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Dean Ferrier Receives Prestigious Award from Journalism Educators

TrollBusters’ work honored at Toronto conference

Michelle Ferrier, Ph.D.

TORONTO -- Michelle Ferrier, Ph.D., dean of Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, was awarded the prestigious Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award from the Media Management Economics and Entrepreneurship Division (MMEE) Thursday evening, August 8. The MMEE is a division of The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), which is the nonprofit association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals.

Ferrier was recognized for the critical research and continuing work of the organization she founded: TrollBusters – an organization that combats online harassment of journalists. She received the Outstanding Professional Freedom and Responsibility award during the division meeting of AEJMC in Toronto, Canada.

According to the organization, this is the third time a recipient has been recognized for this award, which highlights 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 last time the award was given was in 2013.

The MMEE awards committee found TrollBusters’ services of “offering pest control for journalists” critical at a time when journalists find themselves under attack for doing their jobs, said Geoffrey Graybeal, Ph.D. Graybeal is the immediate past division head and chairperson of the division that administers the award.

“TrollBusters was such an obvious choice to receive one of our division’s top honors in the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award,” said Graybeal by news release. Graybeal added that Ferrier, “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.”

Ferrier founded TrollBusters in 2015 after experiencing hate mail and death threats for writing a lifestyle column while she worked as a full-time journalist at a Florida newspaper from 2003-2008. Her case was highlighted by the Committee to Protect Journalists, who advocated support from the U.S. Department of Justice. Ferrier tells her story in “Progression of Hate,” a chapter in the 2016 Attacks on the Press, published by the CPJ.

“We are living in dangerous times. Before Gamergate, before the rise of the Tea Party, before the hate we see on 8chan and Twitter today, I was calling on our professional and academic organizations to pay heed to the rising use of social media and online communities to groom white supremacists and attack journalists,” Ferrier said. “The cries of “fake news” have put a target on the backs of all journalists both online and in physical space. I’m humbled that my colleagues have honored me and the work of TrollBusters in this way,” Ferrier said.

In his nomination letter, Mark Poepsel, Ph.D. of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville said “TrollBusters fights for journalists to keep them from being bullied out of the marketplace of ideas. 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.”

Ferrier has also been recognized internationally for her work providing professionals and student journalists with training and research through TrollBusters to help journalists fight online abuse. She has advocated on journalists’ behalf at the United Nations, UNESCO, SXSW, the Online News Association and the European Commission. Ferrier is a digital content architect with 30 years of experience in online communities, media entrepreneurship and new media technologies.

Dean Ferrier Award