Women Journalists Share Their Sexual Harassment Stories

Women Journalists Share Their Sexual Harassment Stories

Editor: Vladimir Bajic | Tactical Investor

Study highlights harassment, coping strategies of women journalists

An example from India: After a reporter did a story on women being sexually molested, she was tormented by trolls posting offensive comments including that “I should be raped and thrown to the dogs.”

The study, conducted by the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at the University of Texas, Austin, was an outgrowth of earlier research. The findings add to the body of work on the menacing problem of women journalists being targeted by cyber stalkers.

During the first project, both male and female media professionals were interviewed about disrespectful, hateful, or demeaning comments posted on social media about them and their work. Researchers noticed a trend.

“During interviews, we kept hearing these compelling and awful stories from women journalists about the sexual nature of the harassment. This differed from what we were hearing from men,” said assistant CME director Gina Masullo Chen, who led the study. “We decided we had to do a separate study.”

These “vitriolic sexist attacks” have a significant impact on women reporters and their journalism.

“There is no doubt [the harassment] takes a real emotional toll and makes it difficult for them to do their jobs,” said Chen. “It can make it painful for them to go to work or even to look at comments on social media posts. It cuts down on job satisfaction, which might deter some of them from continuing in the profession.” said Chen.

She sees self-censorship as another issue.

“These reporters might leave certain details out of a story that they know might aggravate people or escalate the attacks. They might avoid certain topics. It could influence how they tell stories, which is very troubling for journalism,” said Chen, who also wrote the book “Online Incivility and Public Debate: Nasty Talk,” published in 2017. Full Story

When harassment drives women out of journalism

“Damn, you look hot today.”

It was 2013. Kate Havard was a reporting intern at the Washington Post covering the Maryland statehouse. And a lawmaker had just catcalled her in front of a large group of people.

“I was so embarrassed, I turned bright red. I felt really ashamed,” Havard recalled.

The treatment only got worse. And eventually she started to wonder if a career in journalism was worth it. Havard loved politics and reporting, but she soon left the field.

“I decided I didn’t want to have to fend off gross sources for the rest of my life,” she said.

The list of male journalists who have been fired for sexual misconduct

Is long and growing. Matt Lauer and Ryan Lizza have recently joined the ranks of Charlie Rose, Michael Oreskes, Mark Halperin, and Bill O’Reilly. Often lost in the headlines are the stories of how sexual misconduct and harassment hinder women from flourishing professionally, and prevent them from becoming prominent voices in their own right.

This is a problem for individual women like Havard, who find themselves questioning their professional goals after facing bad behavior. It’s also a problem for the public at large, who miss out on diverse voices in the news.

“We would counsel our employees to escalate issues like this to management or HR so they can be addressed,” the spokesperson said. “We take these situations seriously, and our harassment policy prohibits harassment by third parties.”

“At first I blamed myself,” Havard said. “I thought I’d been too friendly and given him the wrong idea. I felt so awful that I thought I was just being a reporter, but that I had really screwed up with [this important source.]”

Women journalists are no strangers to this problem: In a 2013 International Women’s Media Foundation Poll, 46 percent of women respondents said they had experienced sexual advances or harassment while doing their job. It was most likely to happen in the office or out in the field.

Female journalists are particularly at a disadvantage in dealing with sources, Elisa Lees Muñoz, the executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, points out.

“The need to meet sources in private automatically puts women journalists at risk,” and is “counter to all of the security precautions that experts would tell you to take,” she points out.  Full Story

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