How to Support Staff Facing Online Abuse: Best Practices for Editors and Managers


Viktorya Vilk, Program Director for Digital Safety and Free Expression at PEN America, joined Election SOS and a panel of newsroom leaders and digital safety experts to exchange strategies to protect and support staff facing online abuse, which disproportionately impacts women, LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC journalists. Panel participants included Donte Stewart, formerly Senior Director of Security at Vox Media, Jason Reich, Vice President of Corporate Security at The New York Times, and Kristin Neubauer, Producer and Global Coordinator of Peer Support Network at Reuters

Top Tips for Newsrooms to Support Staff:

  • Have a dedicated support person/team to field incoming requests or complaints about abuse. Often, simply having someone to talk to can alleviate mental health issues related to online abuse for those facing such abuse.

  • Peer support networks are invaluable and can help foster a corporate culture in which reporters and other newsroom staff do not feel afraid or ashamed to come forward with incidents of abuse.

  • Any task forces set up to deal with abuse should be multidisciplinary in nature and bring together people from Human Resources, Legal, and Security departments.

  • Set up a reporting system to aggregate reports of abuse as well. This will help identify repeat offenders, “leakage,” and make it easier to develop actionable insights.

  • Set up a threat assessment system internally to determine whether or not abuse warrants further action, such as active shooter trainings.

  • Include online security and psychosocial support benefits in employee benefit packages. Some ideas:

    • Subsidize data scrubber subscriptions for reporters, especially freelance reporters
    • Provide access to counseling
    • Provide access to password managers

Next Steps: