Resources for Coping and Safety
Read the May NABJ RoundUp Newsletter05/23/2020
NABJ Statement on the Arrest of CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Crew Members05/29/2020
Tips for Coping with Today’s Tragedies and Being Safe in the Field
(A collection of information from useful resources)
#NABJCares about your safety and well-being. There are multiple resources available to help you during this time, but we understand that you are hard at work telling the stories America needs you to tell, so we’ve put together some quick tips and guidance to easily access and help you during this critical time. You can view these tips below.
Tips for Coping with Stressors
Toni T. Hawkins, of Bluebird Resolution Group, specializes in conflict management and training. She recently met with Twin Cities Black Journalists (TCBJ), the Minnesota chapter of NABJ, to provide coping tips during this traumatic time.
She reported that feedback from members included feeling:
- Mentally and physically tired
- Like I have been “on” the whole time
- Bottled up because I can’t express myself like I want to
- Like there’s nothing left
- It’s hard trying to be impartial
We understand all of you may be feeling some of these sentiments, and it’s important that we lean on each other during this time, and always.
Here are some of the tips Toni Hawkins recommends for navigating and coping during these times:
- Tell Yourself It’s OK. Being Black and a journalist in America comes with many stressors and responsibilities. Your burdens are real. Your concerns are legitimate. Everything that you’re feeling is warranted. The first step to coping is acceptance and acknowledgment. Despite how strong, capable, and prepared you are, tell yourself it is OK. Go ahead, do it. Say it to yourself, now.
- Connect with Your Network for Support. Research shows that one of the best resources for coping with stressful circumstances is connecting with other journalists. Check-in on one another, regularly. Vent with one another. Pair or group your members up and provide them each with the other’s contact information. Please share what you’ve seen and how it made you feel. The strengthening of these relationships will help us as an organization meet each other’s emotional and professional needs.
- Write it Out. Write about your feelings and experiences — for you — not for work. Expressing yourself through writing is similar to a therapeutic purge and compartmentalization. Writing can help you process your emotions. Write about how the story/circumstances are personally affecting you. Compiling your reflections could be a great way to archive history for the future. Imagine budding journalists, years from now, accessing your writings as a reflection of the times. Writing it out can lead to a documented legacy.
- Do Something. If writing isn’t your therapeutic preference, getting up, getting out, and doing something is another great way to help journalists cope with stressors. Finding a way to relax and disconnect from the current events can include physically taxing or even mentally engaging activities. Exercise produces endorphins that improve mood. It also makes you tired and can aid in sleeping regularly. Try something new! There is nothing selfish about dedicating time in your schedule for your well-being. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?
- Seek Professional Help. While time has evolved, there is still a misconception of seeing a therapist in the Black community. With more digital opportunities, therapists are even more accessible. The Mind Field (themindfield.org) is an organization dedicated to changing stigmas in minority communities. Some of the therapists also have backgrounds in journalism. There isn’t any shame in getting help from a professional, get the help you need.
- Consult Your Employer. Look into some of the benefits of your employers’ mental health offerings. It is cheaper to offer mental health services than to pay your extended sick leaves. (Talk to your employer and tell them what you need to be effective and to support you when your job’s requirements cause you trauma.)
Tips for Field Safety
If you’re reporting in the age of COVID-19 and during protest coverage, it is important to protect yourself from physical danger, police brutality or mistreatment to the best of your ability. We’ve compiled various tips and resources to guide you below. Also, NABJ recently co-sponsored a webinar on “Covering Race, Policing and Misconduct.” You can view it here.
- Be Prepared. Do Your Research. Create an Emergency Plan. Ensuring your safety in the field begins with focusing on being prepared. Before going into a protest, it is essential that you do your research on the area. If you are not familiar with the area, take some time before going in the field, review a map for places to find safety in case of an emergency. Learn your rights as a journalist before going into any protest. And confirm that someone in your newsroom, as well as family and friends, know where you are at all times. Ensure your mobile device is always charged. Consider carrying a portable charger. This ensures you can contact your newsroom or family and friends if you are in any danger.
- Always Have Your Press Badge Visible. Identify yourself as soon as you are encountered. Where gear whenever possible that identifies you as press or ask your newsroom for marked clothing or a vehicle to drive whenever possible — and if you feel safe to do so. Always remember to carry your personal ID and any important documents you will need to verify who you are. If you are a freelancer, request a press badge from the company that hired you. Freelancejournalistsunion.org has announced that it offers a press badge service.
- Dress for Safety. Protests have become known to ignite quickly. Ensuring you have the right protective clothing and equipment is key to staying safe in the field. Wear loose, sturdy nonflammable clothes. Wear a gas mask in case the crowd gets tear-gassed. Keep eye protection, head protection, and always have your ID on a lanyard attached to your clothes. Always bring a first aid kit, any medicine you need to take, and ensure you are fueling your body and staying hydrated with food and water, etc. Click here for recommendations on protective equipment from IWMF. SPLC also offers tips here.
- Make Sure You Are OK. Staying safe in the field includes conducting a personal assessment. Covering a protest can take much energy, physically and mentally. You need to assess your physical and mental health. Know your boundaries, and do not go beyond them. Our Self-care for Black Journalists webinar is always available for playback on YouTube here. IJNET also offers these self-care tips.
- Practice Situational Awareness. Being safe in the field includes understanding and being aware of your surroundings. Always notice changes in the crowd’s behavior to know when to leave. Stand on the sidelines when you can. Remember that if you have to get a shot, get in, and get out. Always ensure you are not alone. Be accompanied by a co-worker, request security support, or connect with fellow journalists. Never put yourself between law enforcement and protesters. This could lead to confusion and place you in the line of fire. Document the scene. Take photos and video.
- Be Prepared to Be Stopped by Law Enforcement. If you are stopped by law enforcement, inform them that you are press. Know your journalistic rights before going into the field. Keep the phone number of your lawyer and boss handy and ask your newsroom for legal resources or information on what their policies are should you be arrested or harmed on the job. Keep in constant contact with your producers, editors, supervisors, and co-workers as much as possible. If you are stopped be sure you or a co-worker are recording and never turn the camera off.
- View CPJ’s Safety Kit for journalists here.
- Your work as a journalist is backed by the First Amendment. View our Video Message: “Journalism is Not a Crime” here.
- Please remember to take our survey here to help us collect data about what you are experiencing in the field during the protests.