instructions

Backhol and Bjorkqvis (2010) also modified the instructions of the JTES, explicitly stating journalists could choose several alternatives when describing the nature of their most stressful assignment. Lee (2018) modified the JTES instructions by specifying that

 “experiencing an event” included covering the event in any way. This wording change may have led to a larger average frequency of reported trauma exposures (average number of events = 79.61; Lee, 2018). In addition, Lee (2018) substituted traumatic events queried on the JTES with events more likely to be experienced by Korean journalists (See Table 2, above).


One study reports translating the JTES into Finnish and/or Swedish (Backholm & Bjorkqvis, 2010).

Psychometric Properties

No test-retest data, measuring the consistency of a test over time, is currently available for the JTES to address the stability of the measure over time. Internal consistency (e.g., how closely related items are to each other) differs from study to study for each of the JTES scales (See Table 3, below). It is not expected that a multi-faceted measure of stressors be internally consistent, as there is no reason to assume exposure to multiple types of stressors (e.g., there is no reason someone exposed to a car crash would also be exposed to a natural disaster). Therefore, typical rules-of-thumb for acceptable internal reliability are not relevant to the evaluation of the quality of measurement of the JTES (B. Brummel, personal communication, August 15, 2017).


Table 3

Results from studies using the JTES


Sample Type

Time frame


Number of Items

Internal consistency (α)

Means, Range, Frequency

Pyevich, Newman, & Daleiden (2003)

Newspaper journalists

Traumatic events experienced in the year 2000



JTES-F = .77


JTES-R = .84


JTES – I = .63


JTES-F: Mdn = 40; range = 0 – 635


JTES-R: Mdn = 8


JTES-I: Mdn = 3

Browne, Evangeli, & Greenberg (2012)

British journalists

Traumatic events in the past year



JTES-F = .95


JTES-R = .90


JTES – I = .70


JTES-Total = .94

Not reported


Backholm & Bjorkqvist (2010)*

Finnish journalists

Traumatic events in the past year



Not reported

JTES-F (modified to measure direct trauma exposure): M = 1.7, range = 0-14


JTES-F (modified to measure indirect trauma exposure): M =6, range = 0-14

Dadouch & Lilly (2020)



Traumatic events in the past year



JTES-F = .70


JTES-R = .87


JTES – I = .70


Not reported


Drevo et al. (2013)


Traumatic events in the past year



JTES-F = .83


JTES-I = .82

JTES-F: Mdn = 10, range = 0 – 765


JTES-I: M = 16,       range = 9 – 18

Lee et al., (2018)

Korean journalists

Traumatic events in the past year



Not reported

JTES-F M = 79.61; SD = 115.99


JTES-R M = 6.78; SD = 3.89


JTES-I M = 3.76; SD = 2.11


Smith, Drevo, & Newman (2017)

U.S. print and television journalists

Traumatic events in the past year



Not reported

Not reported

Nelson (2011)

U.S. journalists

Traumatic events in the past year



JTES-F = .84


JTES-I = .67

JTES-F: M = 54.59, range = 0 – 580


JTES-I: M = 3.76, range = 0 - 9

Note: Backholm & Bjorkqvist 2012a & 2012b use parts of the same journalist sample originally reported in Backholm & Bjorkqvist 2010, and so are not included in this table.

Convergent Validity

PTSD and trauma symptoms. Convergent validity is demonstrated when measures of two concepts that are hypothesized to be related are shown to be related, such as a person’s IQ and their school performance). The JTES scales’ convergent validity has been demonstrated in several studies. JTES total score predicted negative cognitions as measured on the Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory negative cognitions subscale (PTCI; R2 = .017, β = .13, p < .001; Pyevich et al., 2003) and also predicted PTSD symptom scores on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – Civilian Version in other studies  (PCL-C; R2 = .13, p = .011; Brown et al., 2012).  In another study, the JTES-F, JTES-I, and a workplace intimidation measure were used to predict scores on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – 5 (PCL-5) (Drevo et al., 2013). The JTES-F predicted PCL-5 scores (β = .20, SE = .01, p = .01) but , JTES-I did not (β = -.02, SE = 02, p = .81). However, in other research, JTES-I statistically significantly predicted PTSD symptom severity (Nelson, 2011; Smith et al., 2017).

