New free online course for women journalists and allies: Learn how to plan for reporting safely - Journalism Courses by Knight Center
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April 19, 2021

New free online course for women journalists and allies: Learn how to plan for reporting safely

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Being a woman journalist doesn’t mean just reporting the story. It now often involves planning for and confronting physical and online violence and harassment. Having a plan isn’t just necessary, but makes us feel more in control.

The new free online course, “How to report safely: Strategies for women journalists and their allies,” will teach students how to create a safety plan and manage and mitigate risks encountered while reporting. The course runs from May 3 to May 30, 2021, so register today!


The massive open online course (MOOC) is organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, in partnership with the International Women’s Media Foundation and UNESCO, with financial support from the Swedish Postcode Foundation.

The opening of this course on May 3 coincides with World Press Freedom Day, celebrated around the globe by UNESCO and many other organizations.

“We face risks every day in the course of our lives. Sometimes we’re lucky and are not affected by them, however, as journalists we intentionally work in spaces where more risk is present,” said MOOC instructor Alison Baskerville, lead inclusive safety trainer for IWMF. “Having a basic safety plan will not eliminate risk, but it will mitigate the impact of the risk.”

Some of those risks can turn to dangerous situations — such as journalists being detained, injured and threatened, and colleagues being unable to locate them or their last known location, she added.

“The safety plan is a tool to support you and not inhibit your work. It means you think everything through and have the confidence to know someone is looking out for you whilst in the course of your work,” the instructor explained.

The course is divided into four weekly modules organized as follows:

  1. Introduction to safety planning, including developing a risk assessment and a communication strategy
  2. Situational awareness and personal safety, including mitigating risk in the field
  3. Harassment and gender-based violence, including how to prepare for it and how to support those experiencing it
  4. Self care and mental wellbeing, including creating a self care plan and peer support networks

The course will emphasize the importance of communicating with teams while in the field.

“A team is not just the person working close to you; it’s also about other journalists. With the rise in attacks against the press across the globe, we all have a responsibility to not only communicate our stories and images but also to each other when it comes to safety, especially for freelancers,” Baskerville said. “Being able to check in with someone whilst on assignment also gives you peace of mind that if something goes wrong, someone will know and be able to act upon it. This makes us feel more calm and helps us to focus on the job, rather than worrying about the threats we’ve perhaps not considered.”

Unfortunately, some journalists may see threats as just part of the job.

“This mindset has been normalized, however it is changing.  When the first woman was allowed to go to college, we did not just stop there and say that’s enough. We have to constantly keep evolving this industry to make it more equitable and to fully call out that harassment. It should never be seen as part of any job,” Baskerville said. “It’s just not enough to let people sit and experience any form of harassment based on their identity. We all have a role in tackling this and creating more space and freedom for us all work as journalists without the added layer of sexism, racism, transphobia and homophobia.”

All women (cis, trans and femmes) and their allies are encouraged to register.

“We’re happy to be partnering with IWMF and UNESCO on this course, which will be a tremendous resource for women who want to learn frameworks for mitigating and managing risks,” said Mallary Tenore, associate director of the Knight Center. “We hope students will come away from this course feeling better prepared to keep themselves safe while reporting in the field and online — and that their allies will come away with newfound ideas about how to support women journalists who are navigating risks and safety issues.”

“The IWMF is thrilled to continue to offer accessible, comprehensive safety training through the Knight Center in partnership with UNESCO,” said Elisa Lees Munoz, IWMF executive director. “Coursework that’s responsive to the unique needs and threats women face on and offline is critical to enabling unbiased and diverse journalism. We hope this training provides both women and their allies in news media with the skills they need to keep themselves safe while continuing their important work.”

“Fostering a safe environment for women journalists to do their work is central to protecting freedom of expression and access to information,” said Guilherme Canela, chief of section for freedom of expression and the safety of journalists at UNESCO. “This online course, which complements UNESCO’s existing work with Member States and media organizations, will be a great space for sharing of practical tools and advice tailored to women journalists on how to stay safe.”

Baskerville is a documentary photographer and personal safety trainer. She is the founder of ROAAAR — an inclusive safety training organization — and the program lead on the current Next Gen Safety Training Program with IWMF. A former soldier, much of her photography focuses on the military. Her military experience and career as a conflict photographer prepared her to provide realistic safety training for media professionals.

Baskerville will teach the course using video lectures and interviews with guest speakers, as well as readings and handouts. Students will also participate in discussion forums and take weekly quizzes.

Like all Knight Center MOOCs, the course is asynchronous, meaning participants can take it during  the days and times that best suit them. However, there are recommended weekly deadlines to complete activities so as not to fall behind.

Students who successfully complete course requirements have the option of paying an administrative fee of U.S. $30 to receive a certificate of completion in PDF format. The Knight Center will evaluate the cases of students who need a waiver of that fee. No formal college credit is associated with the certificate.

This is the third online course the Knight Center has offered with IWMF. Past collaborations include the MOOC “Risk and security in journalism in Latin America: practical steps for self-protection,” offered in 2018, and the MOOC “Online harassment: Strategies for journalists’ defense” offered last winter. The online harassment MOOC is now available as a self-directed course on the platform.

Learn how you can better protect yourself physically, mentally and emotionally while reporting in the field, and how to be an ally for women journalists facing risk and violence while on the job. Find more information here, as well as instructions on how to register today for this free online course.