Bruce Feldman has an interesting Q&A with Justine Gubar, a journalist at ESPN, who authored a book about fan behavior in the social media era.
We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to be an anonymous flaming asshole, so it’s no real surprise that collegiate sports isn’t an exception. Still, some of what Gubar relates is unsettling.
Q: What’s the most appalling thing you learned about online fanaticism while working on your book?
Gubar: The graphic rape and death threats uniquely experienced by women. Fans go after women in really disturbing ways. The OSU fans were angry about the stories I was pursuing yet they uniformly singled out my appearance in their insults. I’m not sure what one had to do with another. Look at the hideous reaction directed at movie star and Kentucky hoops fan Ashley Judd for comments she made during this year’s NCAA Final Four tournament. Read what Judd had to say about her experience here.
Trolling and internet machismo. The weird thing is the belief that these kind of people have that they’re able to change the story if they’re only persistent enough.
Q: Last year there was a lot of talk about #FSUTwitter and its role in trying to deter media from how it covered the Seminoles’ off-field issues. How closely did you follow FSU Twitter’s response to the Jameis Winston coverage? What was your reaction?
Gubar: I saw several of my ESPN colleagues as well as journalists from other entities endure heavy harassment for their reporting. I guess I was sort of amused because I don’t know many journalists who would back down from their reporting because of anonymous strangers lobbing childish insults at them. Yes, the trolling is disturbing and it can be a burden to put in the effort to avoid the stream of nastiness, but often the defensiveness of fans is a telltale sign for reporters that this is a story that needs to be followed up on.
Pathetic. The cliché about some folks needing to get a life may be just that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.