For journalists, being hated is part of the job.
People will hate things you write, and they’ll tell you. They’ll hate the media in general, and they’ll let you know. They may hate you for your race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation; thanks to the visibility that comes with the job, you’ll hear about that, too. In the age of email and social media, it seems like more than ever, hateful messages are the cost of doing business in the news business.
Five staffers at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis were killed on Thursday by a shooter with a long-standing grudge against the newspaper. The man had been harassing the paper and its employees since 2011, according to The Baltimore Sun, and he had also personally threatened the Gazette’s former editor and publisher, Thomas Marquardt, as my colleague Emma Green reported. Marquardt told Green he wasn’t surprised when he learned who the suspect was.
In the aftermath, Libby Nelson, the news editor at Vox, tweeted: “Every journalist knows their version of That Guy. And most of us just shrug it off and laugh about it, because what else are you going to do? The idea that they might do something about it—if that’s what happened here—is bone-chilling.” Perhaps motivated by a similar worry, police officers in Chicago and New York were deployed to several major media outlets on Thursday after the shooting.
Every journalist knows their version of That Guy. And most of us just shrug it off and laugh about it, because what else are you going to do?— Libby Nelson (@libbyanelson) June 29, 2018
The idea that they might do something about it — if that’s what happened here — is bone-chilling.
The majority of Americans do not trust the news media. There are many complex reasons why, and there’s enough blame to go around to many different parties, journalists included. So it’s hardly surprising that they get some rude messages. “But I’m not talking about the rudeness. I’m talking about intimidation,” says Elana Newman, a psychologist who works with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. “I’ve been working for the Dart Center for 20 years in some capacity, and when we used to ask people what the most stressful parts of journalism are, they would talk about the hours, or getting it right. They would talk about all sorts of things. Now what comes up is really this kind of stuff.”