Managers and Employers: Best Practices for Supporting Reporters Facing Online Abuse
6:00PM Jun 23, 2021
Hi everybody, welcome. We're so glad you can join us for this session today. It seems like there's pretty much every day now, a story in the news about a reporter, almost always a reporter who identifies as a woman, as a person of color, as LGBTQ being bombarded by hate and harassment online. And it's not just anecdotal these stories. A very recent study out of UNESCO and the ICFJ found that of women journalists worldwide, their experiences with online abuse, one in four had experienced online abuse and one in five had actually been attacked or abused offline in the physical world as a result of the abuse incidents that were seeded online, so it's a massive problem. Our premise here today in this session is that if media organizations want staff and freelancers to have an active online presence, they need to protect and support them when they're under attack. And that is what we're going to be talking about. I'm Viktorya Vilk, I work for the free expression organization PEN America. I'm the program director for digital safety and free expression and I lead our online abuse defense program. We've reached over 250,000 people in the US and globally with resources on online abuse self defense, including trainings and workshops, and we have worked with dozens of newsrooms and professional associations across the United States and internationally to develop protocols and policies to support staff who are facing online abuse. So I'm here today with an absolutely all star panel — I'm sort of pinching myself I can't believe the folks that have joined us today. I'm going to introduce them briefly and then we're going to delve right into questions, and I'll be interspersing questions from you folks, as I go and then also saving some questions for the end from the audience. So without further ado, Kelsey McKinney, we can bring her on, is a writer and co founder of Defector.com, where she helped spearhead the outlet's recent incredibly impressive efforts to support reporters facing online abuse so we'll be talking a lot about that. And, Jareen Imam is the director of social news gathering at NBC News, where she leads a global team of journalists to find verify and report on news stories. Prior to joining NBC she was the head of social at CBS and a producer for CNN. Jami Floyd is an attorney journalist anchor, legal and political analyst and former White House fellow. She's currently the senior editor for Race and Justice and the legal editor at New York Public Radio, and before that was a legal analyst at Al Jazeera America and the host of All Things Considered. And finally, last but absolutely not least, Donna Carerra is the threat response program manager at the New York Times where she works to keep its employees safe. She began her career in intelligence and security just prior to 9/11 while enlisted in the United States Air Force, and has spent 20 years conducting intelligence analysis across the military federal government and private sectors. Thank you Donna for being here. So, without further ado I do have one quick housekeeping note, the first note is that we're talking about online abuse today which means that you know big trigger warning like we're going to be talking about behaviors and content online that is homophobic, racist, sexist and otherwise just appalling but that's really the only way we can deal with online abuse as we confront it in all its ugliness. So just a note there if people need to take breaks or step away from the computer to whatever you got to do. The second small housekeeping note is that we are going to be, ONA is recording this session. However, it's not going to be public on YouTube, it's going to be essentially only for ONA participants who have created account and registered and signed up for the conference. And as we engage with you folks in the chat, I will be very careful not to read people's names, just so that I protect your identity if you decide to engage. So those are my two housekeeping notes. So without further ado I'm going to go ahead and delve right in and ask our panelists some a bunch of questions. My first question is kind of pretty kind of big picture. I'd like to ask each of you and I'll kind of call on you, to the extent that you're comfortable to talk about your experiences with online abuse either as a target a witness or an ally. What impact has online abuse had on your ability to express yourself and do your job and have you found newsrooms responsive when you've actually faced or witnessed online abuse. And so I think I'll start with Jareen and then we'll kind of work our way through everyone.
Thank you for this. It's a pleasure to be here. So when it comes to my experience with online abuse. I've experienced all three areas of identifying, whether that's being doxxed which I can go into later on, or it's supporting my reporters who are working in some very tricky storytelling and different platforms that have a higher rate of abuse or demonstrating allyship when someone is being targeted, and then finding ways to mitigate that process so that they feel safe and secure, not just for their accounts but also holistically — their feelings, how they feel mentally, emotionally, and in terms of NBC, I think the company has been incredibly receptive towards finding new ways of supporting journalists, especially as we have pivoted in 2020 after the spike in the pandemic to working from home. We've seen a massive movement of news gathering that at one time used to be in person, translating to online and then seeing some of the onslaught of online abuse, increasing because of that.
