Karachi (Muhammad Yasir) The Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at the IBA Karachi conducted an interactive online workshop on internal newsroom dynamics in collaboration with Deutsche Welle (DW) on September 11, 2020. The title of the workshop was The Elephant in the Newsroom: a conversation about bullying and toxic newsroom cultures.
The session was moderated by senior journalist Shahzeb Jillani, who is working at DW’s Digital newsroom in Bonn. He has worked in many roles in Pakistani newsrooms, both print and television and as a multimedia journalist for radio and digital in Beirut, Washington, London. He was joined by clinical psychologist Mahnoor Shaikh, who has worked at the CEJ Wellbeing Centre with journalist clients, and is currently based in Canada.
Ten participants joined from across Pakistan via Zoom. Three of them were asked to start the discussion by sharing their experiences. Jillani and Shaikh then used their stories to talk about identifying problems and solutions.
Shaikh defined bullying in the newsroom by asking the journalists to remember three words: unwarranted, undeserved and uninvited. Repetitive unwarranted criticism has the effect of damaging a newsroom worker’s self-esteem. This opens the door to physical and mental stress over time. If a newsroom staffer’s performance is not up to par, and is repeatedly attracting criticism, the answer is training to improve their skill-set, she added. She suggested media organizations consider providing a mechanism through their HR departments so employees can make safe disclosures when conflict arises.
Speaking during the session, Jillani said, “Do not wait till things get out of control. You (journalists) can raise or take up issues informally as well. Sometimes even the bullies do not recognize that their behaviour affects their team.”
Both, Jillani and Shaikh, said it was essential to find a way to speak up. Staying silent comes at too high a price.
This was the fourth workshop by CEJ-IBA’s Wellbeing Centre, which has entered its third year of providing free counselling to media workers with clinical psychologists. Over 100 journalists from across Pakistan have used the service and continue to do so.