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New York Times tutors staffers on security, safety

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The New York Times this week held a large meeting to assist its reporters and editors in dealing with a range of security and safety issues that have arisen recently. “It’s the kind of thing that we’ve done often in the past for foreign correspondents who are exposed to different situations and we make available to them in case they want it,” Joseph Kahn, the paper’s managing editor, told the Erik Wemple Blog.

The impetus for the meeting, said Kahn, came from different angles, including addressing how to communicate securely with sources; how to keep email and other communications from hackers; and safety precautions at demonstrations and rallies. Another specific item of concern, said Kahn, is “reports of women feeling uncomfortable and experiencing harassment on Twitter when they weigh in on sensitive gender incidents.” There’s been the worry, added the managing editor, that social media sites aren’t a “really safe space for people who are associated with certain points of view on gender issues or sexual orientation issues, too.”

Another safety concern relates to the anti-Semitism that has roared on Twitter and other, more archaic messaging platforms, such as the U.S. Postal Service. New York Times Washington-based editor Jonathan Weisman did battle with such trolls earlier this year after tweeting a story that identified Trump as a porter of fascism. Maggie Haberman, a political reporter who has done close examinations of his campaign, received an orange envelope in the mail bearing an anti-Semitic tract. This particular scourge, says Kahn, “was not a significant topic at the meeting.” He noted that the topic had come up earlier in response to “some specific cases.”

Whatever the particulars, the trend is clear: Newsrooms are migrating their expertise in protecting personnel in overseas hotspots to domestic coverage. “We have to keep our journalists safe in Mosul, and we have to keep our journalists safe in Washington, D.C.,” Sally Buzbee, soon-to-be executive editor of the Associated Press (AP), told the Erik Wemple Blog yesterday. She declined to get into specifics about the wire service’s countermeasures.

Earlier this week, Politico sent a missive to staff pledging its steadfast work in the area of safety and security, noting that it had a well-connected consultant prepared to address problems.

Asked about whether The Washington Post has had to deal with the anti-Semitic problem, Executive Editor Marty Baron responded, “We haven’t had to do anything on that front yet. There was stuff on social media throughout the campaign, particularly the latter weeks. But nothing yet on that front that requires special intervention. (A pastor sent some literature to my address indicating I’d be heading to hell. There was very colorful imagery.)”