Thank you so much during Jareen, Jami, do you want to weigh in? Oh, Jami, I think you're on mute. Now, I'll tell you what I'm gonna go ahead and turn to Donna.
I'm sorry I thought. I thought you were gonna do the muting and unmuting. So I wanted to say first thank you so much for inviting me and including me and most of all for your brilliant report on this critically important topic, which I disseminated as widely as I could. To answer your question, as I think everyone on this panel will say I of course been a subject, or I think the better word is victim of this kind of abuse, on, on all platforms, Facebook, Twitter, maybe even it's around I'd have to think of that more specifically, but, you know, that just sort of comes with the territory I'm afraid to say, and I can barely think back to the time when there was no social media though I certainly was a reporter before it, but it's been around so long and it's so ubiquitous that I can't really remember that time, I guess I came up with it so it's just part of the work, and sadly trying to anticipate and fend off the attacks that come with not only reporting on gender and identity and race, but but just being part of certain identities and doing our work is, is sort of part of living day to day in this field. But also, and I almost feel more invested in supporting my colleagues, both as an ally in my early days but now in my role as an editor and manager. I'm very much invested in that. And I think about that more than I think about my own individual concerns, and that comes up, almost every day, certainly every week in one capacity or another whether it's somebody laterally who is affected, or somebody who I'm mentoring or supervising. It can be in the same organization or in a different organization so it is a constant refrain. And then finally, the response of news organizations that it has varied tremendously depending on where I am working, and it also can vary within organizations depending on the individual, with whom you're dealing, the manager or the executive, people have very different responses and therefore organizations, respond differently, even between and amongst departments within an organization. So I'll leave it there and we can talk more about it going forward.
Thank you, Jami. Donna, do you want to jump in and talk about both your experiences as an ally witness or as a supporter of other folks.
And thank you, Victoria as well for having me here. I'm really honored to be here. This is the topic I am passionate about and while I'm thankful that I've personally never experienced this, I on a daily basis am exposed to our journalists at the Times being exposed to this. I'm a witness to it. I'm an ally I'm a supporter. I like to think of a protector. That's my goal when I go to work every day. I really want to drill in that this is real, and that very much in today's day and age, online abuse is a real threat to our journalists' physical safety, it's beyond trolling, harassment, it's morphed into something way more vicious than that, and then why priority is the physical safety of our employees. It also has a trickle effect where it's, we're also concerned about their emotional health and well-being, their mental well-being. And then also, can they do their work and can they fulfill their mission if they're going through such turmoil as a result of the work they're doing, so I am very proud to work for an organization that this is a top priority for us, and we are working. It's a constant evolution of how can we better protect our people.
Thank you Donna and Kelsey, I'll hand over to you and I just, I do want to just say Donna that I can't stress enough how important what you just said is particularly the piece about online abuse is a real threat to people's physical safety, we make this mistake I think so often and we separate digital safety and physical safety, and the online world and the offline world like somehow these are magically distinct things but of course they're not it's not only that it impacts people's mental health, but actually if somebody is threatening to murder you and your family, you know, sometimes those incidents, lead to physical violence and that's why I quoted the point about UNESCO's study. They actually found that one in five women had had offline events of offline violence that originated with online violence so I just want to thank you for for reinforcing that because I think it's a shift that a lot of newsrooms have yet to fully understand and make this connection between digital and physical safety, and with that I'll sort of hand it over to Kelsey.
Yeah I think so I've been a reporter online for 10 years, and I think early on I really thought that that distinction was closer that it was more bullying than physical safety that was in danger, until 2014, which is GamerGate for anyone who is well versed in this sphere as I think we all are, and I was a cultural reporter online and so all of my information was on 4chan, and it was terrifying. And I think I think about that a lot about like this moment that was very clarifying for me of recognizing that like this isn't just people online telling me that I'm ugly, this is people who like know where my parents live, which is a really true distinction, and so a lot of the decisions that I've made as a reporter going forward after that have been based around that experience, and that's kind of what we're trying to do now, I mean, you mentioned at the beginning that we've created a new harassment policy and I'm sure we'll talk more about that later but part of the goal with that at Defector was to get ahead on this conversation to go ahead and make the assumption that every single reporter at some point will be subject to this so how can we make choices beforehand to set them up for success in those events instead of trying to scramble in the afterword because I do think, as everyone has said before me, this is kind of a wild west we're all still figuring out how to handle these situations and how to best serve the people who are being harassed and nobody really knows for sure yet.
