Online harassment of U.S. women journalists and its impact on press freedom




Online harassment, press freedom, women journalists, chilling effect, First Amendment, media and Democracy


This investigation aimed to determine whether and how online harassment affects U.S. women journalists. Of particular interest was whether online harassment creates a chilling effect by limiting the types of stories and topics that are covered, which may influence press freedom. The survey (n=141) indicated that negative online interactions caused most participants to feel dissatisfied with their jobs. A chilling effect on coverage was also evident in responses from participants. Some respondents avoided certain stories for fear of online abuse they would receive. An overwhelming majority of U.S. women journalists (79 percent) agreed that online harassment affected press freedom. In the United States, a free and fair press is an essential component of our democracy. This study found that online harassment prevents women journalists from serving in their capacity as a watchdog on government and other institutions.

Author Biography

Caitlin Ring Carlson, Seattle University

Caitlin Ring Carlson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Seattle University. She teaches courses in Media Law, Social Media, and Strategic Communication. Her research focuses on media law, policy, and ethics from a feminist perspective. Carlson’s work has appeared in journals such as Communication Law and Policy, the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, and Communication Law Review. Carlson received her PhD in Media Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder.




How to Cite

Carlson, C. R., & Witt, H. (2020). Online harassment of U.S. women journalists and its impact on press freedom. First Monday, 25(11).