Dr. Michelle Ferrier, associate dean at the Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University recently shared how sustained harassment by a white, male reader nearly drove her from journalism.
Ferrier talked about how the reader threatened both her and her family, caused the FBI to get involved when local police failed to do enough to help her feel safe, and forced Ferrier to stop writing a news column for the Florida newspaper where she worked. Ultimately the man’s actions helped drive Ferrier into the safety of academia and led to the creation of TrollBusters, an online tool that helps journalists, women in particular, fight back against online harassment, which is particularly prevalent among journalists of color.
Despite her efforts to enlist more support from her bosses at the Florida newspaper, Ferrier could not get her bosses to understand how being threatened with rape and getting called a “nigger” was damaging to her psyche and effecting the way she did her job; so she left the newspaper. An April 2015 study shows that significantly more women leave the newsroom than men in an industry where 62 percent of women already say they plan to leave journalism or are uncertain about their futures. This percentage is likely much higher for women journalists of color, but no recent studies have been done.
Ferrier shared her painful story earlier this month at Newsgeist, a private annual gathering of the leading innovators in news. The five-minute talk is published here with permission from Ferrier and conference organizers.