“Worse than the Harassment Itself.” Journalists’ Reactions to Newsroom Social Media Policies

Jacob L. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Journalists increasingly use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to pursue audience engagement. In doing so, journalists have learned these platforms carry personal and professional risks—namely accusations of political bias that can lead to termination from their jobs, as well as trolling, doxing, and threats of physical violence. This is especially true for women journalists and journalists of color. This study examines the extent to which newsroom managers help—or hinder—their journalists when it comes to navigating the risks and challenges of audience engagement via social media platforms. It draws on interviews with 37 reporters, editors, publishers, freelancers, and social media/audience engagement managers from throughout the U.S. about their experiences with and thoughts about their newsroom’s social media policies. Findings reveal that although journalists are encouraged to be “active,” “personable,” and “authentic” social media users, their newsroom social media policies offer little guidance or support for when journalists subsequently face personal, aggressive attacks. I conclude that these tensions are a consequence of the extent to which social media has upended the ways that journalists approach their work, as well as their relationship with the public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDigital Journalism
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • audience engagement
  • dark participation
  • Facebook
  • media logics
  • Social media
  • social media policies
  • Twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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