Yeah, I have to say we'll talk more about what Defector has done but I think that idea that instead of perpetually being in a reactive posture after something has happened being proactive, as an institution is huge, and it's very rare, so far in my experience is that it happens and it's really great that it's changing but it's rare and so my next kind of question actually is, have you folks seen a shift in awareness or responsibility in the media industry around online abuse. And, you know, do you think newsrooms are making progress. Do you think we still have light years to go. What are your thoughts there and I think I'll start with Jireen there, if that's okay.
Yeah, thank you. Um, so I think that there has been progress made. For example, I know of some well financed newsrooms that have security expertise, where they do threat assessments, which is wonderful in fact that's something that we also do at NBC, and we are very proactive about our talent our reporters, and making sure that if there is some kind of questionable message that people know exactly who in the security world at NBC to turn to, to get a thorough assessment to know, hey, is this something I need to be worried about. On the flip side though, that really excludes a lot of individuals that are freelancers those working and operating in countries that might not have as robust of a system of protecting journalists, or just working in like a more localized or less financed newsrooms. And that is pretty alarming because there's a lot of things that can be done preventatively that don't necessarily take a lot of financing in a newsroom to start making sure people can be okay. Some of that is very simple stuff like two factor authentification, as well as making sure everyone is abreast that phishing schemes, especially like the Colonial Pipeline thing, that's, that's not just institutions that make money they have to worry about that even journalists are targeted like that. This behavioral kind of phishing schemes like those things are happening more and more often and so I love for the industry to start thinking about, you know, if you're not in one of these major newsrooms, if you are a freelancer if you are an independent storyteller, how can you prepare yourself to be proactive, I really like that that was that word was used, to be ready to anticipate if something happens. And similarly with newsrooms that are well financed, having a checklist that everyone knows and understands a protocol that is followed, of if you are in a questionable situation if you feel as though you're being attacked online, what are the steps you can take to ensure that you're going to be okay, not just security wise digitally, but mentally and physically as well.
Thank you so much cheering for that and I, I have to say, just a small plug like I work with newsrooms all over the US to develop protocols. Reach out, we can I can pop my email in the chat, reach out to us if I can't help you. I'll find someone who can help you. All newsrooms at this point should have a protocol for dealing with online abuse, and any kind of safety issues and risks I mean we saw what was happening with physical violence over the course of the last year and a half, threats against a reporter, so I just can't emphasize how important that is and does anybody else want to weigh in about whether you've seen a shift in awareness in the industry around this issue and whether you see newsrooms kind of evolving their approach to this and if you want to just like, put your hand up or just turn off your, you know, turn off your mute and jump in, I'd welcome you.
I mean I agree with what Jareen said about outreach and training that's, that's so important. It's also important that the whole organization knows how to reach security or how to reach how to talk to someone about this, um, we work really closely with InfoSec and I think that's where we're at the Times, physical security and digital, you know Online Protection resources InfoSec we all work together to help our journalists prepare them ahead of things or reacting to situations. So it's really important that there's outreach there's training, that everyone knows how to contact security, we kind of have a one stop shop for security, it's both physical and InfoSec and then I would say. It's also important to have multidisciplinary teams that meet regularly to go over this kind of stuff and that are available to respond to situations. So not just, I can handle physical security, but we need people from InfoSec we need people sometimes from legal, human resources, you know, the newsroom, we all need to work together, and tackle the issue from all sides. And then I would just say also, where I am. We do take care of our freelancers as well and I think more established newsrooms need to do that, if a freelancer is covering for us. We're going to afford them the same resources that we would, one of our traditional employees.
