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Newsafety: infrastructure, practice and consequences

Deadline for abstracts: 6 January 2020

Editorial Information

Guest Editors:
Oscar Westlund, Oslo Metropolitan University

Roy Krøvel, Oslo Metropolitan University
Kristin Skare-Orgeret, Oslo Metropolitan University

Bonnie Brennan, Marquette University



Journalism Practice

Journalism is one of, if not the most important, knowledge producing institutions in society. It is also an institution and practice facing substantial challenges. This includes, but is not limited to, how news media companies should maintain a sustainable business model and also how journalists can ensure they have the expertise, resources and support necessary to produce and publish verified news perceived to have high quality in a media environment seemingly marked by misinformation. To date, however, relatively few researchers have focused their research efforts to the critical challenges arising in the intersection of journalism practice and the safety of journalists in a digital mediascape, an increasing threat to journalism and those who produce it. This special issue addresses that void.

Safety is vital for those who practice journalism, for their families, and for their sources. Safety is  essential  for  the  wellbeing  of  media  institutions,  civil  society,  academia  and  the  private sector more broadly. Unfortunately, journalists and their sources are repeatedly subject to attacks that threaten the safety of their practice, their technological infrastructures, and the psychological and physical safety of individual persons. Criminal organizations, authorities, activists, and citizens carry out deliberative and substantial attacks against journalists and media outlets or contribute to online harassments via social media that result in severe consequences. In the worst case, journalists and sources are killed and important news stories are silenced. Ultimately, both small and large attacks threaten safety – and the future role and function of journalism practice.

This special issue introduces the three-dimensional concept Newsafety. The concept blends news and what is new with safety with the intention to stress how safety and news should be approached in tandem. Importantly, this concept does not focus only on the safety of journalists, but on all interrelated actors involved in sustaining safety for journalism and the production of news. Moreover, the concept focuses on actions taken that enable safety in infrastructures, and thus facilitates safety in journalism practice, countering negative consequences. The three sub-dimensions of this concept are 1) Safety and infrastructures, 2) Safety in practice, and 3) Safety and its consequences. Through our outline of these sub-dimensions, we welcome theoretical, conceptual and empirical submissions that contribute to their further development.

Firstly, safety and infrastructures focuses on technological and legal developments surrounding safety. This includes challenges to safety such as those linked to surveillance, interception of information, hacking, etc., as well as legal and technological responses to such challenges. Such challenges include enhanced cryptography, development of secure communication channels, digital protection of sources including whistle-blowers, more secure data storage, and so forth. We are interested in how news media and its actors develop and use proprietary infrastructures (i.e. platforms, systems and tools) as well as how they approach non-proprietary platforms beyond their own control, to improve safety issues when it comes to protection of self, story, and the journalist’s role, as well as their existing and potential sources. We welcome submissions addressing safety structures in journalism as well as in journalism training and education.   

Secondly, safety in practice encompasses research into how matters of safety influence epistemological news production processes. More specifically, it explores what knowledge journalists, technologists, sources and other actors who may be involved in news production have when it comes to different matters of safety. Moreover, how do they use this knowledge when using information- and communication technologies in journalism practice? Do they turn to specific information and communication technologies (ICT’s) in certain ways, and which practices are they avoiding? How do perceptions about surveillance and digital threats and harassments possibly influence the stories journalists choose to work with, how they communicate with sources, and how they produce news materials with certain truth claims? What steps do individual journalists and news companies take to achieve and maintain safety, and what forms of cross-cultural collaborations are there? Are there specific topics more associated with risks and safety that may affect the news and knowledge produced?

Thirdly, safety and its consequences focuses on both psychological, social and political consequences that arise when safety of journalists is being challenged. What are the costs of intimidation, harassment and hate speech for democratic processes? Are some groups of journalists more exposed to intimidation, harassment and hate speech than others – and what are the implications in terms of voices lost and stories not told? What are the effects of confiscation of journalistic work, forced exposure of online networks, defamation and libel – and how do these processes impact on which perspectives of reality we are given? This section is particularly interested in how such challenging pressures affect the news and knowledge produced in general, and how this may impact freedom of expression and processes of democracy in general, in a given society or across regions.

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Submission Instructions

This is a call for extended abstracts (500-750 words), accompanied by a 100-150 word bio introducing your relevant expertise. Upon selection, we invite scholars to submit full papers. Article submissions should target 8,000 words in length, including references, and are subject to full blind peer-review, in accordance with the peer-review procedure of Journalism Practice. Please send your abstracts to oscarw@oslomet.no, with "Journalism Practice Newsafety-- Abstract proposal" in the header of the email. Manuscripts are submitted through the journal’s website.


Deadline submission of extended abstracts: 6 January 2020
Decision on abstracts: 17 January 2020
Deadline for final submission: 20 June 2020.
Publication: OnlineFirst when accepted, and in issue upon agreement with journal editor.