Newsroom Safety: Journalists Remain Alert & Make Plans in Case of Attack

newsroom safety brett

You’ve got to have thick skin to be a journalist.

Your audience — even folks within your newsroom — may disagree or take issue with your reporting. And, everyone’s a critic — it’s normal to receive harsh, mean-spirited comments. It’s a good day when you read something nice in your inbox.

In today’s age of fake news accusations, journalists are under greater attack than ever.

Some encounters have turned violent.

This year, 41 journalists have been physically attacked, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. The organization began recording threats and other acts against press freedom in 2017.

“President Donald Trump has used vitriolic rhetoric targeting individual journalists and media organizations, undermining the role a free press should play in a democracy,” U.S. Press Freedom Tracker says, on its site. “This has prompted renewed interest in domestic press freedom issues.”

Attacks at home

Much has been reported on the risks associated with media working abroad in terrorist and/or war zones.

The death of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul remains a mystery.

Recently, domestic threats and attacks have escalated, raising new concerns about the safety of journalists in the U.S.

Five employees with The Capital Gazette were killed by gunman Jarrod Ramos in June, apparently retaliating for a story written about him.

“This crime happened, not in a foreign country, but in nearby Annapolis,” wrote Jason Rezaian, in his Washington Post global opinions piece, The U.S. just became a dangerous place to be a journalist. “Yet there are some striking similarities between the killings at the Capital Gazette and the sad and hazardous climate for journalists around the world.”

Rezaian knows all too well the risk of press freedom abroad. He was detained in July 2014, while serving as The Washington Post bureau chief, based in Tehran.

The Gazette honored their murdered colleagues by not allowing the awful tragedy to prevent them from publishing the very next day.

Pipe bomb at CNN

Several more instances where journalists physically were attacked have occurred, according to the Freedom Tracker.

CNN is the latest victim.

On Oct. 24,  a pipe bomb was discovered in the mailroom of the cable network’s New York offices. Fire alarms went off and the building was evacuated during live programming.


CNN Don Lemon reacts to pipe bomb threat.

“You could’ve been mourning me,” said CNN’s Don Lemon to fellow anchor Chris Cuomo, during Cuomo’s live show in front of CNN that night. “I could’ve been mourning you, God forbid. We could’ve lost our colleagues.”

Establish a safety plan

The dangers to journalists are real and scary.

Newsrooms are taking a stronger look at security and monitoring incoming threats.

The New York Times took extra precautions recently after an anonymous op-ed story resulted in angry calls.

Journalists organizations are tackling the subject, too.


Journalist safety is no longer limited to those working overseas.

Newsrooms need to be prepared. Make sure you and your colleagues establish an escape plan. It’s not too late to start the conversation with your colleagues about what to do, should an attack happen in or around your workplace.

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Brett Savage-Simon is PR Newswire’s director of audience relations and was a television reporter in her former life. Follow her @savsimon

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