Thank you, Donna. I want to emphasize a couple things that both of you have said I think we've talked about the importance of having a protocol or a kind of so that individuals on the receiving end, it can be incredibly when you're in the middle of a Twitter storm or something like that it could be you freeze right like it get to fight or flight. And so having a protocol now okay. When this happens, I have to go to this checklist I have, these are the people I know that this is the internal reporting mechanism that I know exists. Send Email, it's a person I talked to. That is super super important and then like what are the resources and services that are available to me when this is happening, but I haven't actually, I want to zoom out a little bit and talk about this kind of shift in awareness or culture happening among media organizations. I feel like one of the most important places to start is for media organizations, at the very senior level and I'm talking about editor in chief right or like people at the top, top, top, even the publishers to tell their reporters, we believe online abuse is a real problem. We believe we have a responsibility to defend and protect you. And we exactly as someone and I'll address the question in the chat we'll we'll loop back around to that but someone in the chat pointed out, you know, in other parts of the world people understand that physical violence and digital violence are interconnected and one can lead to the other. Why is it taking so long in the US for us to figure that out. So I sort of feel like that part's really important but I want to ask about something that I don't know how many of you read, Ed Zitron I think is his name he wrote this very compelling article over the last couple days about coordinated harassment campaigns, and he was basically saying it's not actually enough for a newsroom to issue a statement of public support for a reporter under attack. I mean that's good and that needs to happen and that's a good place to start, but that newsrooms actually have to stop being in a defensive posture and kind of address the fact that these coordinated harassment campaigns are anti democratic anti free press and kind of propaganda and that they are sometimes deliberately ginned up to harm to potentially lead to harm of reporters, and he actually called it a form of warfare. The language was very very strong but I'm super curious to hear your kind of reactions and thoughts because I found that article incredibly compelling and I, I had some issues with it but I found incredibly compelling so I would love to hear from any of you, whether you read it or not, kind of what you think about this idea that newsrooms have to do more than just make a public statement they actually have to call out online harassment campaigns for what they are. Anyone who's willing to take that otherwise I'll call on people.
Yeah, I think, I'm sorry. Okay, I'll jump in. So I actually have been a victim of multiple coordinated attacks, the kind of work I do is investigative in nature and I'm essentially a digital sleuth and so is my team and so we go into the darker parts of the Internet to tell some of the most important stories for the public. And what is highlighted in that article, it is true it is an information warfare, And I do think that management in newsrooms still lag behind an understanding that there is a complexity to how information travels, the coordination of individuals that it's not just some random person in a basement, you know, writing harassment claims. That these are very intelligent and sometimes well coordinated individuals, and we, you know, in the US, we have very open laws, where it is not difficult to find someone's public record, to find out where they live. In fact, I had a situation during the Capitol Gazette shooting which I was investigating, where a number of 4chan users did not like the kind of work I was doing, uncovering the past of the perpetrator of the attack, and they doxxed me. And not only did they dox me with all of my personal information, but what was alluded to earlier in this talk was that my mother's address was put out into the internet, and there was a coordinated effort in order to track her down, she's a public school teacher in Florida, and, and that was a very alarming situation because that I was in New York at the time, very far away and you feel incredibly helpless and you get to a point where you think to yourself, What is my newsroom going to do for my mother, and those are those are not hypotheticals, those are really happening. And so we need to understand as management, that information has it's more, it's incredibly powerful and it can sway people into action, whether that's good action or bad action, and there needs to be protocols, not just safeguarding your information, but also you and the collateral in your life, because this is this, there's, there are no rules to the game right of information warfare anything kind of goes and we see that was squatting, we see that with all different types of techniques and tactics in order to pressure journalists to let go of stories in order to intimidate them. So I think that we are still a long way from understanding the implications of this kind of coordinated attack.
Jareen, thank you, not only for that incredibly comprehensive answer but also for sharing something that sounds absolutely terrifying and awful I really am grateful to you for speaking frankly about it. Kelsey what you did you want to jump in, I know you started out the beginning wanting to say something.
