Journalists Should Receive Safety Training Earlier Than They Do Now, Says JWFLF's Executive Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation’s Executive Director Margaux Ewen said the growing dangers of practicing journalism require increased risk training at a safety workshop entitled “Journalism under attack: Protect yourself from threats” on June 28.


Co-hosted by the National Press Club Journalism Institute and the National Press Foundation, the workshop’s focus was to help journalists manage the heightened dangers they face in newsrooms, in the field and online.


Ewen said providing safety training is essential to make sure journalists are better prepared and aware of the risks “before they may pay the ultimate price of their lives.” After noting that no one in attendance had received safety training at the college level, she said the earlier that journalists can start receiving safety training, the better because the profession is becoming more dangerous.


The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation has developed a safety curriculum for graduate journalism schools, in partnership with Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. The curriculum’s aim is to embed a culture of safety into journalism schools around the country. The Foundation is currently building a curriculum for undergraduate students. “We are trying to get that in on the ground floor even earlier right now,” Ewen said.


Threats to journalists worldwide are increasing, and the United States is by no means an exception. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the U.S. ranks 48 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, falling three places compared with last year. RSF now classifies the U.S.’s media climate as “problematic.”


Hatred of the media is now such that a gunman entered the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland a year ago, killing four journalists and one other staffer in a targeted attack on the newspaper. Journalists also have been threatened and attacked while covering national political rallies.


“Unfortunately, such incidents of violence and threats are on the rise,” Ewen said. In 2019, 17 U.S. journalists have faced physical attacks, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Facing these trends, Ewen said it’s crucial for journalists to take necessary precautions, and know how to mitigate risks when doing their job.


Ewen was joined by Danny Spriggs, vice president of global security for the Associated Press, Nadine Hoffman, deputy director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, and Cmdr. Guillermo Rivera, head of special operations for the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, in a discussion on defusing threatening situations. The panel was moderated by John Donnelly, senior writer at CQ Roll Call and chair of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Team.