Tuesday, May 16, 2023

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Dublin City University's School of Communications has just published 'Social media and online hostility: Experiences of women in Irish journalism', a report by Dr Dawn Wheatley.

The report "explores how women journalists in Ireland are navigating social media as part of their professional work, documenting the pressure and negative experiences that can come with being active in digital spaces".

Based on interviews with national-level journalists (including a small number from the north/NI), and focus groups with journalism students it "raises questions about what the current dynamics online might mean for women's presence in the sector and how these problematic aspects might be addressed'.

You can read the report here:

Ahead of the report launch at the Royal Irish Academy I interviewed Dr Wheatley.

As well as the abuse and threats, Dr Wheatley said there was sense that every day "journalists need to be in a constant state of high alert".

The constant level of abuse, nitpicking, questioning of expertise and professionalism "all contributes to making social media spaces hostile and unwelcoming".

"It is exhausting," she said.

“The most striking thing is just how normalised it is for all these women. And they think it’s not a big deal. It should be talked about and acknowledged by employers. It is not ok. It might be common but that doesn’t make it ok.

“The day to day burden, trying to navigate that, was my biggest takeaway. They just accept it as simply part of the job now.”

Dr Wheatley was struck by comments like "I am lucky I don’t get it as bad as others".

Obviously anyone can experience online abuse but when the women spoke about their experiences the nature of the abuse was different in some ways to what male colleagues experienced, and a sense among most contributors that there seemed to be "a growing movement against journalists".

Criticism of women could be much more vitriolic that of men, and often about how they you got their jobs, what they were wearing, and comments on appearance.

A recurring theme was suggestions women are token contributors on panels, and a constant questioning of their knowledge and expertise. Plus being sent sexualised content and images.

Student journalists are also facing challenges that don't necessarily impact older and established journalists as they are trying to create a professional online presence from scratch in a competitive sector.

Dr Wheatley wants the new report to contribute to the ongoing conversations on the themes of the report, and for editors, newsroom staff, and others to read it.

The report is based on "a project filled with troubling anecdotes and reflections" however "there is one positive: the participants’ apparent commitment to sticking with journalism and not allowing this aspect of their job to stop them from reporting and telling stories."

Amen to that!

Also, Women in Media Belfast was invited to a Women in Journalism UK event last night. For some further reading see below.

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