Description: Newsrooms should appoint one or several Online Safety Experts. The role of this expert is to act as a contact and coordination point for issues related to online harassment and to serve as a liaison between targeted journalists, both staff and freelancers, and management. The Online Safety Expert should be someone deeply familiar with the newsroom, who is well-regarded by his or her peers and who is recognized internally as someone with the authority to escalate incidents of online harassment to management.
The Online Safety Expert must also be someone who has received specific training in online harassment and who has knowledge of the measures that the newsroom can take to protect journalists from abuse. Gender balance and minority representation should be taken into account when hiring or assigning staff members as online.
Role: The Online Safety Expert is, in the first place, a figure to whom journalists should report online abuse. The Online Safety Expert should provide targeted journalists with information about what possibilities are available to the journalist to respond to the abuse or cope with its consequences. Together with the journalist, the journalist’s editor and the head of audience or social media editor, the Online Safety Expert should conduct an initial assessment and suggest a series of measures. Where necessary, Online Safety Expert will later escalate the case to management in order to take institutional steps such as legal action.
Newsrooms with sufficient resources should consider hiring one or more individuals specifically to work as Online Safety Experts. In other cases, the Online Safety Experts can be existing members of staff who are specifically trained for this role in addition to other duties. For larger newsrooms, we suggest having at least three members of staff carry out this role due to the potentially significant workload. In smaller newsrooms, this role can be exercised by one or two staff members. It is essential that newsrooms communicate clearly to journalists, including freelancers, the identities of the Online Safety Experts and how the latter can be contacted.
Tasks assigned to this role:
• Act as a figure to whom journalists can report incidents of online harassment
• Assess in coordination with a journalist’s direct editor and the head of audience each case of online harassment and suggest the support mechanisms that the targeted journalist requires.
• Where necessary, coordinate with management and legal experts any institutional response by the media outlet
• Keep the database of cases of online abuse updated so as to follow and evaluate the efficiency of measures implemented
• Due to the changing nature of online attacks, regularly review the measures that the newsroom has in place to prevent and respond to online harassment.
• Act as a coordination and educational point for these measures – the Online Safety Expert should be deeply familiar with all newsroom measures, be able to explain them to journalists facing online abuse and be the primary point person for implementation.
• Regularly attend editorial meetings to become aware of upcoming content that may trigger online abuse.