We’ll recognize the harassment of journalists isn’t an individual problem

“The information ecosystem journalists operate in today necessitates an updated understanding of professional danger.”

Calls for newsroom leadership to step up and protect journalists are not new. But for far too long, the focus has been placed almost exclusively on the trauma that results from relatively tangible, physical risks to journalists. For example, newsroom leaders have considered how to keep journalists safe when in a conflict zone. And they’ve addressed journalists’ need for self-care after reporting on a natural disaster. Yet the information ecosystem journalists operate in today necessitates an updated understanding of professional danger — one that includes the risks of online harassment.

The harms resulting from online abuse are very real. In some cases, online threats lead to offline, physical attacks. Yet, as a recent study by UNESCO found, the “slow burn” of lower but nearly constant levels of abuse has particularly insidious effects. PTSD, depression, and anxiety plague journalists and threaten to drive them out of the newsroom.

These impacts are particularly acute for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ journalists. UNESCO reports that “Black, Indigenous, Jewish, Arab and lesbian women journalists…experienced both the highest rates and most severe impacts of online violence.” And a survey by the International Women’s Media Foundation and Trollbusters found that nearly one-third of female-identifying journalists have considered leaving the profession due to online abuse and threats.

Unless something changes, these reporters will continue to leave the profession in droves.

Given the fast pace and scale of much of the abuse journalists face online, they need a trustworthy, rapid response system that offers a trauma-informed approach that takes their needs seriously. Such a system must be responsive and flexible, offering journalists monitoring tools, support from peers, and connection to resources for mental health needs.

The good news? We are working on it. With the support of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program, our team has partnered with the folks at the Poynter Institute/Politifact and Hollaback! to develop just such a system.

The challenge? We need newsrooms to buy in. We need editors and managers to participate and engage. This is not a reporter-level problem; it is a professional crisis. And it will require institutional investment. If your newsroom is up to the task, please reach out.

Kathleen Searles is an associate professor of political communication at Louisiana State University. Rebekah Tromble is director of the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics at George Washington University.

Calls for newsroom leadership to step up and protect journalists are not new. But for far too long, the focus has been placed almost exclusively on the trauma that results from relatively tangible, physical risks to journalists. For example, newsroom leaders have considered how to keep journalists safe when in a conflict zone. And they’ve addressed journalists’ need for self-care after reporting on a natural disaster. Yet the information ecosystem journalists operate in today necessitates an updated understanding of professional danger — one that includes the risks of online harassment.

The harms resulting from online abuse are very real. In some cases, online threats lead to offline, physical attacks. Yet, as a recent study by UNESCO found, the “slow burn” of lower but nearly constant levels of abuse has particularly insidious effects. PTSD, depression, and anxiety plague journalists and threaten to drive them out of the newsroom.

These impacts are particularly acute for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ journalists. UNESCO reports that “Black, Indigenous, Jewish, Arab and lesbian women journalists…experienced both the highest rates and most severe impacts of online violence.” And a survey by the International Women’s Media Foundation and Trollbusters found that nearly one-third of female-identifying journalists have considered leaving the profession due to online abuse and threats.

Unless something changes, these reporters will continue to leave the profession in droves.

Given the fast pace and scale of much of the abuse journalists face online, they need a trustworthy, rapid response system that offers a trauma-informed approach that takes their needs seriously. Such a system must be responsive and flexible, offering journalists monitoring tools, support from peers, and connection to resources for mental health needs.

The good news? We are working on it. With the support of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program, our team has partnered with the folks at the Poynter Institute/Politifact and Hollaback! to develop just such a system.

The challenge? We need newsrooms to buy in. We need editors and managers to participate and engage. This is not a reporter-level problem; it is a professional crisis. And it will require institutional investment. If your newsroom is up to the task, please reach out.

Kathleen Searles is an associate professor of political communication at Louisiana State University. Rebekah Tromble is director of the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics at George Washington University.

Parker Molloy

Wilson Liévano

Natalia Viana

Gordon Crovitz

Mandy Jenkins

Simon Galperin

Christoph Mergerson

Kristen Muller

David Skok

Stefanie Murray

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Moreno Cruz Osório

Sam Guzik

Victor Pickard

Matthew Pressman

Errin Haines

Juleyka Lantigua

Janelle Salanga

Anthony Nadler

Whitney Phillips

Julia Munslow

Izabella Kaminska

Robert Hernandez

Matt Karolian

Joy Mayer

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Sarah Stonbely

Meena Thiruvengadam

Gabe Schneider

Chicas Poderosas

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Anika Anand

John Davidow

Catalina Albeanu

Zizi Papacharissi

Kendra Pierre-Louis

A.J. Bauer

Joe Amditis

Jim Friedlich

Anita Varma

Joshua P. Darr

Amara Aguilar

Larry Ryckman

j. Siguru Wahutu

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Christina Shih

Joni Deutsch

Rachel Glickhouse

Nikki Usher

Ariel Zirulnick

Michael W. Wagner

Kerri Hoffman

Jessica Clark

Cherian George

Jennifer Brandel

Eric Nuzum

Cristina Tardáguila

Cindy Royal

Candace Amos

Francesco Zaffarano

Jesse Holcomb

David Cohn

Don Day

Shalabh Upadhyay

Stephen Fowler

Burt Herman

S. Mitra Kalita

Gonzalo del Peon

Raney Aronson-Rath

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Melody Kramer

Alice Antheaume

Ståle Grut

Tamar Charney

Sarah Marshall

Jennifer Coogan

Jody Brannon

Richard Tofel

Millie Tran

Brian Moritz

Tom Trewinnard

Doris Truong

Kristen Jeffers

Matt DeRienzo

Chase Davis

James Green

Daniel Eilemberg

Jonas Kaiser

An Xiao Mina

Simon Allison

Paul Cheung

Mario García

Tony Baranowski

Joanne McNeil

Megan McCarthy

Julia Angwin

Mike Rispoli

Mary Walter-Brown

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Andrew Freedman