By Chris Jessen
I went to a panel discussion on security for journalists on Wednesday. I left far more paranoid than I was before.
The discussion was hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Internews and was led by Washington Post associate editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Frank Smyth and Danny O’Brien, both of CPJ. Kathleen Reen of Internews moderated.
The discussion focused on the dangers journalists face in the field and in the cyber world.
While some of the ways to keep safe seemed very basic, such as taking a first aid kit with you and making sure you have insurance, it was surprising to hear their stories about when journalists just didn’t think of these things before entering hostile territory.
What made me paranoid was the discussion on digital security. State agents being able to steal your information as you pass through a check point. Malware that targets the Internet in a specific hotel room so that a reporter’s computer can be controlled remotely. There were many other stories, too, and it really had me worried about my own digital security.
After the presentation, I asked Smyth and O’Brien for some tips for college journalists. We’re probably not going to cover stories in war zones while we’re in school, but college reporters still cover dangerous stories.
O’Brien said journalists still in school should build up their intuition. He said this comes from practice with the technology they are using. They should also think about what security risks exist in their systems.
He suggested that college journalism departments should start working with computer science programs to learn how to keep themselves safe in the digital world.
Smyth said students should make sure they have health insurance and know what it covers.
Whether students remain on their parents’ plans, under the school’s policy or have their own, insurance is the most important safety net, he said. Student journalists in the Midwest covering a tornado need to know who will help them if they get injured.
CPJ also put out a guide, which describes ways journalists can keep themselves safe.