Develop a formal network of staff members in the newsroom who are available to listen to the experiences of their peers who have been targeted with online abuse and walk them through ways of coping with the effects. Ideally, staff members who participate in these schemes should have specific training on how to perform a trauma assessment through structured conversations and be able to divert the journalist to the relevant actors within the newsroom who can facilitate healthcare assistance as well as other types of support such as legal counselling, audience moderation, digital security or other safety mechanisms.

Best Practices

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Reuters’ peer support network

The Reuters news agency currently runs a peer support network. Reuters has provided the following description:

“Reuters established the Peer Network in 2015 as an additional resource within its larger Global Trauma Program.  The Global Trauma Program is centered around CiC, a London-based company of licensed clinicians that contracts with Reuters to provide 24/7 therapy services to Reuters staff and stringers struggling with work/life stress, anxiety, depression and trauma – this includes stress and trauma related to online harassment.

The Peer Network serves as a bridge to the professional therapists at CiC and provides an option for colleagues who may need support from a peer but may not feel ready to contact a professional.  Forty-eight Reuters staff journalists make up the Peer Network and are located throughout the world:  Asia, Africa, the MidEast, Europe, Russia, the United States and Latin America.  Reuters makes it clear that Peers are not professional counselors, but Peers undergo training in active listening and self-care through the therapists at CiC.  CiC also closely supervises to the Peer Network to ensure that Peers are responding appropriately and do not feel overburdened.  The Peers are all volunteers who are vetted through a rigorous application process run by CiC. The Peers also sign a statement of principles, which addresses the issue of confidentiality and is taken very seriously.

For a successful Peer Support Network, Reuters has found that best practice requires a close partnership with an organization of professional clinicians like CiC to manage issues and situations that only professionals are trained for. We have learned that our Global Trauma Program has the most impact when we combine efforts from CiC, the Peer Network, outreach on Hostile Environment Training courses and advocacy work through our Journalist Mental Health and Wellbeing Advocate, Dean Yates.

Providing multiple resources allows staff and stringers to feel supported on several levels and contributes significantly to a newsroom that feels secure, balanced and motivated.”

BBC’s peer support network

BBC has a network of journalists trained on Trauma Risk Management [link to the training programme]. This training provides staff members with the knowledge to recognize signs of mental distress and offer initial help for a person who has experienced a crisis, such as online harassment. Trained newsroom staff are able to have a structured conversation with targeted journalists about changes in their eating, sleeping or alcohol consumption habits so as to assess the toll online harassment has taken on them. The targeted journalists are walked through ways to come to terms with the trauma and are directed to professional care if needed. Within the BBC, trained staff members are identifiable by a distinctively coloured lanyard. Any staff member can take part in the (voluntary) training.

Actors: Online Safety Experts, Editors, Journalists and Management