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Abuse making journalists ‘reluctant’ to read Twitter, says editorial chief

Jenna Thompson 1An editorial chief says online abuse and bullying has made journalists she works with “reluctant” to look at social media.

Hull Live digital editor Jenna Thompson has hit out after being inundated with abuse on Twitter while recovering from an operation.

Jenna, pictured, took to social media site to go public on the abuse has faced after being tweeted 24 times by one individual over the course of last weekend.

Examples she gave of the bullying included people discussing whether she should be sacked, questioning whether the chronic illness she suffers from is genuine and posting old pictures of her.

Jenna wrote: “I, and all of us, are more than Hull Live. It is our job and we love it and are proud of it and sometimes we make mistakes, like everyone does at work.

“But this is not a normal way to behave. It’s weird and creepy. If you don’t like Hull Live, have the guts to complain properly.”

Jenna is the latest industry figure to speak out on the issue – and HTFP reported earlier this month how online troll Leroy McCarthy had been hauled before the courts over a threat sent to Amy Fenton, chief reporter at Cumbria daily The Mail.

McCarthy, 25, will be sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty to a malicious communications offence.

Speaking to HTFP, Jenna said: “For too long, I have silently watched my team receive the most horrific abuse on a daily basis. This usually comes from a small cohort of people who, for whatever reason, don’t like Hull Live and the Hull Daily Mail.

“But they have turned that into bullying individuals – hurling abuse, speculating about personal lives, constantly bombarding them to the point of harassment. I am happy to take feedback and have tried to engage in open discussions and debate about what we do but it has gone too far.

“When people do this around the clock, they are effectively turning up inside people’s homes and hurling insults at them. Every time I open Twitter – even now, when I am at home after having an operation – I have people shouting at me.

“I used to love Twitter and it puts me off using it. My team are reluctant to open the app on their phone. The behaviour of the people targeting them is not normal and it’s not acceptable.

“I am pleased to see an increasing number of journalists taking a stand against this and the responses I have had show it is a real issue across the industry. I don’t have the answer but I wanted to talk about the problem.”

Yorkshire Evening Post editor Laura Collins last month told HTFP women journalists were “bearing the brunt” of most of the abuse aimed at those in the industry.

In support of Jenna, Laura posted on Twitter: “Nobody would hurl abuse in the street so why is it acceptable under the guise of anonymity on social media? It’s like policing the Wild West. Enough.”

Cambridge News editor David Bartlett added: “Really sorry to hear this Jenna, you don’t deserve this – no one does.”


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  • February 24, 2020 at 9:48 am

    The vast majority of people don’t live their lives around social media. Its very nature attracts users who aren’t capable of the norms surrounding acceptable behaviour. Twitter in particular grows its own news but frankly, most people don’t give a stuff about what someone said about someone else on it, other than the people who seem most absorbed (obsessed even) by it. If it becomes distressing, get out.

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  • February 24, 2020 at 11:27 am

    The answer is simple! Step away from social media! Join the union, if all reporters refused to Tweet then management would have to respect that desicion! Twitter trolls are the modern day equivalents of green and purple ink letters. Most of what was said in those old letters was drivel, much the same as what’s on Twitter!

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  • February 24, 2020 at 11:38 am

    it wasn’t for Twitter and Facebook my local daily and eastern weeklies would have almost no news leads, they use social media and Google street view to take citizen journalism to the nth degree.
    Better than employing experienced journalists and photographers though so from their point of view it’s a cut price winner

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  • February 24, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Perfectly correct, no one should have to put up with online abuse.

    There are two options: grow a thicker skin or block the trolls.

    A third option, and this only applies to those “reporters” who throw together substandard, unoriginal, and dull copy taken straight from social media and served with misleading headlines and inaccurate intros is to improve your work or get out of journalism.

    I imagine the vast majority of social insults are aimed at the third group. For everyone else, find out who they are and expose them, for the cowards they are.

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  • February 24, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Taken aback a few years ago when management emailed all staff, including the non-journalists, asking them to repost/retweet online stories from their personal FB and twitter accounts – thought it was a bit much being told to do unpaid promotional work in addition to paid work, but the real problem is that it exposes staff to abuses like this. Duty of care should mean that there is some protection.

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  • February 25, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    @PercyHoskins I totally agree about the third option ,banal and unchecked content quickly posted to gain clicks and likes rather than to inform the reader opens the poster and brand up to negative comments and derision however with care and attention this could easily be avoided.
    @AndyN it still happens albeit a little more under the radar with certain editors and their underlings not very subtly suggesting staff might care to ‘like’ and RT their Twitter posts which is a shame when the quality of the content isn’t enough to warrant approval or praise on its own merits and bringing to mind the old saying, “self praise is no praise”

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  • February 25, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    just hoping Phillip was being sardonic – otherwise I might beat myself to death with a rolled-up `newspaper’

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  • February 26, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    Newspapers have a duty of care to staff mental health but sadly all too often don’t seem to care.

    Comments under stories back in my time were almost exclusively negative, often abusive, sometimes personal.

    Anon comments in general, whether they’re under stories or on Twitter, are little more than a shooting gallery for people with unhappy lives to take aim at people who they feel have achieved something. Journalists are seen as a prime and legitimate target for this.

    Another sad byproduct of this is that it has an impact on how you the journalist views the readership. I started (and to some extent still do) regard the readership of my last paper generally as scum and may even have made mention of atomic weapons when discussing my feelings towards the town itself, which isn’t fair on everyone else.

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