What Can We Do To Tackle Sexual Harassment in the Media?

On the eve of this year’s International Women’s Day, Wednesday 7th March, the Frontline Club hosted a conversation on ‘What can be done to tackle sexual harassment in the media?’

It was chaired by Hannah Storm, Director of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) with guests Rachel Corp, deputy editor of ITV News; Louise Ridley, co-founder of Second Source and freelance journalist currently running news special projects at HuffPost UK; Jasmine Andersson, also a co-founder of Second Source and an investigations reporter at PinkNews along with Mark Di Stefano, media and politics reporter for Buzzfeed News, London.

Starting the discussion Storm asked Corp to share her experiences when she began working in the industry roughly twenty years ago and if she thinks there has been a cultural shift in the way women are treated within the newsroom.

Crop commented: “When I started working in television and broadcast there was this sense that if you were a young woman you were slightly fair game. It wasn’t necessarily at the desk but around socialising for work which was necessary part of getting on in your career and you had to have sharp elbows. But I hope in certain parts of the media we have come a long way from this fair game culture.”

Talking about the sea change which has come since campaigns such as #metoo Storm asked Andersson how her organisation is pushing for improvemnts. She replied:

…I think now when you enter the industry, it’s a lot about patronage, it’s a little bit more sophisticated, more insidious. So hopefully together we can present an active force and say that, ‘this isn’t going to happen anymore’

Louise Ridley emphasised that Second Source through being an informal network keeps solidarity among women and holds events to bring all the conversations together. It is also collecting sexual harassment and Human Resources policies of different media organisations to see where the loopholes are.

She said: “We are launching a mentoring scheme to help women in the first few years of their career…women who think they might drop out of Journalism, particularly we want to focus on working class women, women from ethnic minorities. We want to offer all the normal career advice and support but what is really important for us is that we offer help on those personal and difficult issues as well.”

On the particular subject of harassment in the newsroom Storm turned to Mark Di Stefano who has recently reported on a number of such cases. He said:

I feel as though there has been a noticeable change particularly in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and every young man in the industry should pause and take stock and reflect on their own behaviour…it’s also how we deal with our female friends, in group chats, in WhatsApp threads

He added: “The hardest thing you come across when you are reporting on harassment allegations in this environment in Britain is that libel laws are very strong and reporting from anonymous sources is very hard…I have had a dozen anonymous sources who have all corroborated each other on something that could have taken down a very senior media person but I could not get past my editors because I needed someone on the record which was very hard.”

A number of questions from the audience followed the formal discussion and some shared their personal experiences of harassment. The question of redress for freelancers who have been sexually harassed was also raised.

For this Storm suggested that organisations working with freelancers, such as Acos Alliance and Frontline Register among offering other support should also embed conversations around harassment into their protection mechanism.

To watch the talk click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzmR5mUwypg

For more information about The Second Source visit: http://www.thesecondsource.co.uk/