By Stefanie Phillips, RSJ ’18

How should reporters tackle stories involving sexual violence? And how should they engage with sources who have suffered sexual violence? Are there ways for journalists to protect themselves online?

Addressing these questions – and more – is the focus of the latest Ryerson Review of Journalism (RRJ) conference, #MEDIATOO: The #MeToo movement has hit Canada. What’s next?

The student-led conference is a series of workshops on April 10 and 11, focusing on two related themes: sexual misconduct in the newsroom and best practices for reporting on sexual misconduct.  

The conference is an extension of RRJ reporter Annie Arnone’s feature on the state of sexual violence in the media. Presenters include Robyn Doolittle from the Globe and Mail, Lauren Strapagiel from Buzzfeed and Marie-Daniel Smith from National Post.

This is something that will never not be important,” Arnone said about the topic. “As I interviewed more and more people about sexual assault, or violence, or misconduct in a newsroom setting I was blown away by the amount of people it touched.”

This is the second RRJ conference of the 2017/18 academic year.

“The RRJ puts on these conferences to elaborate on those issues in journalism that don’t get as much coverage or as much in-depth coverage – to elevate the conversation,” said Luke Elisio, conference editor at the RRJ. Along with his co-editor, Alexis Kuskevics, Elisio has stewarded the two-day series of workshops, as well as a Fall 2017 conference on disaster reporting.

On April 10 presenters from Femifesto, a Toronto-based feminist organization, will lead a workshop offering tips and guidelines on best reporting practises on sexual violence stories. Matthew Braga, senior technology reporter at CBC, will finish off the night with cyber security workshops teaching journalists how to keep their information secure.   

Reporters also struggle to keep themselves – and their sources – safe and secure on digital platforms.

“Journalists are always looking for sources, but they might not always be aware of how to contact them safely without jeopardizing their privacy or personal information,” said Jacob Dubé, online production editor at the RRJ. “Though it might have been more niche before, all reporters in the digital age should be aware of and have a working knowledge of the different tools they can use to protect their sources and make them feel safe.”

Day two of the conference focuses on this aspect of individual security. Presenters will show attendees how they can protect themselves, as well as their sources, while using digital platforms.

Journalists like Marie-Daniel Smith from the National Post will lead the final presentation-cum-roundtable, where journalists discuss workplace sexual misconduct and then lead roundtable discussions about sexual harassment in the newsroom.

Arnone hopes the conference will help unite a community of women affected by sexual assault, harassment or violence in a comfortable and safe environment.

We have an incredible roster of people lined up,” she said. “We made sure to include round-table discussions in our conference for more intimate, comfortable conversations. We just want to make it a safe space for people attending.”

With this second of its conferences this year, the Ryerson Review of Journalism hopes to address key issues in the media world. “Our goal with these events is to fulfill our mandate as the ‘watchdog of the watchdogs’,” said Elisio.

The event, which is open to the public, will be at the International Room in the International Living and Learning Centre at Ryerson University. The event is free, but attendees are asked to register online due to limited space.