Sure, I was just gonna say that you started off asking this question by saying, Where have we seen a shift in newsrooms right, and this isn't new, swatting is not new. These forms of targeted online harassment have been going on for a decade at least. I think what is new is the conversation we're having here where we're saying like management should be doing something. For a very long time, for most of the early jobs I had the answer was, well, that's your problem as a reporter. Or, well that's not really that bad or can you prove it's really that bad. And usually the solution to that was to call the police right and the police are, in my opinion fairly useless at this. And for me I think the good shift and the shift that we're starting to have is one in which the responsibility for making sure that reporters, their families, the people who are associated with them, are safe is placed on management, and not other people actually doing their work. So that is, that's the shift that I think is important and I think that that is from the commenter's question about why don't we take this as seriously as we maybe should is I think the people with the power to take it seriously haven't been, and it's only in the last three or four years that they've decided to and now we're starting to see real change and that's great.
I think there's an analogy to what we've seen with hacking and ransom demands. So, I'm thinking out loud so, you know, work with me. So you know, you know people who say hack into a healthcare system, or hack into a bank, they're not really interested in the information they want the money. And if you give them the money, the, the message you send is sure, go ahead and hack into our systems and we're going to give you the money and I think we very quickly have learned you cannot give them money because they'll continue hacking your systems. And what we have not learned in journalism and I'm going to give you an example in just a minute, is, if there was a coordinated campaign to pressure you to do or not do something as a journalist. If you fold to the pressure, then that kind of coordinated campaign will work again in the future. And we don't have management on our side and so often we just fold and we don't print that thing or we back off because we're afraid for our family ourselves management isn't with us. We haven't learned the lesson that they are coordinated and well organized, and we're just not, we're just one individual reporter trying to do our work without the sustained response on the other side of coordinated, thinking about the way social media works. And as somebody just said, Forgive me for not knowing which brilliant woman on this panel said this, but this is a very very sophisticated .. it's not somebody sitting in the basement, you know, sending out a message, it is often a very smart and coordinated campaign against what your work, what you're trying to say the information you're trying to put out there, and I don't know that management always understands that and I'm going to give you an example, we launched a project. I want to say two weeks ago now, and it was around the issue of of policing and police reform, and a violent incident that happened in the South Bronx, about a year ago, and some very ... I'm trying to stay this in as objective a way as possible. Some social protest groups in the South Bronx, didn't like the message that's how I'm going to say it, and they began a coordinated campaign against the project. They wanted to shut it down, they didn't want it to be released, they didn't want it to happen, they didn't want it to print publish post. They didn't want the live event that was gonna go with it and all of that. And they almost got it killed completely. They almost got to kill it completely. And I say all of this to say, and they began to attack me personally on social media, scary stuff too, not just light, scary, and our security team had to get involved, and they began to threaten people who were, who had spoken to us so they would approach these people who were in the project, and say if you participate in this we will come after your business and make sure it's boycotted and shut down. If you are in this project, we will come after you at work, and follow you home from work. This is what they were saying to people on social media. So people started to say oh please take me out of the project so they actually were bullying or I would say, intimidating slash assaulting people, you know, this was serious business. So it was a coordinated campaign to stop the journalism, but our organization didn't quite see it that way. They didn't see it that way. So that's my point that it is. It's very sophisticated they're not just rabble rousers, it was so smart, it was so sophisticated, it was, they were so well organized, and it almost worked, and it worked in part because we didn't, we pulled some of it down. So, we have to start thinking in a super sophisticated smart way, the same way they do. Whoever they is or are because journalism is about free speech and I believe in everyone's right to speak, but not when it includes intimidation or threats of violence, then you've crossed the line into what is really criminal activity. You cannot threaten to hurt someone. So, organization, coordination, support, and that has to come from management.
And I think just quickly. When we talk about the company, the organization supporting the journalists we really have to walk the talk, and we'll reach out to the managers and say hey, I don't know if you're aware, but this person's getting this. This is some examples of the heinous things that they're we're seeing that they're getting directly and then we're seeing online, because we also proactively monitor this stuff. And also to just if it's something more sophisticated like hey this group has, has a history of doing this, you know, this journalist is in danger of this, this and that. So I think that, You know either security, you know, in our, in my situation I can reach out to a manager and say this is what's going on to back up the journalist and say this is really need to pay attention to this, this is a real thing. But just HR, legal, whoever's involved needs to support the journalist because they're going through emotional turmoil at that time, so it shouldn't be all on them to deal with this alone because they're doing it for the company right I mean, we need to help them, but they need help. And I think for a long time I think journalists what I've learned is have such thick skins, very, you know, my background in the military, they're they're their same thickness of skins where they have been dealing with this, dealing with so much pressure on their own for so long and I think just recently is when some of that pressure has been lifted, and at least where I am, they, they're starting to see, oh I can reach out for help I can get support, there's, there's a team here to back me up so I think that's really important.
