For Women Journalists, Just Being in the Office Can Be a Danger

From the news, you might think journalism is getting to be a pretty hazardous profession: just this week, journalists were injured in clashes with police in Russia, and not that long ago, a Libyan journalist was killed. Thanks to wars and unrest around the globe, field journalism has become a dicey profession, and journalists are heroes for risking their lives on the front lines. And closer to home, journalists face government intimidation, threats and pressure to kill stories or change their content to satisfy an audience.

But for women in journalism, there’s an even more real and present danger, and it’s right in the workplace: harassment and abuse from their male colleagues. In a wide-scale study, 64% of women in journalism reported that they experience abuse, threats and harassment during the course of their work — and more than half of it took place in the workplace. This is not a case of journalists being intimidated or pressured by outside forces attempting to limit press freedom, but about women being made uncomfortable by their own colleagues, many of whom have seniority as a result of underlying sexism in journalism.

Women in journalism, for example, must meet very strict appearance standards for broadcast journalism and other situations where their careers involve frequently being seen by the public. They’re often limited as they work their way through the ranks by nepotism in the office as well as sexist attitudes; it can be a struggle to be reassigned from the Home and Garden pages to the news, for example, and journalists covering subjects like women’s health, social welfare programs and similar social issues may be sneered at as focusing on “women’s issues.” For those few women who do manage to achieve higher ranks, the fight is never over, with male colleagues treating them disrespectfully even after they’ve more than proved their worth in the field and on the desk.

More disturbingly, many women are afraid to report harassment, because they fear more harassment as well as retaliation such as demotion. Furthermore, many of the women surveyed said that their workplaces had no functional way to report and handle harassment in the workplace, creating another reason to refrain from reporting: a fear that nothing would be done, and they would be exposed in the office as nuisances for daring to make the issue public.

In a shocking illustration of how widespread the problem is, an editor in India was recently at the center of a controversy after he committed sexual assault on a female colleague. The dangers for women in journalism are very real when the people supposedly in positions to protect them are instead abusing their power — and in this case, the story might not have gone public if the editor hadn’t started emailing his victim. Ostensibly his emails were intended as apologies, but they could also be viewed as further harassment of an already traumatized journalist just trying to do her job.

Writing about this issue for Slate, journalist Amanda Hess notes that: “The stories we tell each other may help us stay on the lookout for repeat offenders, and to be more wary of working with them — but of course, that calculation also affects our career opportunities. When most female journalists are abused, threatened, harassed, or assaulted at work, there are few outlets we can run to where we will not be forced to work with these men, or their friends and supporters. Some of the journalists who responded to the survey were assaulted by journalists with whom they did not directly work, but the news business is an erratic one. We could be working with them soon. And then we could be working beneath them.”

Her analysis speaks to a critical component of the issue: when your livelihood hangs on remaining silent and not becoming known as “difficult” among your colleagues and potential future editors, speaking out about harassment can be a great way to end your career. Clearly, it’s time for media organizations to take this issue seriously and implement policies for handling harassment reports appropriately and safely, because no one should fear coming to work in the morning.

Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


Koty Lapid
Koty Lapid3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez3 years ago


Cathleen K.
Cathleen K3 years ago

James W: You chose to join a discussion on an article about the sexual harassment of women in the workplace and use it as a forum to display unremitting hatred and contempt for all women. I'd ask you to reread your posts, but I doubt you'd be able to see what everyone else who reads them sees immediately. The inability to evaluate, at all, one's own behavior is a hallmark of the disturbed mind.

I do believe you, now that you have provided a good deal more evidence. Your mother was a monster, but just as I don't blame or hate you because you happen to have a penis for the two men who raped me (one with a knife at my throat), I do not accept your blame for her behavior. The thrust of your argument is that women who are harassed or abused deserve no sympathy or relief because a very small minority of us are awful people. Perhaps your experience has made you unable to understand simple numbers, but don't expect those of us without your innumeracy to agree with your false equivalency. Look at the sexual abuse crisis in the military, where large numbers of victims of both sexes are being raped and intimidated. The abusers are all males; you do the math, if you can. Whatever help you have gotten has clearly been insufficient, because you hate more than half of the people in your own country, simply for having vaginas. What an awful, terrifying way to live. I repeat - get some help.

Marianne C.
Marianne C3 years ago

@ James W:

Bluntly put, I agree with Marilyn and others who have suggested you get help.

You have blown one tasteless joke into a nation-wide media campaign for castration

You have blown one incident in which one (rather obviously mentally ill) women cut off the penis of her sexual abusive husband into an epidemic of unreported assaults on manhood.

Your obsession is clear. It's also more than a bit histrionic and overblown. You have based your assumptions on a story being exploited on YouTube -- and apparently colored by some of the horrendous comments posted about it and the crazed voice-over that narrates it. "If we're EVER going to win this war...?" What war would that be? Because there is certainly no "war on men" happening in THIS society. Nor is there any movement to castrate men!

You are not the only person on this board who was molested as a child. You are not the only person on this board who was raped. You are CERTAINLY not the only person who had a crazy, selectively abusive mother. You aren't even the only person on THIS THREAD who has had to live through one or more of those abuses.

Who have you seen dismissing your abuse by saying, "It's easier for males. At least you didn't have to worry about getting pregnant?" Has anyone here told you that you were asking for it? That you brought it on yourself? Has anyone said that if you hadn't been sending out signals, it wouldn't have happened?


