Reporting safely
: an assessment of risk management practices employed by news organisations in support of journalists operating in areas of conflict, 2009-2019

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Since 2009, there have been landmark changes to the way news organisations operate in areas of conflict, driven by challenges related to new technology, increased competition, and the evolution of traditional business models. Although the impact on journalism has been well documented, there has – to-date – been no academic research assessing the effectiveness of risk management frameworks applied by news organisations reporting from conflict areas in light of these challenges. Therefore, this study creates new knowledge; grounded in pragmatism and using a mixed-methods approach. The research examines real world experience, drawing practicable conclusions from the actions, knowledge and perceptions of news organisations and journalists with regard to existing risk management frameworks for conflict zones.
Overall, this research demonstrates that while news organisations have improved their risk management frameworks, they have failed to evolve at a pace to match changes within the media landscape and related emerging risks. The study highlights several areas for improvement within risk management frameworks, notably levels of engagement with the risk assessment process, which is often perceived as a bureaucratic “tick-box” exercise, and the failure by news organisations to capture lessons from previous conflict deployments. The research also identifies several practical challenges and gaps that need to be addressed to ensure that those deployed to conflict zones in non-traditional roles receive the same attention with regard to duty of care as those in traditional roles. This duty of care is a legal and moral requirement for news organisations; failures with regard to duty of care obligations could lead to prosecution or civil suits against risk owners, with a potentially detrimental impact on wider brand reputation. With the expected increase in the utilisation of non-traditional roles in the coming years, this study highlights the critical necessity of further research to assess how this gap, along with the other findings highlighted within this study, can be addressed to ensure the future safety and security of news teams in conflict zones.
Date of AwardAug 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChris Lewis (Supervisor), Risto Talas (Supervisor), Francis Pakes (Supervisor) & Nathan Richard John Hall (Supervisor)

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