TORONTO – An organization combatting online harassment of journalists will receive a prestigious award from a group of journalism educators for its efforts at an annual meeting next month in Toronto.
TrollBusters, founded by Dr. Michelle Ferrier, dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Commnication at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, has been selected to receive the Media Management Economics & Entrepreneurship (MMEE) Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award during the division meeting on Thursday, Aug. 8 at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference, to be held at the Toronto Sheraton. TrollBusters, launched in 2015, is a service that uses social media monitoring, machine learning and training to support journalists and media organizations fighting online abuse.
The MMEE award recognizes excellence in the promotion of free expression; ethics; media criticism and accountability; racial, gender, and cultural inclusiveness; and public service, as it pertains to media management, economics, and entrepreneurship. The award is open to any person or institution, professional or academic that makes significant contributions to public advocacy for or has by their actions encouraged management practices that promotes excellence in any of the five areas.
“TrollBusters was such an obvious choice to receive one of our division’s top honors in the Professional Freedom & Responsibility award,” said Dr. Geoffrey Graybeal, immediate past division head and chair of the Named Awards committee of the Media Management, Economics & Entrepreneurship division that administers the award. “An entrepreneurial venture founded and run by an accomplished academic scholar and educator in Dr. Michelle Ferrier, TrollBusters is the very embodiment of not only the criteria and letter, but the spirit and essence of that which the award was created to recognize in the first place.”
TrollBusters marks the third recipient of the award since its inception in 2009.
“TrollBusters fights for journalists to keep them from being bullied out of the marketplace of ideas,” wrote Dr. Mark Poepsel, a journalism professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in his nomination letter. “As journalists venture into social media spaces to promote and sometimes defend their fact-based reporting as well as their informed opinion writing, they are vulnerable to coordinated troll attacks. Most journalists have a thick skin and are trained to manage the occasional angry letter or email, but some journalists, particularly women and people of color, face more common and more harsh attacks, and in social media spaces where there are no barriers to entry and where trolls can hide their identities and collaborate to try to make life miserable for individuals, the need for a service to advocate for journalists is constantly apparent.”
Dr. Ferrier, who was named dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University in October 2018, continues to provide research and training through TrollBusters to help journalists fight online abuse. She has advocated on behalf of journalists worldwide at the United Nations, UNESCO, SXSW, the Online News Association and the European Commission. Dr. Ferrier is a digital content architect with 30 years experience in media entrepreneurship and new media technologies. As a former journalist and columnist, Ferrier would receive hate mail and death threats for writing a lifestyle column in the local paper. Her experiences led her to create TrollBusters.
The MMEE awards committee found TrollBusters’ services of “offering pest control for journalists” particularly salient at a time when journalists around the globe find themselves under attacks for doing their jobs, Graybeal said. For instance, Time magazine named Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists its 2018 “Person of the Year.” Ferrier’s research has shown that nearly two-thirds of female journalists who responded to a 2018 survey had been harassed, with more than half experiencing attacks within the past year. About one-fifth of the Media Management, Economics & Entrepreneurship division’s members are international.
“Ultimately, Troll Busters protects the idea of the public sphere and the idea of a liberal democracy where people determine our own fate based on reasoned discussion and decision making,” Poepsel wrote. “At a time when it is needed most, TrollBusters is a one-of-a kind organization.”
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. AEJMC’s mission is to advance education, foster scholarly research, cultivate better professional practice and promote the free flow of communication.
About Media Management, Economics and Entrepreneurship division
The Media Management Economics, and Entrepreneurship Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication promotes teaching, research, and public service activities in mass media management, economics and entrepreneurship. The division seek to provide an international platform for an exchange of minds to share experiences, ideas and visions in Media Managements, Economics and Entrepreneurship with a focus on research, teaching, internationality, promotion of young academics, and professional freedom and responsibility.