Keeping yourself safe whilst engaging with the media

How do you keep yourself safe when working with the media?

In September, we welcomed Angles participants to their monthly, facilitated peer support group. Each meeting follows a different theme but are all focused on working with the media and how the media works. Participants are activists with lived experience and practitioners who are involved in this sector. This time, the question we asked was:

How can we keep ourselves safe when engaging with the media? 

Some of the thoughts and reflections from the group have been blogged anonymously here – hopefully they’re useful to other media contributors, and perhaps to journalists as well.

Boundaries

  • Not allowing the pace of the interview to be dictated to you. You keep yourself in control and relaxed by not letting the journalist rush or hurry you. Journalists can also ensure interviewees know how much time its going to take, whilst being realistic about deadlines.
  • Telling the interviewer if there’s certain topics you won’t talk about. What do you choose to keep to yourself? Journalists can ensure any agreements are in writing in an email so expectations are set before an interview.
  • Remembering that your personal experience isn’t vital to the story if you don’t want to share it – if it’s not something you want to share, it’s enough to talk about the topic generally within a wider societal context.
  • Remembering that ultimately, you are responsible for setting your own boundaries – and keeping to them.

How are you feeling?

  • What is my gut feeling about this interview? Nerves are fine, but if you feel nauseous about it, take a moment to consider the impact of taking part. This could be before or after the interview’s taken place. Check in with someone supportive and share your feelings.
  • Ask yourself – would you put a friend, client or family member in this position? If it’s a no, then it’s worth reconsidering your choice.
  • How will I feel after the interview? What are the implications of this? Make sure to think ahead and consider the impact of publicity.
  • Will you feel safe knowing that the piece could be shared widely?
  • Reflect afterwards on how the interview impacted you in the weeks after. It’s good to remember this for next time.

The people around you

  • Do you trust the journalist you’re speaking to? Do you think they are trying to keep you safe? Consider how your quote or words may be used in the wider context.
  • Ask the interviewer if they’ll let you look at the article you contributed a quote to or if you can see a rough edit. They may not be able to do this, but it’s worth asking.
  • Consider if there are any other people that you want to keep safe in your interview. Perhaps you want to remain anonymous, as you don’t want to identify others who are close to you. Journalists should double check around issues of anonymity and being identifiable with their interviewees.
  • Do you have a network to support you before, during or after the engagement? Consider who you can ask for a chat with once the interview is over. Journalists may also value from doing this.

For more resources and tips for activists engaging with the media visit our resources page.

For tips on covering these issues visit our blog for journalists.

If you’d like to hear more about the peer support group meetings and what’s involved, please contact us.