Marianne C.
Marianne C3 years ago

That you could have stopped it if you'd just yelled loudly enough and fought hard enough?

What, nobody? Of course not! Nobody here dismisses rape, and nobody here dismisses genital mutilation -- even though both subjects are technically off-topic in this thread.

However, the things you have posted here do not make you sound like an advocate against sexual abuse. They make you sound like a ticking time bomb, ready to blow up at any moment. Your resentment and hatred for your mother seem to have extended to all women, just as has your resentment and disgust for Sharon Osborne – even though NO ONE HERE has said a word has agreed with one or defended the other.

You really do need to find a better way to work out your anger, especially since it appears there is so much of it. “Women” are not hurting you. ONE WOMAN may have ALLOWED you to be hurt in childhood, but women in general had nothing to do with that, or with Sharon Osborne’s distasteful joke.

If you are angry at not getting positive responses to your messages, you might consider the thinks you have forced into this thread, and the way you have said them. Your belligerence, your aggression, your sweepingly incorrect assumptions, and your arrogance are what people are reacting to. If you want people to react to your pain and inability to recover from it, express yourself differently.

And please do get help form some professional source. Those creepy He Man Woman Hater sites are not the

James Wilcox
James Wilcox3 years ago

Cathleen cont.

“All of this is readily available, but you felt it necessary to make things up.” Citations please.

“Like I said - get help before you kill someone and end up in jail, where sexual abuse is the order of the day. “

Cut the condescending, vindictive crap.

And I'm sure you're OK with Bubba anyway. But like you said, his mother may have put him there.

James Wilcox
James Wilcox3 years ago

Cathleen cont.

You continue: “That's assuming you aren't making all of this up.” Look up my articles. But I understand why you may disbelieve me, I have so much to gain. And I'm sure you recognize women make up rape stories too. So I might be motivated by a similar pathological need for attention. Kind of like a Munchausen Mama.

And this is rich, “Sharon Osborne was not a groupie. She was Ozzy's manager after he got tossed by Black Sabbath;”

Osbourne met Ozzie in 1970 thanks to her music mogul dad Don Arden, manager of Black Sabbath. She became Ozzie's manager in 1979 and married him in 1982. That's 12 years from when she met him to when she married him. During that time she was a groupie. I've heard her talk about group sex with the band. Linda Eastman McCartney, bless her heart and rest her soul, was a groupie too. She was the love of Sir Paul's life.

I don't deny Ms. Osbourne's managerial skills or her real love of Ozzie. But to say “Without Sharon, Ozzy'd be a broke wanker in Manchester who nobody'd ever heard of. “ People had heard of him already for nine years. Sharon new a meal ticket when she saw it and worked it. Just like her father.
She learned the trade from her dad he dropped a gold mine drop in her lap. Literally. Sharon Osbourne Had Surgery to Get Her "Vagina Tightened": …
“All of this is readily available, but you felt it necessary to make thi

James Wilcox
James Wilcox3 years ago

Cathleen cont.

The best one was “Sorry, Bob Wall, we've heard such excuses far too often.” Not sure of the date on that but I'm looking at a thank you letter from Robert Page, the president and Publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times dated Aug. 5, 1987. It reads:

“I am a four-times parent so I read your proposed Personal View column with more than a passing interest.

You have magnificent writing skills and I would bet that very few readers would disagree with your views about judicial irresponsibility.

Your remarks will indeed be printed, Jim, and I appreciate your taking the time to write them.”

Best Regards,
Cc: Krishna Gaur
Kenneth Towers

Good thing Bob Wall's wife wanted to have sex with the babysitter too. Like most female sex offenders, neither spent a day in jail.

But let's hear what you really wanted to project on me; “Your thoroughly unobjective hatred for all females ...”

You are projecting that because I hate maternal child abuse I must hate “all women.” Don't you hate the fact that American women kill more of their own children than any other mothers in the industrialized world? Or are you OK with those CDC stats?

“.. is liable to lead you to kill one of us one day,”

Oh wah wah wah. This is all about YOU then. If you had any real empathy for the issue you would know men are much more likely to kill themselves or another man than they are a woman.

You continue: “That

James Wilcox
James Wilcox3 years ago

@ Cathleen: “James W: I'm horrified by what you went through,...”
Please spare me the feigned sympathy.

Let's hear what you really want to tell me.
“... but I sincerely hope you get some help before...”

Actually Cathleen, in the 80's I was part of creating the first “help” in Chicago. I was working with a group of men who were some of the first to come forward and speak publicly about the sexual abuse of boys. We established the first group therapies for sexually abused men at the Ravenswood Hospital,
and held panel discussions at several child sexual abuse conferences, including a national DCFS Conference. Oh yeah, we did the Oprah Show in 1986. She forgot, or more likely politically denied.

The DCFS was professional but at the time, feminists were portraying child sexual abuse as the “ultimate oppression of women.” At other conferences we were literally told that as men, we deserved to be raped as children because we were part of “the patriarchy.” “Now you know how it feels” they'd chide.

“...we have to read about you in the newspapers.”

And you can read about me in the newspaper already. The Chicago Sun-Times specifically on a few occasions. The most noteworthy was an article written with the late Jeffrey Zaslow on Aug. 6, 1992 called “Men Share Their Stories Of Childhood Sex Abuse.” The first one was March 28, 1987 called “Abuse quiz disservice to victims.“


Franck Rio
Frank R3 years ago