Generous WiMWA members allowed long locked-away secrets about mishaps and near misses at work to be aired in March as part of a move to increase mentoring efforts and safeguard the new generation of journalists.
The three-hour safety workshop was the launch of the new WiMWA Masterclass series developed by veteran journalist Victoria Laurie to aid women working in the media and those soon entering by delving deep into relevant topics to enhance their professional roles.
It brought together on a Friday afternoon 15 young news gatherers to role play and brainstorm about subjects ranging from interview location, anger and threats, long hours and long roads to crowd safety and office safety.
Gathered together at Cannings Purple’s Brookfield Tower boardroom from the country, metro, suburban media outlets and universities, they were provided with an invaluable “Tales and Tips from the Road” guidebook based on “actual incidents” experienced by senior WA journalists, photographers and camera operators from online, TV, radio and newspapers. These were collected and compiled by veteran journalist Marnie McKimmie.
The students, interns, freelancers and experienced journos heard warnings from senior WiMWA members who had;
* found themselves alone with a threatening person wanting revenge
* been cut off from colleagues in the middle of a riot
* been punched and kicked
* endured angry drunk readers/viewers banging on the office door late at night
*a reader/viewer push through office security and lunge at them while working at their desk
*woke to find a rose from a reader/viewer left on their car windscreen
* relatives hassled to reveal their home location.
*been sent to remote locations with little preparation and training.
The Masterclass group collectively planned out how to tackle each of these situations, including highlighting the importance of checking in with a colleague, having an exit plan, using technology to alert others to your whereabouts, listening to your gut and the benefits of taking first aid, driving and mental health courses.
Ms Laurie said it was important that today’s news gatherers were prepared and armed with a “toolbox of professional skills”, as there had been significant changes to the work environment and equipment used and many women in the media today found themselves working alone, often in high-risk situations.
It was important, she said, to adapt work habits to ensure WiM members were not unduly exposed to risk or unsafe behaviours, as they went about their vital work.
“Unlike a decade or more ago, when media crews were common, many media workers today find themselves working alone, whether photographers, reporters for TV, radio or online, camera operators or individuals in other roles,” she said.
“With women making up a large proportion of the media working force, WiM felt it was important to make a helpful contribution in this area.”
Senior WiMWA members who forwarded on details of their “actual incidents”, also urged young news gatherers to take time to assess the safety of the situation they found themselves in.
“Sometimes when I am set on a story, I completely disregard my personal safety and I have realised that I have to actively make sure I consider it.”
“Your safety on the job is more important than getting the picture/story – but then I say that and that’s not what we always remember to do.”
Feedback from those attending the inaugural Masterclass was positive and encouraging, with WiMWA now looking at expanding the Masterclass series to cover a range of other topics, including focusing on the needs of mid-career members.
“I thought it was highly enlightening and informative about topics which aren’t necessarily covered elsewhere at all.”
“Very useful. Also, the kind of tips I feel we would have had to learn from bad experience otherwise. The booklet will be handy!”
“I really liked this Masterclass and having real-life stories and tips from professional journalists.”
“I’ve received information about important things to consider when it comes to personal safety that no one ever taught me…I (now) know specific procedures and precautions to undertake as a freelancer.”
“I really enjoyed the class, it covered very important information…I would never have thought about many of the topics covered if it wasn’t for this class.”
“It was great! It would be good to do it even longer next time.”
“Very informative and interesting”
“Absolutely useful. Great tips for both young and experienced journalists.”
“Loved it! Interesting and useful and I look forward to attending the next Masterclass.”
Each of those attending was provided with a take-home booklet of the “Tales and Tips from the Road” guide.
The Masterclass was followed by get-together drinks at a nearby bar to allow support networks to form, with a request made for an online chat group to be established.
Big thanks to Cannings Purple for hosting the event and to WiMWA members who shared lessons learnt from their mistakes, so that others would not make them.
* Keep your eye on our Facebook page for details about WiM’s next Masterclass later in the year.
Report by Marnie McKimmie