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Documentary maker and UK's first Online Safety Editor join MDX roundtable about abuse of journalists online

Working on social media "like a combination of being a punch bag and a lab rat": senior broadcast editor

A graphic of angry emoji face designs plus outlines of smartphonesMiddlesex University hosts a public roundtable on 29th April about journalists’ experiences of online abuse in their work — “like a combination of being a lab rat and a punch bag” says one senior broadcaster — and potential solutions to this.

A young brunette and a young blonde haired woman stand beside a camera on a tripodSpeakers include Belgian journalist, presenter and filmmaker Florence Hainaut, who made a documentary #SalePute (#FatUglySlut in its English version) about the impact of misogyny, rape and death threats online, and has made strong statements such as that she will never set foot in a newsroom; and former news editor and journalism lecturer Rebecca Whittington, Reach plc’s first Online Safety Editor since October 2021.

Also on the panel is Camille Petit of project partner the European Federation of Journalists, which supports more than 320,000 journalists in 44 countries. MDX Professor of Journalism and former BBC special correspondent Kurt Barling will chair.

A fair haired woman with blue eyes in a white blouse looks at the camera next a quote Tweet about imposter syndrome“We now have enough research to show that online harassment of journalists is ubiquitous across journalism cultures,” says convenor Dr Maja Simunjak, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at MDX who has wide-ranging news journalism experience including as a broadcast editor and anchor. In 2020, the UK National Union of Journalists found half of all journalists experienced online abuse and 55% of those reported it having an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

“Florence can give a personal account of what happens in the industry and what works for her,” says Dr Simunjak. “Rebecca’s appointment and high interest in her work shows how important it is for someone in industry to officially talk about the situation”. Dr Simunjak has been working with MDX Associate Professor in Psychology Lisa Marzano on the risks and potential harms of online abuse.

The event is one in a series alongside a working group with industry stakeholders and a research symposium, marking a culmination of Dr Simunjak’s Arts and Humanities Research Council- funded study of emotional labour in modern journalism. The event can be attended in person on the MDX campus, in Committee Room 3 of Hendon Town Hall, or virtually over Zoom. Click here for details.

To find out more about Creative Media and Journalism at MDX, click here

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