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The pandemic has brought with it an awakening within newsrooms to protect their most precious resource: its people.

Conversations around diversity, mental health and online safety for journalists are becoming commonplace. So we asked four experts for their insights on how newsrooms may change next year.

Other articles in this series:

Slow and steady progress: Rebecca Whittington, online safety editor, Reach plc

If 2022 is going to teach us anything about what to expect in 2023, it is that change takes time, but plans can turn on the twist of a dime.

In terms of online safety for journalists in the UK, we have had highs: increasing and sustained focus and research into online harms and trauma in journalism across industry, academia, government, the legal precedent set by the jailing of Alex Belfield for stalking four men almost entirely online, new safety functions introduced by social media.

As well as lows: the risk to safety due to disruption within social media tech organisations, in my opinion, the acquittal of Alex Belfield of stalking four women journalists, the failure of the online safety bill to have the nuance to define 'harmful but legal' soundly enough for it to become law.

When looking at online harms, there has been a swing away from the anti-covid rhetoric which damaged journalists so badly in 2020-21 and instead, we see increasing levels of hateful speech and violence online in connection to race, gender and sexuality. Unfortunately, nothing suggests this is going to decrease in 2023.

If Donald Trump returns to a mainstream social platform, we can also expect even more anti-mainstream media (MSM) rhetoric which will further legitimise online and in-person violence against those that work within MSM. We may see a general election in the UK, which would cause even more polarisation in the same vein. I also anticipate a continued increase in direct messaging of online hate via email, text message and increasingly via encrypted services like Telegram.

While this all sounds bleak (sorry), there are positives coming too. Increasing number of people are seeking solutions to online violence. Next year I may well find myself working more on TikTok than YouTube, or mastering the safety functions of brand new social platforms. But I know I will be in good company as awareness of the issue and impact of online harms continues to increase and collaborative efforts to make positive change are happening.

Normalising mental wellbeing: Hannah Storm and John Crowley, founders of Headlines Network

Too often we hear from staff and freelance journalists who are scared speaking about their mental health will impact their careers. In 2023, our industry will get better at recognising the need to normalise conversations and how this will improve the wellbeing of those around us as well as our industry. 

While addressing journalists' mental health might feel like another financial burden in these straitened times, investment in our sector must become imperative in 2023: it will help newsrooms retain diverse talent, reduce presenteeism and boost morale and output. Ultimately this shift in focus will help all newsrooms function better and with it their most precious resources: their journalists. 

One of the things we hear most from the colleagues we work with is the fact that they feel they are constantly 'on'. Faced with relentless breaking news and being hyper-connected, it is hard to find time to switch off. In 2023, we hope newsrooms will find a way to encourage breaks and that individuals will accept that doing so will help replenish the resilience we need to do our jobs.

It is great to see conversations around journalism safety broadening from a focus on supporting those who cover conflict and unrest. However, often these conversations fail to consider how physical safety intersects with psychological and online issues. In 2023, we hope that more news media organisations will see that these areas are all connected and that we cannot talk about staying physically safe unless we recognise the toll that uncertainty and insecurity can have on our wellbeing.

Likewise, if we are not mentally healthy, it can impact our decision-making processes and lead us to make risky decisions which may exacerbate already insecure situations. We also hope that newsrooms are really able to take on board the emotional toll that online harassment has on media workers, recognising those that are often most targeted tend to be women, non-white journalists and members of the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Women as the rising stars: Jessica Patterson, journalist, editor, project manager and researcher

In the UK news industry, women are still sidelined as top editors and women of colour are "almost completely locked out," according to a report. 

I expect that in 2023, publishers and media companies in the UK will follow their American counterparts and elevate more women into top leadership positions and key management and newsroom roles.

Journalism is an industry that has traditionally demanded commitment, dedication and long hours, and women leaders often get sidelined because they have other responsibilities that create friction with the demands of the job. 

But, getting more women to the top means changing entrenched media culture – from shorter work weeks to creating a corporate strategy for employees on menopause, to supporting women on and after maternity leave, to supporting women who face online hate and harassment.

I believe the rising numbers of women executives in the media industry will result in a shift to more nuanced coverage and perspectives in the news. Increasing numbers of women leaders will have a powerful trickle-down effect on other women in the news industry.

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