Send an email to all staff making clear that the media organization takes online violence very seriously. This measure is important to build confidence in the newsroom. It sends two important messages: First, it helps to debunk the widespread feeling among journalists that being targeted with abuse on social media is the new normal; and second, it gives journalists a sense of security that the media organization will support them.
Elements of the internal memorandum:
• A commitment that the company takes online harassment against journalists seriously and that journalists should feel comfortable reporting attacks against them.
• Information about the company’s policies on online harassment and the tools and protocols that the company has created to deal with the issue.
• A declaration that the company is sympathetic to the issue and that managers are expected to be sympathetic when journalists report attacks against them.
• A message that attacks on journalists do not harm the company as much as the journalist. In some cases, journalists may feel that if they are attacked online, they are damaging the brand, which creates an immense psychological burden and may prevent them from reporting attacks.
• A message encouraging journalists to speak openly about attacks against them so as to reduce the latter’s power (culture of openness and sharing). The memorandum should make clear that seeking support in the case of online harassment is not shameful and that journalists do not need to be so “tough” that they decline to report serious threats against them (changing the culture).
Send this memorandum at least three times a year, and additionally during a political crisis or civil unrest or ahead of elections.