Posts Tagged ‘Harassment’


Journalists Must Speak up for Colleagues

(Flickr Commons/Waffleboy)

Harassment and abuse has no place in the workplace – including newsrooms. Journalists must speak up.


In the wake of the scandal involving Harvey Weinstein, journalism is one of the several industries facing the reality that men – especially those in positions of power – are harassing and abusing female colleagues.

Well-known political reporter Mark Halperin lost several contracts and projects after reports of sexual harassment during his time at ABC News. Michael Oreskes also resigned as NPR’s senior vice president of news and editorial director after the networked investigated his behavior toward female colleagues. Other men resigned or were removed from their editorial positions in recent weeks in the wake of allegations.

Female journalists already shoulder an unfair burden of harassment from online trolls and people who lack civility. The last place they should be subjected to harassment or abuse is within the walls of their newsrooms and workplaces.

The recent high-profile cases should serve as a warning to other people who use positions of power to harass or abuse colleagues, but assuming that’s enough to solve the problem would be naïve and insulting to those who are the victims of these types of behaviors.

The duty then falls to the wider journalism community to help ensure safe workspaces for all journalists by calling out inappropriate behavior and supporting people who are the victims of abuse or harassment. Predators need to be put on notice that these types of actions won’t be tolerated.

Journalists are expected to call out inappropriate behavior and abuse in other industries. The quest for justice and safety should not stop at newsroom doors. After all, the Society of Professional JournalistsCode of Ethics calls on journalists to “expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations” and to “abide by the same high standards they expect of others.”

Journalists must also challenge their news organization’s leadership to hold people accountable for harassment and abuse. Weak responses allow predators to go unchallenged and puts more people at risk.

The goal should be to rid the workplace of predators and create an environment in newsrooms where people who consider abusing or harassing colleagues are the ones feeling scared and anxious – not women and other journalists just trying to do their jobs.

The hope is that these last few weeks serve as a long-overdue turning point in the journalism industry, but to make that true will take a sustained commitment from all journalists to be vocal against abuse and harassment.

Silence is not an option.


Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee.

Transparency, Civility and Respect in Ethical Debates

Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1GRn5wn)

Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1GRn5wn)

Journalists who joined the Society’s conversations about ethics last week noticed some interesting posts popping up on Twitter.


Many of the posts were links to articles about gaming, some were links to graphics and some posts were links to other Twitter posts.

The posts were from an online community known as GamerGate, which generally claims to be people interested in game culture concerned about ethics in journalism that covers the gaming industry. Others often point to the movement’s history and notoriety as a roving gang that engages in sexist, homophobic and threatening online attacks.

I – along with some other people in the Society’s leadership – decided to abandon the Twitter hashtag #SPJEthicsWeek, which we planned to use throughout the week, to minimize noise for people who wanted to engage in a broader conversation about journalism ethics.

I also urged people not to address the chorus of posts for the protection of the Society, its leaders and its members who would engage with each other over the Internet throughout the week. After all, the week’s theme was “minimize harm.” I did not want to take the risk of exposing anyone within the organization to harassment or threats. All other Ethics Week activities and engagements went on as planned.

This post is not meant to legitimize or endorse GamerGate, but I’d like to address the people who posted to the Twitter hashtag with engaging and lucid thoughts. I don’t want those people to think their contributions to our conversations about journalism ethics went unnoticed.

In fact,  some of those people were the most active and contributive during the Society’s two Twitter chats last week.

Abandoning the Twitter hashtag was simply the best course of action once the posts became sexist, homophobic, threatening, pornographic and – frankly – disgusting. I received some concerning messages, which were mostly deleted within a few hours. One person told me on Twitter, “man have you seen the giant mudslide of reckage[sic] we know as your (expletive) wake?”

As the chair of the Society’s ethics committee, I hate shutting out any people who want to have a discussion about journalism ethics. The point of the committee I lead is to teach people about the Society’s Code of Ethics.

Over the past year, I received several emails about the GamerGate movement. In fact, I’m quoted in a Nieman Reports story sparked by the movement about handling so-called “Twitter storms.”

Most of the emails I received dealt with getting permission to use the Society’s Code of Ethics to “score” gaming journalists on their ethics. In each case, I responded that it’s not possible to score a person’s ethics.

Some emails – and Twitter posts – called for gaming journalists to be fired. The Society is a professional organization that supports journalists and journalism. It does not have the power to fire journalists. Also, I do not comment on whether people should be fired.

Many of the emails – and Twitter posts – were also from anonymous accounts. In general, calls for transparency in journalism are not effective when they come from people who are anonymous.

This is not limited to GamerGate. I receive emails every now and then from people who – according to Google searches – do not exist. Sometimes I also receive emails from people who appear to misrepresent themselves. I’m very cautious and hesitant about responding to those emails.

People – journalists and non-journalists – who want to interact with others about the topic of journalism ethics should be transparent, courteous and civilized. One person should never harass, threaten or demean another.

Also, people in the U.S. are not forced to read, view or listen to stories from news organizations. If a person believes the information from a certain organization is inaccurate, they’re free to find other sources. People can support and encourage good and ethical journalism with subscriptions, views and listens – not harassment or threats.

The Society and its ethics committee will continue to work toward educating journalists about the Code of Ethics. We will also encourage its use. As is the tradition in U.S. journalism, I hope readers, viewers and listeners hold journalists to those standards, but through a transparent and civil dialogue.


Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society’s ethics committee.

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