“It’s a brand of harassment I was not expecting when I chose this profession,” NBC4 Southern California reporter Beverly White tells TheWrap
It’s not a new problem, but it’s one that by most accounts is getting worse.
A growing number of TV news reporters say over the past year, there has been an increase in the level of sexually explicit taunts they face while covering stories on public streets. The disturbing trend involves hecklers running up and yelling, “F–k her right in the pu–y” into microphones as reporters stand in front of the camera.
“The acronym ‘F her in the P’ is constant,” NBC4 Southern California reporter Beverly White told TheWrap. “Total strangers, typically young men, shout that profanity like they have a right, and I beg to differ. It is deeply offensive and it’s infuriating.”
The obscene interruptions started to gain notoriety in May 2014. The first known incident was initially thought to have been said by a heckler during a live broadcast in Cincinnati, Ohio. The footage went viral, but the stunt turned out to be a hoax. Still, the copycat incidents are all too real.
For White, who covers general assignment news, the insults can be jarring. “Sometimes it just blows your train of thought,” she explained. “We’re accustomed to disruptions, helicopters flying overhead, barking dogs, sirens, those disruptions come with the territory. But this level of again, profanity, directed at mostly female correspondents, in the presence of a camera, is so upsetting.”
Ashley Kirklen, a morning news reporter at TV6 in Marquette, Michigan, has heard the explicit taunts as well.
“My New Year’s Eve ball-drop story was the worst time I was heckled by people on the street,” Kirklen told TheWrap. “As a one-man band, I had to set up my own shot and record myself. People kept walking into my shot on purpose, screaming in my ear and even touching me,” she recalled. “When I got back to the station and looked back at the footage, I noticed they did stuff behind my back. I even faintly heard the ‘FHRITP’ reference in the background.”
According to experts, the problem stems from a generation of young men who grew up consuming prank-based shows like “Jackass” and “Punk’d” and feel emboldened to act out in public and film themselves doing so. Factor in the Internet and the ability to share antics on the net, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
“It’s honestly really similar to online trolling, except that it’s not happening online, it’s happening in public,” Elisa Lees Munoz, executive director of The International Women’s Media Foundation said.
“It’s really indicative of the misogyny and extreme sexism that’s out there in our society… It’s infuriating that there are people out there using gender-based acts to stop women from performing their professional activity.”
While the insults are usually hurled at female reporters, women are not the sole targets.
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