How leaders can help journalists facing online harassment
Harassment of female journalists is nothing new, unfortunately, but online spaces bring new challenges. Recent columns in Vanity Fair and the Washington Post highlight the torrent of online abuse that female reporters often face, ranging from racist and sexist messages to death threats to attacks on their journalistic integrity.
Many newsroom leaders are at a loss for how to deal with this—and while solidarity on Twitter or a public statement supporting a reporter are appreciated, they’re not enough. In fact, “lack of institutional support” means that female journalists have created informal support groups on platforms such as Signal, WhatsApp and Slack.
So what do these reporters say would be useful?
The International Women’s Media Foundation has launched the Coalition Against Online Violence, a digital hub that offers support and resources for journalists who have been targeted. It offers consultations, online courses and training workshops for newsrooms.
- Offer help with reputation management, said one reporter who didn’t want to have to discuss false claims against her in future job interviews
- Acknowledge and respond to the specifically digital nature of the abuse—it’s not just comments on articles, it’s social media and emails and more; abuse evolves along with the online environment
- Understand the cost this has for these women’s careers. One reporter said she had a media appearance canceled hours before recording because the network didn’t want to be associated with after the trolling, while another said that some conflict-averse companies won’t hire women who are being targeted