Posts tagged with "harassment"

Online Harassment and Digital Threats to Journalists

Newsroom executives need to better protect journalists from online abuse and harassment if they are to retain women and people of color in media, according to a Women’s Media Center report released March 5.

The report, “What Online Harassment Tells Us About Our Newsrooms: From Individuals to Institutions,” looks at online harassment and systemic bias in U.S. newsrooms. The report analyzes the most recent studies and findings regarding online hostility to journalists and concludes with recommendations for newsroom leaders, including committing to understanding the relationship of inclusivity, online harassment, and free speech in their newsrooms; acknowledging bias and engineering around it; and making journalists’ safety a company-wide priority.

“Taking online harassment seriously is at the core of an inclusive newsroom and a critical step toward ensuring free speech for all,” said Julie Burton, WMC president and CEO. “News leaders and managers must be in the vanguard in combating both harassment and the internal biases that exacerbate that harassment.”

The report examines the ever-expanding digital threats to journalists and includes insights gleaned from industry research and from three news leaders whom the nonprofit organization convened for a special symposium in New Orleans in October: Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief, USA Today; Mitra Kalita, senior vice president, news, opinion, and programming, CNN Digital; and Raju Narisetti, who has overseen news operations at The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Gizmodo Media Group and is founder of India’s Mint newspaper.

Kalita said women are telling their stories and voicing their opinions despite the harassment they face. Opinion writers that she works with won’t be silenced. “They write again,” said Kalita, adding that it’s really important to her that women “feel that they’re supported along the way.”

Studies consistently show that for women; ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities; as well as gender-nonconforming people, online harassment is more frequent and intense and likelier to result in self-censoring, according to the report. Journalists are usually responsible, as individuals, for “staying safe” online, and a long-standing journalistic tradition urging journalists to “grow a thicker skin” frequently inhibits genuine understanding of the dynamics of abuse. The report’s authors contend that this approach creates an imbalance that results in organizations persistently ill-prepared for the virulence of online hate and harassment.

“We want newsrooms to take online harassment seriously, not as a matter of women’s personal safety, but as central to their commitment to inclusivity and journalistic ethics,” said Soraya Chemaly, an award-winning writer and media critic and the co-founder and director of WMC’s Speech Project, which raises public and media awareness of online harassment. “Understanding the dynamics of online harassment and hate gives newsrooms a genuine opportunity to commit to inclusivity, in virtually any way you look at it.”

Kalita and Carroll said that the safety and security of their journalists is a top concern at their organizations, which they said have instituted safety and security measures to protect journalists. For example, Kalita said she works closely with CNN’s security team. Carroll said Gannett, USA Today’s parent company, has an internal harassment policy with clear steps to be taken, such as documenting it with screenshots and referring it to human resources.

“Newsroom leadership must commit to providing better protection for all journalists, but especially for women; ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities; and gender-nonconforming people,” said Pat Mitchell, WMC
co-chair.

According to the report, in addition to clearly influencing how journalists work, online harassment also affects organizations’ ability to recruit, retain, and reward diverse staff and cultivate inclusive media environments and leadership. In an environment that rewards visibility and audience engagement, women and minorities, who as a result of being targeted reduce their social media presence, may lower their chances of career advancement, according to the report.

“Inclusion is really not only an important moral issue, but has to be seen as a business problem, as a quality of our journalism problem, as a trust issue, as both an organizational and a legal issue,” said Narisetti.

The WMC report also includes separate interviews with Soraya Nadia McDonald, culture critic at The Undefeated; Jill Filipovic, contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and freelance writer; and Katelyn Burns, freelance writer for Rewire and Vox, who discuss their challenges in navigating an increasingly vitriolic online arena.

The report can be downloaded HERE

About the Women’s Media Center

The Women’s Media Center, co-founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, is an inclusive and feminist organization that works to raise the visibility, viability, and decision-making power of women and girls in media to ensure that their stories get told and their voices are heard. We do this by researching and monitoring media; creating and modeling original online, print, and podcast content; training women and girls to be effective in media, and promoting women experts in all fields.

The WMC Report: #MeToo

A year following revelations in The New York Times about decades of allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement has led to a significant change in the way media covers stories about sexual assault and harassment, a new report from the Women’s Media Center shows.

Overall, the number of articles on sexual assault is up over 30 percent at the end of the study, in August 2018, as compared with the first month the research looked at (before the revived momentum for #MeToo), May 2017. When articles about just #MeToo are added, the total coverage is up 52 percent, according to the report, Media and #MeToo, which was released today.

“The world has permanently changed,” said actor and Weinstein accuser Ashley Judd. “We are in a new era. It is messy, imperfect, and urgent.”

The study found that even stories beyond those about sexual abuse, assault, and harassment—beginning with the Times story in October 2017—have been amplified by the #MeToo movement. After October 2017, media began to more commonly write about issues that particularly pertain to women—such as reproductive health and the wage gap.

“We’ve come a long way since Anita Hill’s courageous testimony in 1991, and it is women who have led the way. It took the explosion of the #MeToo movement to shift and increase coverage of women, sexual assault, and harassment. There’s no going back,” said Maya Harris, co-chair, Women’s Media Center.

The Women’s Media Center research took a close look at the press coverage five months before and in the 10 months that followed the Weinstein revelations and the rise of #MeToo. The report looked at whose stories were covered, what outlets considered sexual assault and harassment important enough to report on, and whether or not the media industry—and American culture as a whole—has changed as a result of the movement.

“In an era in which women are insisting that their stories of sexualized violence be heard—and believed—the media has a critical role to play in helping shift our culture, by credibly presenting accusations, doing its own investigations, and explaining the context in which an alleged attack occurred,” said Lauren Wolfe, director of the WMC Women Under Siege Project and co-author of this report. “It is beyond time that the media treat women survivors with the respect they deserve.”

By breaking down how coverage of sexual assault in various arenas of American life waxed and waned (specifically, the report looked at the church (instances of clergy abuse within and beyond the Catholic Church), Hollywood, media, and politics), the Women’s Media Center was able to clarify which institutions took precedence in the press. By looking at the gender of bylines on sexual assault/#MeToo articles, it found a surprising shift in who is writing stories on sexual assault and harassment. Examining the words most used in headlines for stories on each institution the report focused on (and, separately, for Trump and Weinstein) gave the researchers an idea of how media framed these stories.

“This has been a year when the media and truth itself are under siege,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “With #MeToo exposing horrible individual and institutional practices, we see an opportunity for a new transparency and permanent changes aimed at greater equality and power for women.”

“Naming sexualized violence makes it visible and subject to prosecution,” said Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center. “In the past, what happened to men was political, but what happened to women was cultural. The first was public and could be changed, and the second was private, off limits, even sacred. By making clear that sexualized violence is political and public, it breaches that wall. It admits that sexualized violence can be changed.”

The Women’s Media Center Media and #MeToo research was produced by the Media Lab at the Women’s Media Center and conducted by Eliza Ennis, media analyst and data manager of the lab. Eliza Ennis is also the co-author of this report.

The Women’s Media Center analyzed the content of headlines, bylines, and articles on 15,228 pieces of news produced from May 1, 2017, through August 31, 2018. The survey consisted of 14 of the nation’s most widely circulated newspapers. They are: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Newsday (N.Y.), Tampa Bay Times, The Arizona Republic, The Columbus Dispatch, The Denver Post, The Houston Chronicle, The Mercury News (Calif.), The New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today.