Chris Richards, The Washington Post’s pop music critic, tweeted a reminder of this on Wednesday after he saw how readers reacted to articles by him and by his wife, a fellow Post journalist.
“Today we had stories that ran on the same page. Not uncommon, but always cool,” Richards tweeted.
Soon, both journalists’ inboxes filled with what Richards said were typical reactions from “racist readers making ugly complaints.” The difference, Richards pointed out, was that emails to Gibson included personal attacks that called her “vulgar names ― words I will not re-type here.”
Richards said in a tweet he’s never received reader comments like the ones his wife gets.
“In fact, I can’t remember a reader calling me a name in my entire career. Ever. Yet, my wife experiences it regularly.” With that, he noted:
Gibson, who declined to comment further, applauded her husband for speaking out. She alluded on Twitter to another frustrating inequality: That an issue often goes disbelieved or ignored until a man brings it up.
Women who work in the media industry face bias and sexism from within their own profession and newsrooms. But harassment of journalists from media consumers has sunk to new depths in a culture that’s spawned movements like GamerGate, in which female, female-identifying or non-binary media figures are targeted for harassment campaigns.
The Guardian highlighted the issue with a study of its own comments section this year. It found that of the 10 writers who received the most abuse, eight were women and two were black men.
Media watchers have noted that targeted abuse of journalists takes a toll on those who receive it, and can chill speech and make the media landscape less representative.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe published a booklet this year containing ways to counter online abuse of women journalists. “The media cannot be truly free if women’s voices are silenced,” it noted.