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How to ensure the safety of sources in marginalized communities

When reporting in the field, journalists must mitigate safety risks for their sources.

They can do so by preparing ahead of time, developing safety analyses and security plans. One common step journalists can take when interviewing whistle-blowers, for instance, is to anonymize the subject using voice and visual distortion.

People in marginalized communities are often at higher risk of experiencing violence, whether verbal, physical, psychological or systemic. Journalists reporting on marginalized communities should recognize the individual and community-wide risks that their sources may experience during their reporting, understanding that each community faces specific forms of  discrimination. Trans sources may experience transantagonism, while Jewish people may be the targets of antisemitic attacks, and members of an Indigenous community confronted with racial biases.

Sources may experience additional discrimination if they belong to multiple marginalized communities, too. A source that is Black, Jewish and transgender could be targeted with racism, antisemitism and transantagonism all at once.

Journalists should become well-versed on the crime statistics and safety risks faced by the marginalized communities they cover. A 2015 study conducted by The National Center for Transgender Equality analyzing violence against trans and non-binary people in the U.S. found that 46% of respondents were verbally harassed in the past year. Nearly one in ten respondents were physically attacked during the same period.

Meanwhile, a 2022 annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose by 36% in 2022. The ADL also identified increases in antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assaults.

Here are some tips for how journalists can ensure the safety of marginalized communities during their reporting.