Many U.S. women sports reporters are harassed, taunted or even threatened online just for doing their jobs in a male-dominated world. Here's a sample of tweets and online comments:
-"The players should beat you to death with their hockey stick like the whore you are. C---"
-"Hopefully this skank is Bill Cosby's next victim. That would be classic."
-"Next time I'm in Chicago you got a problem you b----."
Some women have openly criticized the lackluster response from authorities or social platforms, or the ineffectiveness of "blocking" harassers (who can just go create more anonymous accounts). It's a problem many women face alone. And because social media is a vital part of any reporter's job, it's impossible to ignore.
Part of the issue is perception. We live in an era where "mean tweets" are viewed as a funny celebrity late-night sketch, or just "part of the job" for women in sports due to cynicism about the toxic nature of sports talk. We felt it was time to show some tweets are more than mean – they're harassment.
Our goal was to increase awareness about online harassment, and change attitudes among both the media who cover sports and the male fans who follow and discuss sports online. We hoped to make the sports world finally face how disgusting and potentially harmful online harassment can be.
Our insight was simple. The power of harassment is lost on a screen. But when spoken aloud, words take on deeper meaning for both the sender and receiver.
We conceived a video public service announcement (PSA) and social campaign called #MoreThanMean, which forced sports fans and people everywhere to face the heart-stopping impact of cyber bullying.
We asked REAL men to read REAL internet comments directly to women sports reporters. Finally, men heard, saw and experienced the shocking online harassment happening to women sportswriters/broadcasters every day. We filmed the awkward, emotional exchanges so we could show the world tangible proof that most reasonable sports fans would never say these vulgar things to another person – so we shouldn't type them, either.
We chose prominent national sports reporters (Sarah Spain from ESPN and Julie DiCaro from SportsIllustrated/CBS) who endure terrible harassment to appear in the video. We pulled real online comments, filmed real men, and didn't pay anyone. Authenticity was crucial to opening minds and eyes to this problem.
Most importantly … we made people FEEL the issue. Our approach focused on tapping into relatable human emotions: shock, anxiety, sadness and empathy. We filmed in a stripped down environment that focused on the human response to harassment. A mix of close-ups and wide shots let the viewer see key changes in body language –squirms in the seat, lack of eye contact, fidgety fingers, shameful glances.
And we made the controversial decision to show portions of the worst profanity ("C***") on screen to FORCE viewers to absorb the impact. Hearing a "bleep" wasn't enough. We put viewers in the shoes of women sports reporters and made them feel every ... damn ... word.
#MoreThanMean sparked a global conversation about online harassment. Our campaign produced penetrating media coverage on five different CONTINENTS worldwide. It generated hundreds of millions of impressions in social media, and millions of views of our video organically. (Zero paid support.) It prompted scores of major media figures, celebrities and others to share how our campaign opened their eyes and changed their attitudes toward online harassment of women in sports.
In terms of metrics, we generated:
-700+ million media impressions
-7.8 million video views (no paid)
-260 million potential social impressions
-36,591 Twitter mentions
-#MoreThanMean trended nationally on Twitter and Facebook
We reached a diverse mix of media, including news (USA Today, NYT, CBS, ABC, MSN, CNN), sports (ESPN, SI, Fox, Bleacher Report), politics (Salon, Mother Jones), lifestyle (People, SELF), women's (Jezebel, Elle), men's (Complex, Esquire), trade/tech (Mashable, Fast Company, Adweek), international (HuffPo UK, Guardian)
Prominent women reporters (USA Today's Christine Brennan, Fox's Erin Andrews, New York Times' Juliet Macur, CNN's Lindsey Thiry, ESPN's Jemele Hill) shared past online abuse in stories, broadcasts and social media.
Celebrities rallied behind the campaign, including Ashton Kutcher, Jared Leto, Erin Andrews, Kris Jenner, Hope Solo, Elena Delle Donne and more.
And dozens of men in sports (athletes and media) revealed the campaign opened their eyes to what female colleagues endure, including national figures like Jalen Rose, Bomani Jones, Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg and Josh Elliot.
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