And that's actually my point about culture change because you people will come if people have come to you several times and I don't mean you don't I mean, institution right like it's traditional leadership. We've all had this experience where people have come to leaders to managers to editors and then suddenly we're told to get a thicker skin or just go offline or like, why is it so hard on you. And like you do that three times you stop going right and so I do think that this point about being proactive, but also making it clear that there's a cultural shift happening is critical for people to even come to you and tell you they need help, rather than feeling dismissed and belittled for their lack of kind of bravery and courage which like, where are we talking about bravery where people are threatening to kill each other right. So I think that's a really, really important point. The other point I wanted to emphasize that Jami made is that it's actually not just that individuals are sometimes kind of pressured into and intimidated into self censorship, I actually think that Jami's analogy was brilliant about this ransomware because what we're seeing is coordinated rescue campaigns trying to get people fired and that media organizations buckle right like we see media organizations buckling and letting go of reporters and I think that that's changing but it still happening. And I think it's like it's bigger than just providing institutional support and I think this is the point of Ed Zitron's article is that like actually media organizations have to come out not exactly swinging but definitely calling this for what it is, which is information warfare. And so I think that that those things are really important. I want to pull out some of the questions in the chat there have been some very good questions coming through. And I'm going to open them up to all of our panelists, whoever wants to speak but the first question which I think is really brilliant is you know, reporters in other parts of the world have long known that online harassment can lead to physical violence, why are American newsroom leaders why are they constantly assuming it can't happen here and what other lessons can we learn from what reporters are experiencing globally, and the one point I'll make an answer to this is that I heard Maria Ressa, the extraordinary Maria Ressa in the Philippines talk about how our dystopian present is your dystopian future except that, like the future is now. Right, and so she's been, she was the canary in the coal mine years ago, talking about how this is going to start happening in the US and guess what, like here we are, so I would love to hear from anyone who's willing to speak about what we can learn globally from how this is all playing out and I see Jami kind of looking like,
I don't, I don't really have an answer, I would just disagree with the premise, I I would never assume that this couldn't happen here. I never have and I never would.
But But I think the question Jamie is, do we feel that newsroom leadership has lagged in understanding
I definitely do think newsroom leaders and newsrooms have lagged In fact, I think the Capitol Gazette shooting was a very pivotal milestone in our country. And that was truly a showcase of how online harassment, this, this individual the suspect who was a perpetrator of such a heinous crime had been targeting this newsroom for years through online harassment, creating fictitious reviews of individual journalists, damaging the reputation online to the point where the newsroom felt pressured to stand down from their lawsuit against this individual hoping that they would stop but they didn't, and accelerated in like a tragic shooting where many people died. And before that, there, there was absolutely this concept that things that happen online stay online or it's just some, you know it's gonna pass. I hear this all the time, even today, that like a Twitter storm will pass Jareen, don't worry about it, and so I have to actively explain. It's not about just angry tweets, right, like people these coordinated efforts, this information warfare it's reputational damage, it's individuals that are creating fake websites and slandering journalists. In fact in your attempt [??] did a fantastic piece on this, and a journalist really did a deep dive and investigate it and then she became a perpetrator and she became a victim of it. And so, um, there's, there are a lot of ways to damage and hurt individuals journalists and ways of intimidation that don't just disappear or the internet forgets the internet never forgets. In fact, that's the worst part of the internet is that everything is permanent and locked in archives somewhere. So I think that we absolutely are lagging behind and I do you believe that the Capitol Gazette tragedy, although it showed that online abuse can turn into physical violence. I don't think I've seen a incredible shift and change in behavior when it comes to newsroom management. I do think there's still a, it won't happen here, and this is just one of the flaws of being human, right, like we have a horrible time planning for retirement, we always think I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna get heart disease, I'll just keep eating these cheeseburgers like we, we, this is a fallacy of being a human you think it's never going to happen to us. So we need to lean into the future it's in our newsroom the realist pragmatist, in our newsroom, folks like Donna, who are working incredibly across collaboratively with different business units in order to formulate a plan, not just when an attack happens, but making sure that it, you try to not make it happen how what kinds of behavioral actions can we do and change, and what are our protocols if a lawsuit comes at us, if a fake website is resurrected against journalists, what are we doing and writing out essentially WarGames the military does it the military, these are the worst case scenarios and crease strategies on how to combat it. And I like to actually see what newsrooms. Think of war games like that create maybe strategies of, if we were in a situation of information worker, how are we working towards that, how are you protecting our employees, how are you keeping everyone safe.
