International Women’s Media Foundation Supports Gayle King and all Journalists Facing Online Attacks

The IWMF is distressed by the appalling attacks and death threats made to Gayle King following her interview with Lisa Leslie. We call on the news media at-large to recognize the severity of online attacks and prepare journalists for this growing threat.

Online abuse is all too common for women in news media – 70 percent have experienced some form of harassment – and these threats escalate in volume and tone for women journalists of color.

Regardless of your views on any piece of reporting, there is no justification—ever—for making threatening, vulgar, gender-based online attacks against journalists. The attacks against King are emblematic of the misogynistic vitriol that is driving women out of journalism, especially early-career women, two-thirds of whom are leaving the profession because of the abuse they face online.

Online attacks lead to self-censorship, internalized trauma and PTSD-like symptoms for news media workers. If this abuse is allowed to continue with impunity, the deeply hostile environment women journalists face on and offline will grow.

Unfortunately, King is not the first journalist to be attacked around coverage of Kobe Bryant. The Washington Post’s Felicia Somnez was also publicly attacked online and doxed; the line between digital and physical threats is a fine one and those engaging in the abuse of women journalists must be held responsible.

To better support their staff, the IWMF calls on newsrooms to take committed, meaningful measures to protect journalists before, during and after attacks, particularly women and journalists of color.

We must do more to support journalists. Creating a safe and representative online working environment is imperative for our society and for press freedom.