27th February 2023
Improving safety: How to help the public confidently engage with publishers

Improving safety: How to help the public confidently engage with publishers

One of the media’s most important duties is to inform the public. In fact, the public themselves frequently play a pivotal role in this process, providing eye-witness accounts, whistleblowing and tipping off journalists.

Sadly, many people still do not feel safe when interacting with the press.

For a range of reasons, from poor safeguarding practices to discriminatory reporting behaviour, often entire groups are left feeling unsafe and unsure of what to expect when the prospect of speaking to the media arises.

That is why when we began developing our new Standards Code, ensuring the public feel safe and secure when interacting with our regulated publishers was of paramount importance.

In our latest blog, we take look at ways that, by following our new Code, publishers and journalists can help make everyone feel safe when engaging with the press.

Child safeguarding

Reporting on issues relating to children – or on information provided by a child – can throw up a number of legal and ethical issues for journalists.

We have moved to make this grey area far clearer for our member publications and their reporters to navigate moving forward.

New guidance means publishers must always consider reasonable requests from children involved in a story to remain anonymous – not just when a request comes from a legal guardian. In this respect, changes to the Children’s clause of our Code have sought to empower and recognise the autonomy of children.

The ability to assess the capacity of a child to give their informed consent in any given situation does however remain with the journalist.

Key clause: 3.3

A lower discrimination threshold

Everyone should feel safe when they are approached by journalists and the press. Unfortunately for some, that is not the case.

We have made changes to our Code to ensure our regulated publishers are held to the highest of standards when it comes to cases of discrimination.

Previously, a breach of the Standards Code would only occur if reporting was found to have ‘incited hatred’ against a group. Now, publishers must not encourage hatred either, lowering the threshold for what is considered under the discrimination clause, and allowing for Impress to look more closely at systemic Code breaches, across a series of articles.

More information on characteristics protected by the Code can be found here.

Key clause: 4.3


Last year, Impress published its inaugural News Literacy Report, which found that 47% of the UK public feel that their trust in journalism improves when news stories provide links to relevant helplines and support services in articles concerning sensitive issues.

This indicates that audiences feel safer interacting with news that is socially responsible and demonstrates an awareness of the sensitive contexts surrounding a story.

In linking to further resources, news publishers can demonstrate their commitment to responsible reporting, helping their audiences while boosting collaboration with the third sector and drawing from the expertise that charities and relevant businesses, like Samaritans and Level Up, have to offer to the conversation.

That is why our new Code tells regulated publishers to signpost relevant support helplines when reporting on topics that require appropriate sensitivity.

Key clause: 9.2

Impress recently launched its new Standards Code, to build trust, improve public safety and increase accountability. Each week, we will be delving into a different section in greater detail. You can read last week’s blog on building trust here.