Why we stand by our journalism and journalists now more than ever

Research Publishing
By: Helen Pearson and Magdalena Skipper, Thu Jul 15 2021
Helen Pearson and Magdalena Skipper

Author: Helen Pearson and Magdalena Skipper

Earlier this year UNESCO published a shocking report called The Chilling, which documents the rise in online harassment and violence against women journalists.  A 2020 survey of journalists in the UK found that over half had experienced online abuse in the previous year. This intimidation often aims to silence important voices and suppress reporting on sensitive issues.   

Since the start of the pandemic, we too have experienced harassment: some of our journalists have been subjected to numerous abusive messages on social media and email, as well as inaccurate and disparaging pieces online. While the specific lines of attack vary, all are designed to undermine their professional integrity and credibility.  This is deeply troubling for the individuals involved, those working with them, and for us as an organisation that prioritises the welfare of our employees and the dissemination of accurate information.  

We unequivocally condemn this harassment in all its forms. It is harmful to those targeted and causes wider societal damage through its insidious attempts to stifle the flow of accurate reporting on important issues. 

Stopping such harassment matters because, whilst our commitment to accurate, independent scientific reporting goes back decades, it has never been more important than it is today, during this pandemic. Our reporters and news editors have extensive experience covering all areas of science, technology and medicine, and can draw on an international and diverse network of expert sources. They have a vital role to play in reporting the latest developments in the pandemic to the scientific community and the wider public.  As fake news and misinformation flourish, we know people are looking to us for accurate reporting and we take this responsibility extremely seriously.

That is why journalists at Nature and our other publications have been so dedicated to reporting on SARS CoV-2 and COVID-19 since the early alarm bells rang at the start of 2020. Our journalists bring an independent and critical approach to the subjects they cover, and work with editors and sub editors to ensure stories are clear, balanced and accurate.  If, as sometimes happens, a correction or clarification needs making, we will make it - but we will not be pressured into changing our copy where we are confident that we are correct.   

We are incredibly proud of our reporters and news editors and stand by their work. Our commitment to publishing timely news and analysis for our readers will not change in the face of any harassment that our journalists may face. We will defend them from unwarranted, malicious harassment online or anywhere else.  And we will continue to cover the pandemic accurately, fairly and authoritatively.

Helen Pearson and Magdalena Skipper

Author: Helen Pearson and Magdalena Skipper

Helen Pearson, Chief Magazine Editor, Natureoversees the journalism and opinion content for Nature. She joined Nature as a reporter back in 2001, and has been writing and editing articles for the journal ever since. Her own stories have won accolades including the Wistar Institute Science Journalism Award and two best feature awards from the Association of British Science Writers. Helen has a degree in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge, a PhD in genetics and in 2016 she became an author, publishing a critically acclaimed popular science book called The Life Project. She is based in London, and working on her second book.

Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief, Nature is a geneticist by training and has considerable editorial and publishing experience: having started in Nature Publishing Group in 2001, she was Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Genetics, Senior Editor for genetics and genomics at Nature, and more recently Executive Editor for the Nature Partner Journals. Before joining Nature as Editor in Chief she was Editor in Chief of Nature Communications. She studied sex determination at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, and Notch signalling in the vertebrate gut epithelium at the ICRF Laboratories (CRUK today), London. She is passionate about mentorship, transparent science and clarity in science communication. She has a keen interest in innovation in science publishing.