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Weekly journalist branded ‘nonce’ becomes latest to speak out on online abuse

Darren BurkeA weekly newspaper journalist has become the latest to open up about online abuse – revealing he has been called a “nonce”, a “c***” and had death wished upon him in recent weeks.

Darren Burke, of the Doncaster Free Press, spoke out after HTFP’s coverage of the abuse being aimed at Amy Fenton, chief reporter at Barrow-in-Furness-based daily The Mail, which has led to Cumbria Police investigating a case of stalking.

Amy told HTFP that police had previously told her she should expect such abuse on the grounds that she is a “public figure.”

Our latest piece prompted Darren, pictured, to offer his support to Amy on Twitter, saying he could “totally sympathise” with the situation she was facing.

He told HTFP: “I totally sympathise with Amy and in the past, have had similar comments about being in the public eye and people saying it should be expected.

“I’ve been called a nonce, a c*** and one person told me that he hoped I died of food poisoning while on holiday, simply for doing my job. Would the same people feel it was acceptable to say that kind of thing in the street, or for instance, to a plumber or a builder if they didn’t like their work?

“I treat Twitter the same way as if it was a complaint via email or phone and try to respond accordingly, admittedly, sometimes with tongue in cheek. Some people suggest I shouldn’t rise to the trolling and ignore them, but ignoring vile abuse that journalists are subjected to online is not going to make it go away. So more often than not, I’ll retweet the criticism to show the kind of thing we’re being subjected to on a daily basis.

“I am sure some will see it as bleating and boo-hooing, but it does make me laugh when I get called a nonce, paedo or c*** and I’m supposedly the unprofessional one for daring to say something back. It has always been a job where you need a thick skin, but it seems our skins are having to get even thicker and it shouldn’t be like that.”

So far in 2019 HTFP has covered a number of cases of regional journalists opening up about abuse they have received online – including Wales Online’s Estel Farell-Roig, Sussex Newspapers crime editor Michael Drummond and Oxford Mail news editor Rebecca Hudson.

Coventry Telegraph editor Keith Perry had warned that “truly appalling” online abuse of journalists is now becoming the “new normal”.


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  • June 6, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I blame the newspaper companies for this. They have some outdated strange idea that they’re encouraging communities and debate, but they’re just encouraging keyboard warriors to snipe. I don’t doubt this has caused serious mental health with some issues and certainly contributed to me falling out of love with the job. Having my picture above every story with comments sections underneath, and given that my beat was the local authority and everyone hates the council, needless to say every story that didn’t include ‘council is worse than Hitler’s government’ got me a lovely lot of – often personal – abuse. Editors laughed it off, often literally, even though they themselves weren’t in the firing line. Saying it was part of the job. Er, no it’s not, not the one I signed up for.

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  • June 6, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Looking at the Newcastle Chronicle’s website almost every story has abusive comments aimed at the writer. What other industry encourages and facilitates its customers to constantly abuse their employees anonymously and does nothing about it? Perhaps this will be pointed out to an employment tribunal or even a criminal court at some point. Comments are only there because the lunatics in charge know that they’re clickbait in their own right and increase page hits.

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