In order to further establish validity, analyses were conducted on a sample of 174 journalists from multiple countries (portions of this data set were also used by Drevo, 2013). As expected, the JTES scales were negatively correlated with measures of posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, perceived stress and satisfaction with life (See Table 4, below).


Table 4

Pearson's r for TES scales, Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms, Deepression, and Perceived Stress

JTES Scale

Posttraumatic Stress


Perceived Stress

Satisfaction with Life





















Note: * p < .01
Note: Pearson r correlations reported here are measured on a -1 to 1 scale. A correlation of -1 or 1 means that the two measures are perfectly correlated (e.g., for every one-point JTES increases/decreases, a measure of depression also increases/decreases by 1.) A correlation of 0 means the two measures are in no way related. Correlations of .1 are often considered small, correlations of .3 considered medium and correlations of .5 considered large.

Divergent Validity

One way analysis of variances (ANOVAs) of the same data set used in Table 3 tested divergent validity using nominal variables. Divergent validity is demonstrated when measures of two constructs that are not hypothetically related are not related, such as IQ and hair color. JTES scales did not predict relationship status (JTES-Total p = .503; JTES-F p = .653; JTES-R p = .999; JTES-I p = .633) or employment status (JTES-Total p = .878; JTES-F p = .653;  JTES-I p = .334). JTES-R did predict employment status (F(14, 553) = 2.219, p = .006). 

Strength and Weaknesses of Current Research on JTES

Strengths. First, the JTES is applicable to diverse groups of journalists. Second, it has adequate psychometric properties, especially internal consistency. It has good convergent and divergent validity.

Weaknesses. Weaknesses of the JTES include that test-retest reliability has not been tested. The measure is also used inconsistently across studies, with some researchers modifying scales or omitting questions/scales from their research.  

Note: This measure is in the public domain and its use does not require permission from the original authors. However, if you use the JOB-CL in published research, please alert the Dart Center via our contact page so we can better track its use.



Backholm, K., & Björkqvist, K. (2012a). The mediating effect of depression between exposure to potentially traumatic events and PTSD in news journalists. European Journal of Psychotraumatology3, 18388.

Backholm, K., & Björkqvist, K. (2012b). Journalists’ emotional reactions after working with the Jokela school shooting incident. Media, War & Conflict5, 175-190.

Backholm, K., & Bjorkqvist, K. (2010). The effects of exposure to crisis on well-being of journalists: a study of crisis-related factors predicting psychological health in a sample of Finnish journalists. Media, War & Conflict, 3(2), 138 – 151.

Browne, T., Evangeli, M., & Greenberg, N. (2012). Brief report: Trauma-related guilt and posttraumatic stress among journalists. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 25, 207 – 210.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Dadouch, Z., & Lilly, M. M. (2020). Post-trauma psychopathology in journalists: The influence of institutional betrayal and world assumptions. Journalism Practice, 1-19.

Drevo, S., Patel, A., Parker, K., Cook, N., Brummel, B., & Newman, E. (2013). Intimidation, sexual harassment, and moral injury: Social injustices and posttraumatic stress among journalists. Poster presented at the 13th European Conference on Traumatic Stress, Bologna, Italy.

Lee, M., Ha Hye, E., Pae Kun, J. (2018). The exposure to traumatic events and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder among Korean journalists. Journalism, 19, 1308 – 1325.

Nelson, S. D. (2011). Emotional intelligence as a predictor of occupational functioning and probable posttraumatic stress disorder in American journalists (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK.

Pyevich, C. M., Newman, E., & Daleiden, E. (2003). The relationship among cognitive schemas, job-related traumatic exposure, and posttraumatic stress disorder in journalists. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16(4), 325 – 328.

Smith, R., Drevo, S., & Newman, E. (2017). Covering traumatic news stories: Factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder among journalists. Stress Health. doi: 10.1002/smi.2775