Thank you so much during so I've just realized that we have slightly less time on the session but I thought so I'm going to have to jump a little bit around, because I want to get to the concrete stuff because I want people to be able to take away concrete ideas for what they can bring back to their newsrooms, whether they are newsroom leaders or advocates internally within a newsroom for change. So, Kelsey, I would love for you to talk about factors policy, how did it happen and what are some of the core principles or resources or services that you're offering and then I'll jump to Don and have her talks about how the New York Times offer support to protection to folks who are facing abuse.
Yeah, absolutely. So defector for those of you who don't know is a brand new cooperatively owned media company there are 25 of us, and we started last September so we started having all these conversations of well what did we think other newsrooms did well that we can copy, what do we think other newsrooms did poorly that we want to kind of revamp from the ground up. And what we have seen in our various experiences that other media companies particularly startups, is that the policies for harassment online either did not exist, Or were light enough that it was like, Oh, well if you're getting harassed you can talk to the lawyer, which is like not a plan at all. And so I kind of said, well, can we take a pass at how we might protect our employees and how we might do that strategically and preemptively and the editor in chief and the VP said yes and so we made a plan and the plan essentially says that like we enroll everyone and delete me which is a service that pulls all of your information off the internet ahead of time. So the minute you start working for us we are enrolling you in that program. We have basically a system where someone can take over your social media, if you need them to do that because often facing harassment is just watching people yell at you for hours which is terrible. And I mean everything we've agreed to give our employees is really pretty basic right we've said if you're in danger, we'll put you in a hotel which seems like the least we can do, and kind of the reasoning behind that is that we want our employees to stay for a long time. And so instead of pushing them through things we want to say like okay this is traumatic for you. How can we support you through this experience, how can we make sure you take time off after you've been harassed and kind of codifying those principles.
Thank you so much. Donna, do you want to jump in. Sure, Kelsey, do you mind dropping in the chat. I think you had somewhere where you had it like the policy so if you have a drop in the chat, we'll put it in for participants.
We do a lot of similar things that Kelsey had mentioned, basically where the threat response program is twofold it's one we're reacting to reported incidents from employees, and something that we really wanted to do is make it very personal. And get to really know our journalists, as well as make it really simple for them to contact us to shoot us an email, and we're going to reach out to you and we're gonna have a conversation. We want everyone to feel really comfortable coming to us with anything, anything that makes them uncomfortable, and kind of what Jermaine was talking about. We don't and I think I've mentioned to you, Victoria earlier, we don't, it's very rare that I would get a direct threat right It usually starts off, you know troll, harassment, abuse it escalates so I always, you know, say, just, just shoot me an email. We'll talk about it. And I just I keep track of these things and I monitor certain things and if it develops into something else I have a whole history of information and data for that situation. We also proactively monitor online for threats against the company or facilities and especially, most importantly our journalists or employees. We're working to build relationships with all the different social media platforms and really having a point of contact that we can reach out to when someone is being harassed. We also work closely with InfoSec to lock down everyone's Online Protection locked on their personal info, and something that I've noticed, And again during had mentioned happened to her. Of course women of color are the most targeted, that is my experience. So they have noticed is that their family members, particularly their mothers are also very vulnerable to this. So I think it's really important for newsrooms to not only provide the employee with a delete me and things of that nature but also immediate family members. And then I would just say again that having a team of people, that's cross disciplinary to meet regularly, and we go over stuff and they may know something about a case that I don't know. So we're always in communication with each other we share information. And then lastly, I'll just say when I was hired. My supervisor told me. Your job is people, that's what I'm always and I remind myself that every day, my job is people, and that's something I love about working here is my job is just to check in and make sure that this person is Okay, so first from a physical security standpoint. And then once I can cross that off the list. I'm going to make sure that they're emotionally, mentally okay and if not I'm going to try to get them some resources, and then I want to make sure that they feel comfortable doing their work. So, again, it, it's a very personal thing and I think we need to just really support them as people.
