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"A lot of it was pretty personal and it did start to affect me after a while."


In late September, The Penn State Daily Collegian’s Assistant Sports Editor Jake Aferiat wrote an editorial defending a dean at the university, who was being harassed for publicly criticizing sports media outlet Barstool Sports and its president David Portnoy. 

The Collegian's headline was “Marie Hardin is right, Barstool has a culture problem and this latest attack proves why.” 

Portnoy quote-tweeted the op-ed and indicated a passage he took issue with. Then, fans of Barstool started a barrage of tweets trolling the Collegian and Aferiat.

When Aferiat spoke with an SPLC reporter in the aftermath, he said it’s easy to advise people to ignore trolls. But even if you tell yourself that these are just strangers online, it can still get to you.

“When you just see the attacks persisting and they’re so personal, you do sort of lose sight of that for a second,” he said.

Luckily, he had a supportive staff and Hardin, the dean he had defended, ended up defending him right back, saying, "This scenario underscores the importance of independent student media. While they took heat for their position, these student journalists showed courage and contributed an important perspective."

Unfortunately, harassment is on the rise for journalists, and especially women and people of color. For example, the NBC News piece pointed out that in the last year, several female reporters accused Portnoy and Barstool fans of verbal harassment, making light of sexual harassment and doxxing them. To learn more about how to be prepared, and what to do if you're harassed online, we highly recommend this guide from PEN America.
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We're seeking self-starting storytellers to chronicle student media organizations in perilous times, recognize trends in student media and help SPLC expand its audience and impact. Applications are due Nov. 4 for spring 2020 paid internships.
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Q: A professor recently committed suicide at my school. Rumors abound that he had been caught up in a financial scandal, but he’s obviously no longer around to interview. Is it possible to libel a dead person?

A: No. While a person’s estate can continue to pursue a libel claim filed by a person before his death, in America only a living person can initiate a defamation claim for damages to their reputation. If there is indeed alleged financial impropriety related to the professor's job, there are ways to track down that information.

 

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