Newsrooms must stand up to targeted campaigns of harassment

By T.C. Sottek

Since announcing her new job with The New York Times, a widespread campaign of harassment has targeted Verge reporter Sarah Jeong for a number of tweets she wrote years ago. Many of those now reacting to these tweets have intentionally taken them out of context, and she has since received an unrelenting stream of abuse from strangers on the internet.

You can read Sarah’s own statement about her tweets here. But as the editors of The Verge, we want to be clear: this abusive backlash is dishonest and outrageous. The trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same tactics that exploded during Gamergate, and they have been employed in recent years by even broader audiences amid a rise in hostility toward journalists. From cries about “ethics in journalism” to “fake news,” journalists have been increasingly targeted by people acting in bad faith who do not care about the work they do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.

Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

So we’re not going to fall for these disingenuous tactics. And it’s time other newsrooms learn to spot these hateful campaigns for what they are: attempts to discredit and undo the vital work of journalists who report on the most toxic communities on the internet. We are encouraged that our colleagues at The New York Times are standing by Sarah in the face of feigned outrage.

Until she begins at the Times, Sarah is still one of us — a senior writer at The Verge. During her time working with us, she has produced remarkable journalism, including difficult reporting on victims of harassment and abuse. We are incredibly proud of Sarah’s work for The Verge, and we consider ourselves lucky to have gotten to know her as an excellent colleague, a formidable thinker, and a fine human being.

We have no doubt Sarah will continue to contribute thoughtful and rigorous reporting and analysis at the Times. She is an essential voice on technology and the internet, and we will all benefit from her continued work.