Thank you for that. So we have three minutes left and I want to pull in a question. It's a question I have that overlaps with a question in the chat. You know, we know that online abuse exactly as Donna just said disproportionately impacts those who identify as women, people of color, LGBTQIA and especially folks at the intersection of those identities. We're also seeing a reckoning, but really in fits and starts in the media industry around systemic inequality, around this question of objectivity and I guess I'm curious if any of you folks are comfortable talking, like, how are these things connected right like, you know, because someone in the chat was saying, Well, maybe it's not the user leadership doesn't understand maybe it's just the fact that the people who are most deeply affected are people who are also the most deeply starkly marginalized, so if anyone feels comfortable jumping in and sharing their thoughts on that and then I'll wrap us up.
I think that's such an astute point, and I think there's a number of factors here. The first is, we don't see a lot of people of color or non binary LGBTQ individuals who are afraid the top talent in large media organizations that have airtime, and like that kind of top talent celebrity s status does warrant a certain level of high protection, and a lot of our newest individuals that are going into newsrooms are actually, which is really cool as people of color to people that are coming from communities that are historically maybe we're in media, media for a long time was a industry of privilege, right, like you, you could afford to take that unpaid internship. And so I think there is something true here that there are groups of people that are coming in, that have never generationally like been working in media newsrooms that are now in this. The this like information pollution ecosystem where anonymity is the name of the game online and you, but you have to promote yourself and you have to look into things you have to reach out to people online and you can't really anticipate how they will react or if they may target you and when you do come from a certain background or at the intersection of different things, your community of support is small, right so it's not enough sometimes for your newsroom to say, hey, we've got your back. Don't worry about it, because the way that you feel is a very personalized kind of emotion, then maybe your direct manager might not fully understand the scope of what's triggering me, I'd like eliciting such deep pain in you. And I think there is something that can be done, where we build coalitions of have it like frontline reporters that can support each other in times of crisis like this. I know that's kind of an out there idea but maybe not maybe there are ways that we can create that kind of system of support where it's peer to peer, not just always looking to management, which is very important, but also how do we look to each other, how do we offer that support in a public and private way, what does that look like, so I kind of wanted to touch on that.
I know we're at the end but I just want to tag on by saying I agree and cope with coalition's and peer to peer, but I also think having come in 25 years ago, that it's it's desperately sad how little has changed in terms of the complexion of management. You know I came in at the beginning, there were a lot of people of color, believe it or not at the entry level 25 years ago, what, what is sad is that how few of how few of them made it as you've just pointed out to talk to your talent. You know all the black and brown people fall out. And in the end it's still management by white men, mostly, and some white women, but and and sis says people, I mean what, where, where is the diversity and management, and in the top tier talent. 25 years later, I mean you cannot scratch and claw your way into power in this industry. So that is what really needs to change because if you have a problem if you're at entry level, and you say to your manager I'm being targeted online. They even if they are good hearted person just may not get it. That's where we have to have some change we have to change the leadership. I'm not saying what everybody has to go, but we have to have leadership that reflects the country in which we live.
So folks, it pains me to have to end what is really have been like an extraordinary in fact fantastic conversation I am so deeply grateful to our panelists, and also to what I hear is that there's an extremely engaged chat happening and there's some very good questions we didn't get to. So what we're actually going to do and thank you, Jimmy, I think that was exactly the right place for this conversation to end. What I think we're going to do is, those of us who are free and interested are going to pop into the Breakout Room link and continue this conversation more informally so we can actually engage with the folks who participated and joined. So please join us there and if we want to talk peer support or anything else that was mentioned today I'll be there, those of our panels for free, please join us and we'll stay for about 15 minutes to chat with anyone else. Since we're all virtual can't see each other physically in person so thank you all so so much and they call it our oh and a supporter in the back. Thank you.