A former editor has returned to the regional press to become a publisher’s online safety chief.
Reach plc has appointed Rebecca Whittington as its first online safety editor to support journalists across the company who receive abuse or harassment as a result of their job.
Rebecca edited titles including the Pontefract and Castleford Express and the Hemsworth and South Elmsall Express, later serving as head of news for the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, before leaving the industry in 2014 to undertake a PhD at Leeds Beckett University.
Her thesis explored the impacts of digital tools on news production and journalistic identity at local newspapers in the UK, and she is currently a lecturer and course leader for the university’s journalism department.
Reach announced the creation of the online safety editor role in June this year in an industry first, with the company seeking a successful applicant to lead discussions with social media platforms, resolve individual cases and campaign for action to improve the problem of online abuse.
Rebecca, pictured, will begin her new role on 15 November.
She said: “Online abuse is an endemic issue which has increased significantly over the past decade. Journalists are vilified online on a daily basis simply for doing their jobs, with types of abuse ranging from personal attacks to hate crimes.
“Not only does this cause harm to the victims of abuse, but it also causes harm to the audience witnessing it.
“It is time these issues were addressed and by leading the way and creating the position of online safety editor, Reach is taking an important step in doing just that.
“In my role I aim to support staff facing online abuse and harassment and I also want to address the issue externally, by working with platforms and audiences to prevent and protect.”
Reach group editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley said: “I’m so pleased to welcome Rebecca to the team and take the next step in making the internet a safer place for journalists across the industry.
“As Reach continues to grow and recruit more young journalists than ever before, it is absolutely essential that we lead the way to create a safer online environment for our people and our readers.”