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Young journalists should be celebrated not abused online

Keith Gladdis

Nominations open for MHP + Mischief 30 To Watch: Young Journalist Awards 2020.

There’s rarely been a better time to celebrate the young talent that is reshaping the news industry.

For too long the downward spiral in newspaper sales and dwindling audiences for traditional television news has been cited as evidence that journalism is in terminal decline.

That lazy assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. For those that care to look, the quality of journalism in the UK today is greater than it’s ever been.

Last year the 30 To Watch: Young Journalist Awards received almost 400 entries from 169 titles across the UK including print, broadcast and online.

The winners worked on stories ranging from sexual harassment in the insurance industry, cases of slavery in Venezuela and the UK’s illegal skin bleaching market.

What was clear from almost all the 1,850 pieces of work that were entered was that journalism has been energised by social media.

Journalists were able to promote their work online, engage directly with their audience and invite people to contribute to follow up pieces.

But with that interactivity comes a significant downside.

The abuse the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg suffered on social media led to her being given police protection at party conference. The abuse was rightly condemned however she is far from a one off.

ITV News at Ten presenter Julie Etchingham says unwanted attention from online trolls is a ‘personal safety issue’ for journalists, especially for women in the media.

Take a glance at the response journalists get to their tweets and you will be shocked by the trolling they receive, often for stories they’ve not had any involvement with.

The trolls don’t bother to distinguish between a cub reporter on a local newspaper or a highly paid columnist, the vile comments and threats are universal.

As far as they are concerned, all journalists are ‘fair game’.

Lloyd Embley, the editor in chief of the Reach group said: ‘Unfortunately it seems that in the current climate some people are desperate to blame the mainstream media for everything that goes wrong.’

Journalists are by their very nature a robust bunch but very few are taught how to deal with online abuse as part of any accredited qualification or course.

The Reach Group among others have now issued advice to staff and offered to remove links to twitter pages from online bylines.

But why should journalists be denied the opportunity to promote their own work and brand on social media?

There are signs of a fightback.

James Mitchinson, the Editor of the Yorkshire Post has vowed ‘war against the trolls’ and blocked those leaving ‘abusive messages on our social media pages that no individual should read about themselves.’

The reaction to BBC south east political editor Lauren Moss having a hot drink thrown over her as she attempted to deliver a piece to camera in the streets of Brighton was positive.

And last month a man who wrote on Facebook that a local journalist ‘needs raping’ was jailed for five months.

The industry is starting to think about how to protect its journalists and helping to equip them to fight back.

The 30 To Watch young journalist awards exist because we believe emerging talent should be celebrated. Previous winners include Sophy Ridge from Sky News, Peter Campbell from the financial Times and Finola Miles from ITV News.

Entry is free of charge and the awards ceremony on June 1st will be attended by the great and good of the industry.

At last year’s event Tony Gallagher, then editor of the Sun and now deputy editor of the Times spoke of the importance of social mobility in the newsroom and the need to bring people from different backgrounds into journalism.

It’s a mission that will fail if young talent is put off by the hate filled abuse of the trolls.

To enter the MHP + Mischief 30 To Watch: Young Journalist Awards click here.