Call It Out: 'Abuse towards journalists is an unnaceptable attack on the public's right to know' - Society of Editors chief

The YEP launched our Call It Out campaign earlier this year. Picture: Shutterstock.The YEP launched our Call It Out campaign earlier this year. Picture: Shutterstock.
The YEP launched our Call It Out campaign earlier this year. Picture: Shutterstock.
Major technology giants have agreed to work with the Government and researchers over fears that misinformation could prolong the pandemic.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been brought on board a new working group led by fact-checking charity Full Fact in a bid to find new ways of tackling the problem.

The news comes after recent survey from the News Media Association (NMA) revealed local journalists are the first line of defence against coronavirus misinformation spread by others on social media. However, abuse of local journalists on social media is widespread, with 37 per cent of local editors reporting an increase in abuse of themselves or their journalists.

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The NMA’s deputy chief executive, Lynne Anderson, said: “The pandemic has shown a greater need for trusted news and information than ever. Audiences are growing as newspapers continue to play a vital role in informing readers, communicating advice and holding Government to account.

"Abuse towards journalists is an unacceptable attack on the public’s right to know. They play a critical role in our democratic society.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors added: “If anyone has questioned the importance of the role that the Press plays in ensuring communities thrive, the huge efforts undertaken by local and regional newspapers during this time of crisis.

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"However, we know that as well as the tremendous support from the vast majority of the public there are a misguided few who think it is acceptable to pour bile on journalists.

“These would be the same people who would no doubt be appalled if they or their friends and families were subject to similar attacks. Journalists need respect, not vitriol.”

Some of the YEP's own staff have also given their views, below.

Abbey Maclure - Live reporter

As a live reporter, I’m on Facebook for a large part of my working day – sourcing stories, managing our social media pages and interacting with our audience.

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One of the most rewarding parts of the job is working hard on the story and watching it reach thousands of people online. Social media is an amazing tool which lets us get to the heart of Leeds communities like never before.

I’m from a mixed-race family and I have experienced racism first hand. But I had never been exposed to the sheer volume of outright racism, not to mention other forms of abuse, that I’ve seen on social media.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that it’s a vocal minority when I’m tasked with monitoring disgraceful comments flooding in – while juggling deadlines.

I am proud of the work we are doing as a newsroom to try to stamp out this abuse, making it clear that racism will not be tolerated on our pages.

Emma Ryan - Specialist reporter

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Online trolling. It can be anything from a flippant, throwaway comment to targeted and deliberate hatred.

Social media can be a force for good but in the wrong hands it is also nothing much short of a cesspit.

We – and other media – have received abuse about reporting some of the more difficult headlines during the pandemic. But we’ve also been reporting on the stories of communities and people coming together, diversifying businesses and adapting to overcome the current issues.

People making fairy trails in village parks to cheer up local people, thousands upon thousands of pounds being raised by everyday people for charity and huge strides being made to tackle other serious issues such as racism and poverty. Maybe, for those of you investing so much energy into calling people you have never met, time would be better spent making a positive contribution to any of the above work being done in the city.

Laura Collins - YEP Editor

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Democracy thrives on challenge and differences of opinions – it helps to shape society and drive debate.

And our job as journalists at the Yorkshire Evening Post is to be at the centre to facilitate that discussion.

We scrutinise what is happening in the corridors of power, we champion the communities we serve and we shine a spotlight on those people who make Leeds such a fantastic city.

Freedom of speech is at the heart of this – but there really is a balance between free speech and free hate.

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We as a city need to keep the conversation going. But we can’t do this on our own.

While we can block, hide and delete comments that cross the line from a vocal minority we have to keep calling this out for what it is.

A comment on our Facebook page really struck me. It warned that if there’s anything offensive then the YEP will cry about it. It’s not about crying – it’s about shouting from the rooftops that enough is enough.

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