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Understanding How Sensationalism in the Mainstream Media Affects Security Personnel in the Workplace

In the theater of modern society, where narratives unfold and are magnified, there stands a player often overlooked: the security officer. Amidst the backdrop of sensationalism propagated by mainstream media, these guardians grapple with perceptions, expectations, and the stark realities of their profession.

As a trainer of over 650 security personnel, a recurring theme emerges from the shadows: the profound impact of media sensationalism on their roles, psyches, and interactions in the workplace.

Imagine, for a moment, peering into a mirror, expecting to see a clear reflection, only to be met with a distorted image, magnifying some features while diminishing others. This is the lens through which sensationalist media often portrays events, emphasizing certain elements for dramatic effect while downplaying or ignoring others. The ABC and the Four Corners program in particular have had a dangerously profound effect on the propagation of crime and violence in the Northern Territory. Unapologetically, their journalists have been caught in the act, seeking to escalate division, conflict, and harm, generally targeting the most vulnerable, the poor, and the uneducated, sometimes only trading food and lies for potential clicks.

For security personnel, this distortion can paint a picture of their profession that oscillates between the extremes of heroism and villainy, often with little room for the nuanced reality that lies between them.

With sensationalist narratives dominating headlines, security officers often find themselves burdened with unrealistic expectations. On one hand, they are perceived as the last line of defense, the heroes waiting in the wings, expected to respond with superhuman prowess. On the other hand, they can be cast in an overly negative light and seen as overzealous or even oppressive.

Such expectations, rooted more in fictional portrayals than reality, can place immense pressure on security personnel. They are constantly navigating the tightrope of doing their job effectively while battling the specter of public perception.

Within the confines of the workplace, the ripples of media sensationalism are palpable. Colleagues, influenced by media narratives, may approach security personnel with preconceived notions, sometimes with admiration, but at other times with suspicion or apprehension.

This dynamic can strain professional relationships. It can lead to challenges in trust-building, collaboration, and mutual respect. Security officers may find themselves constantly proving their competence, integrity, and commitment to their role, striving to dispel the myths the media has woven around their profession.

The constant barrage of sensationalist narratives can take a toll on the mental well-being of security personnel. The psychological weight of always being in the spotlight, of having one's actions scrutinized and magnified, can lead to stress, anxiety, and a feeling of being perpetually on trial. We have had several colleagues seek medical help due to an impending feeling of anxiety, some openly discussing self-harm when they feel targeted.

Moreover, sensationalist media often focuses on the negative, the dramatic, and the catastrophic. For security personnel, constantly being exposed to such narratives can lead to a heightened state of alertness, even paranoia, as they begin to perceive threats, both real and imagined, at every turn.

In the face of such challenges, how can security personnel navigate the turbulent waters of media sensationalism?

There are no "solutions," only some trade-offs and a multi-faceted approach.

We spend a substantial amount of time on critical thinking exercises and teaching personnel "how" to think, rather than "what to think. We Equip security officers with the skills to differentiate between factual reporting and sensationalism. Training programs, like those I've curated, emphasize critical thinking, media literacy, and the importance of seeking multiple perspectives.

We encourage open conversations in the workplace. Security personnel share their experiences, challenges, and the realities of their job. This fosters understanding, dispels myths, and builds bridges of trust.

We recognize the psychological impact of media sensationalism and provide resources for mental well-being. This can include counseling services, peer support groups, and get-togethers focused on stress management and resilience-building.

We often proactively engage with media outlets, offering insights into the security profession and advocating for balanced, accurate reporting. It is obvious which channels and media organisations have agenda biases by their lack of engagement. By becoming active participants in the narrative, security professionals can influence more authentic portrayals of their roles.

The dance between security personnel and the sensationalist tendencies of mainstream media is intricate, and filled with nuance. However, by seeking clarity, fostering understanding, and prioritizing mental well-being, security officers can navigate this dance with grace and poise.

At the heart of it all, beyond the headlines and the hype, lies the human story—of dedication, integrity, and unwavering commitment to safeguarding the spaces we inhabit.

From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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