Around the world, journalists are imprisoned and even killed for simply doing their jobs. Increasing incivility in the United States has increased risk for journalists. Freedom of the press is protected under the first amendment of the Constitution, but what have lawmakers done to strengthen those protections? What risks do journalists take when conducting their business as usual? And how can magazine publishers support their writers?
The State of Journalism Safety in the U.S.
From cyberattacks on media companies to outright violence against journalists, disturbing incidents are affecting reporters and writers. The Press Freedom Tracker monitors and stands witness against the violence journalists face. In the U.S. so far this year, we’ve seen:
- 11 arrests with criminal charges for journalists.
- 27 assaults against journalists.
- 3 chilling statements (threats) that create a hostile environment for staff.
- 7 denial of access incidents.
- 7 incidents of equipment damage.
- 3 situations where the equipment was searched or seized.
- 2 journalists ordered by a judge not to publish their data (prior restraint).
- 17 subpoenas/legal orders to cease and desist publishing.
- 4 other incidents that have given journalists pause in their efforts to write and publish.
But that’s not all. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 16 journalists and media professionals have been killed in the U.S. between 1992 and 2022. Globally, that figure is much higher, at 2,165.
The Washington Post cautions that suppression and violent incidents against journalists are increasing across the United States. They say, “The year 2022 is not looking particularly promising for press freedoms . . . If we don’t take corrective measures quickly to increase media literacy and slow the spread of disinformation, journalists working in the United States will become bigger targets.”
Protection for your magazine staff from online violence
Physical aggression is just one form of repression. Online violence is far more frequent. The Washington Post says, “Many journalists have endured years of online harassment and abuse in silence. The industry has become desensitized to these attacks, accepting them as an occupational hazard.” What can publishers do to create a better environment for writers and journalists online?
The answer lies within the cultural shift necessary to view online violence as seriously as we do physical violence. Studies show online violence has a chilling effect on women, and particularly women of color, in the field. Without these voices, critical reporting on issues related to women and other social rights will be muted.
To counteract online harassment, publishers can:
- Create a culture where everyone on staff feels comfortable discussing their concerns.
- Create key contacts and resources to provide support.
- Follow the International Federation of Journalists policy document to guide your response to online violence.
- Encourage staff to remove their personal details from data broker lists with services like Abine or DeleteMe.
- Use password manager services and two-factor authentication for all social media and journalist/writer accounts.
- Do a risk assessment on stories and make teams aware of the increased threats of harassment around certain stories.
While these are a few steps you can take in the office to protect your writers, you may see help from Congress very soon as well.
New Congressional amendment to protect journalists
In July 2022, some key amendments were proposed for the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Some of the clauses include:
- Set measures to protect journalists’ human rights, both in the U.S. and abroad.
- Authorize a study to understand the impact of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which was key legislation signed into law under President Obama.
- Expand the scope of reporting for human rights violations of journalists.
- Increase the sanctions on countries and people responsible for human rights violations of journalists.
While all of these are necessary steps to stem the rising volume of online and physical attacks against reporters, journalists, and writers, why does this matter? The Washington Post posits, “Because if freedom of the press crumbles in the United States, if journalists feel threatened and vulnerable for speaking truth, then the outlook for democracy . . . will become bleaker than it already is.”
Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.