Next Gen Safety Trainers: Holly Pickett

The journalism community is becoming increasingly diverse, yet the vast majority of security advisers and trainers are cisgender, white men. The IWMF and ROAAAR’s Next Gen Safety Trainers program is improving the model for newsroom safety management, training women and nonbinary folks from the U.S. throughout 2021. In this series, get to know this new generation of inclusive, diverse safety trainers.

Name: Holly Pickett

Title: Photojournalist

Pronouns: she/her

Location: New York City


Instagram: @hollypickettpix | Twitter: @hollypickett

A new, diverse generation of journalism safety trainers means that the concepts of safety and security will be more comprehensive, inclusive, and nuanced for all journalists.

Our program is as much about shifting the perspective of journalism managers and our allies in the newsroom and on the ground, as it is about meeting the needs of current and future journalists.

A staff journalist may have access to specialized safety equipment and insurance for risky assignments. A staff journalist’s expenses on reporting trips will be paid by their employer. A staff journalist is probably in contact with at least one editor. A staff journalist has institutional support in case of arrest, kidnapping, injury, or other outcomes. A staff journalist may have access to mental health resources provided by their employer. (In any event, a staff journalist has health insurance.) A staff journalist can take sick days or a medical leave of absence. A staff journalist will be paid on time and regularly, whether the story worked out or not.

Newsrooms have safety policies for their staffers in place; they don’t have the same legal obligations to freelancers. Freelance photographers are often taking on all of these additional responsibilities and risks themselves, trying to find the support they need like plugging holes in a bucket full of water. Because photographers need to have an unobstructed view of events unfolding and are often easy to pick out because of their professional cameras, they can easily become targets.

I first started to learn combat first aid from a US Army medic in Afghanistan. I learned how to avoid a minefield and how to take cover from bullets at a journalist safety course. Those things are important. But I learned which hotels were safest for single women, which translators would hit on me or try to get me alone, and which male reporters to avoid from my women colleagues.

Safety for me isn’t just about avoiding flying projectiles — sometimes it’s about avoiding predatory men.

Identity is and always has been a major component of safety and security. We need to talk openly about the safety concerns of people from all identities, but especially those who have been marginalized or overlooked, not only to keep them safer, but to educate our colleagues and potential allies.

I have enjoyed getting to know and learning from this incredible cohort of people most of all. Each one of them is so talented and accomplished — it is an honor to be among them.

I would love to teach journalist safety courses for professionals and students.

When I’m not working, you can find me people- and dog-watching at the park, playing the piano, or testing a new recipe for my next dinner party. (Which might not happen until 2025, the way things are going.)

The International Women's Media Foundation is a DC-based organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of women worldwide.