Being a journalist can be rough, especially during times of turmoil. While the most difficult situations for journalists have historically been covering war zones, recent events prove journalists in the United States now face threats and danger while reporting on their home turf.
Much of this information was pulled from SPJ Toolbox, an invaluable resource for covering protests, traumatic events and violent conflicts among many other topics.
To all journalists, everywhere, thank you for your work, your dedication, your patience, your care, your camaraderie, your amazing ability to set aside your own emotions and pain, if only while on the clock. Thank you for your laser-like focus on getting out our first rough draft of history.
Regardless of the story or location, SPJ has compiled these resources from our experts and our great partners, in hopes they will be helpful and keep you safe.
Safety and Security
Often when protests turn violent, journalists can get caught in the crosshairs and even become a target for violence and destruction. Thats why its important to prepare every time you go out in the field. Remember your safety is whats most important. Please be careful and stay safe.
– Before you go, ask yourself if it is necessary It is natural for journalists to want to go where the news is happening. But are there other related stories before or after the event, or in a different location that need to be told (at your state capital vs. Washington, D.C., for example)? If plenty of other journalists are telling the main story, it might be better to look for other unique angles.
– If you decide to go, have a plan What will you do if cell phone service is cut off? Write important phone numbers (editor, lawyer) on your arm in case you are separated from your gear. Take snacks, water, masks, phone chargers, but dont overload yourself so much that it gets in the way or you cant run with your gear if necessary. Be mentally prepared for physical conflict. What will you do if you or a colleague get injured? Situational awareness is a must. Be aware of what is happening around you at all times. Where are exits? Look at the terrain and how you can use it to protect yourself. Make note of landmarks and street closures, realizing areas may be completely closed off later. Announce to police what you are doing and tell them you will move if they tell you to.
– Bring safety gear Basic personal protective equipment includes a helmet, mask and protective eyewear. More advanced equipment includes a first aid kit, boots, mask, ballistic vest and helmet.
– Team up Remain calm and help each other. Partner up if possible, even with journalists from competing news outlets. Ask each other how youre doing after a traumatizing event. Make sure everyone in your group gets home safely.
– Clean up COVID-19, tear gas and other chemicals are a threat even after you get home. Wipe down and clean all your gear so it doesnt get into your home and affect family or roommates.
While many laws differ from state to state, one thing is certain: You, as a journalist, have the right to report on events happening in your community and our nations capital. Journalism is protected by the First Amendment. Know your rights and report violations.
We know reporting while being physically and verbally assaulted, amongst other things, can take its toll on your mental health. Please take care of yourself and your colleagues. Seek help if you need it and review mental health resources. Remember that it is important to rest and take a break away from coverage. Know your limits. Drink water. Eat food. Talk to someone you trust.