Newsrooms Trends – Managing safety

Threats to journalists in pursuit of truth

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Pic courtesy - WAN-IFRA

Threats to journalists are everywhere, both in person and online. Verbal and physical attacks, and sexual and digital harassment have become commonplace. Arrests, kidnapping, imprisonment and the killing of journalists take place all too often.

It is up to editors and media managers to assess and secure the safety of their journalists – to anticipate the potential risks and provide training, planning and investment towards safety procedures.

Often the first question we ask when beginning the safety conversation is if one is doing enough to address the safety and security of their journalists, their newsroom and their assets. It is a mood lightener, something to ease people in, preparing them for the hard talk.

If the answer is yes, then great – but how can one do it more efficiently, to a higher standard, and in a way that keeps the company up-to-date and relevant in the face of growing threats and challenges?

If no, then why not? What prevents one from saying ‘our journalists are safe – our journalism is secure?’

The reality is that most newsrooms will be doing some things and not others, to varying degrees of competency. Focusing energy and resources on what they perceive to be the most pressing concerns while likely ignoring some of the basics – or avoiding altogether the tougher issues that require the one thing none of us has – time.

Setting priorities and identifying means

Of course, like every decision, addressing safety is a question of setting priorities and identifying means. But this should only establish the scale of one’s ambitions, not close them down to the possibility that there is a better way to work. Too often the response is ‘there’s no money for that.’ Much can be achieved at very little cost. Priorities can be set according to what – and who – a company values, how it wishes to be perceived, and what kind of working environment it creates for those already at the wheel, and those yet to come.

And every organization has the means to begin the safety conversation – a real conversation, involving every member of the team, looking at all the angles and utilizing all the talents to find solutions that will help keep people safe and the product secure. It’s a familiar process from our day-to-day. Do we cut corners in our regimes? Do we deliberately sell our businesses short? Of course not. And nor should we accept limitations to good planning, proper risk anticipation, crisis management, lifesaving first aid or even basic refreshers on the principles and good practice required for safe reporting and secure publication of the stories that matter.

Is the safety conversation happening?

Take a look at your own newsroom – is the safety conversation happening? Is everyone a part of that conversation? And where is that conversation leading? A safety policy isn’t something that should be confined to the top shelf, to be dusted off only once there is a crisis unfolding. Set the right priorities. Find the necessary means. Really do everything possible to address the safety of your journalists.

This report will help begin the conversation about safety in the right way. In it we highlight some of the main themes and issues newsrooms should be thinking about. But it is only a starting point. Many more exhaustive resources exist to help expand one’s approach and go deeper into the topics we cover here.

To buy the report, click here.

Source: From the foreword by WAN-IFRA press freedom director Andrew Heslop, with minor modifications