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Journalism advocates call on end of harassment toward women reporters, journalists of color

Associated Press
Posted at 4:47 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 19:47:31-04

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) called for an end of harassment directed toward female journalists and journalists of color on Wednesday.

“On the last day of Women’s History Month, we want to thank women members of SPJ — and all women journalists past and present — for their bravery, their persistence and their work, today and every day,” said SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall. “Women journalists are frequently targeted with harassment and threats and far too often do not receive the support they need and deserve. This is a perfect time for newsrooms — and all of us — to commit to doing much more to stand up for these journalists and to send the message that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The SPJ called on newsrooms to take the harassment and abuse that women journalists, journalists of color and others endure seriously. The organization called on newsrooms to provide support for journalists facing harassment.

The SPJ pointed to a number of domestic and international examples of the type of harassment female journalists encounter. One example cited was of New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi, who said she has received death and rape threats.

“They are not criticism. They are not part of our jobs,” Fassihi said.

Another journalist who has recently faced harassing messages is Seung Min Kim, a Korean-American journalist for the Washington Post. Kim received a number of messages after questioning Sen. Lisa Murkowski about the confirmation of Neera Tanden.

Washington Post editor Steven Ginsberg issued a statement defending Kim.

“She asked the senator general questions about outreach from the White House regarding Tanden's nomination and asked about Tanden's tweet,” Ginsberg said. “Murkowski had not seen the tweet, so Seung Min showed it to her and Murkowski's reaction was included in a Post story about Tanden's nomination.

“A picture of Seung Min showing the tweet to Murkowski was posted to Twitter, which led to a flood of racist, sexist and ill-informed attacks aimed at Seung Min. The racist and sexist attacks have been vicious -- and typical. She and other minority women endure vile, baseless attacks on a daily basis, no matter what story they are working on or tweeting about. The attacks on her journalistic integrity were wildly misguided and a bad faith effort at intimidation.

“What she did was basic journalism. In reporting about Tanden's tweet, she asked Murkowski for comment. Murkowski had not seen the tweet, so Seung Min showed it to her. This is standard practice. If a subject of a story is not aware of the information they are being asked to comment on, reporters share it with them. This only makes sense and is the fair and responsible thing to do.

“No one should have to deal with the hate that has been directed at Seung Min. She did her job, and she did it well, like she always does.”

SPJ ethics chair Andrew Seaman issued the following tips for newsrooms to follow in supporting journalists targeted by harassment:

• Journalists who see their colleagues and peers being harassed online should reach out to the affected person to offer support.
• News organizations should develop protocols and resources to support journalists experiencing online harassment. If news organizations don’t have protocols in place, journalists should take up the tasks of identifying resources and creating support groups for their affected colleagues.
• Journalists and news organizations should identify point people within social media companies trained to deal with online harassment.• Journalists and news organizations should immediately contact law enforcement about any credible threats to the health and safety of journalists.
• News organizations should also offer legal assistance to address harassment.