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Nothing nice is ever written on the Internet

Online harassment in the digital age
By KARYN SPORY, MPN editor | May 20, 2016

As a journalist, I know whenever I put an article or column out into the universe, I am opening up my work to criticism and critique and unfortunately, even opening up myself to the same condemnation.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story. For me, it was like most other assignments. I went out and talked to the entities involved, tried to get each side of the story, double checked my facts and quotes, and wrote my story.

I was pleased with my work, but one of the entities stated they felt they had been slighted, that their opinion was not as prevalent as they felt it ought to be and that I had even misrepresented them.

As with any inquiry, I reread the story, reviewed my notes and audio files and after considerable consideration and study, stood by my work.

They wrote a letter to the editor about the situation, which was printed, however, it seemed that wasn’t enough. Over the weekend, the individual posted an online video, a song rather, stating that I lie, slander, and basically propagate propaganda to the masses.

To say the least, I was a little unnerved by the video. My friend once joked that someday someone would write a song about me; this is not what I had imagined. But I kept telling myself, this was nothing, there are so many reporters, especially female reporters, that receive much worse harassment online.

Last month, I posted a Buzzfeed video to my Facebook wall. The video was set up in a “Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” style and featured two female sports writers, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain. However, instead of reading the “mean” tweets themselves, a handful of men were invited to read the tweets.

The video is difficult to watch. The bubbly music track quickly fades as the tweets and online comments become more and more degrading, disrespectful and violent. “I hope your boyfriend beats you,” one man reads. “One of the players should beat you to death with their hockey sticks…” says another. Followed by, “I hope you get raped again.” It’s at this point the men, who did not author any of these cruel tweets/comments, were unable to look the message’s recipient in the eyes and apologized that such things had been written.

But it’s not just female reporters receiving online harassment in the form of posts, tweets and comments riddled with derogatory names and explicit violent and sexual acts, it’s seemingly any female with an opinion.

Monday night’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” featured a segment about the city council in Seattle, Wash., and their decision to nix a proposed ordinance that would have vacated a street for an NBA arena to bring back the Seattle Sonics. The vote was 5-4 and drawn down gender lines – the four males on the council voting yay and the five females saying no.

“I do want to help bring back the Sonics,” said Kshama Sawant during the council meeting, “but I cannot do that on the basis of undermining our working water front.”

Councilwoman Lisa Herbold said she would prefer to “error on the side of protecting maritime jobs.”

But logical reasoning didn’t sway an outlandish outpouring of offensive tweets from disgruntled fans. Herbold was called a “disgraceful piece of trash that deserves nothing but a horrible outcome.” And, “someone should bash her head into a brick wall,” was tweeted about Sawant.

It’s intense, right? Sadly, this isn’t even the half of it. And for what? Saying no to a sports stadium or writing an unpopular sports column?

Yes, compared to these ladies, I’m lucky. But why should any of it be tolerated? What is it my mom use to always say, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

The Internet is a great tool. It connects me to my friend in North Carolina, my cousin in Spain and the world around me. It’s an amazing resource for school or work and can allow you to have a global perspective, right here in Iowa.

But, for some, because we have an Internet connection it entitles the world to our opinion and allows us to hide behind the anonymity of 140 characters and say things we would never say to someone on the street.

So please, be kind. Use your time, influence and 140 characters to spread knowledge, empowerment and positivity.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Joellen Jepson | May 25, 2016 19:26

Nicely written, Karyn!!!

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