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Junkee will no longer publish journalists’ bylines on some stories to protect them from ‘harassment campaigns’

Ooh Media-owned Junkee will begin publishing stories about popular musicians under an anonymous byline to protect its writers, following “orchestrated harassment campaigns” involving online abuse and threats.

The news and pop culture website said that ‘stan culture’ – the word ‘stan’ is a cross between ‘stalker’ and ‘fan’ – is, at its worst, a “toxic, vindictive swamp”. And while Junkee, as a site with a music vertical, wants to continue reporting on the phenomenon and impacts of stan culture, a generic ‘Music Junkee’ byline will feature on stories that would put an identified journalist at risk.

Stott said anonymising articles likely to attract the attention of stans was the best way forward

“It’s disappointing that we have to do this. It’s a sad indictment on this particular element of the music industry, and it runs counter to Junkee Media’s editorial code, which says that all content should have a byline unless there’s a good reason not to,” wrote Rob Stott – who last month was promoted from managing editor to editorial director of the site – in an article explaining the decision.

“Sadly, we have a good reason not to, and it’s the health and wellbeing of our staff.”

Stott said that it’s difficult to robustly protect his team; social media platforms do not offer “adequate” tools, a 24-hour Employee Assistance Program is only useful once a staff member has already been subject to abuse and threatening messages, and while “the safest route would be to not write about certain popular artists at all … we’re a music publication, so that’s not really an option.”

Last week’s article on One Direction saw the writer receive abuse and threats

While Stott can recall at least a dozen instances where articles have attracted attention from a pop star’s ‘fandom’, which has then mobilised to harass one of his writers, the most recent instance happened just last week. A piece ranking the solo careers of One Direction members led to Louis Tomlinson stans flooding the writer Joe Earp’s Twitter. Some of the abuse was even levelled against his adopted greyhound.

“Joe and I had to speak several times over an increasingly anxious and disturbed weekend,” Stott explained.

“It would be seem easy to laugh off a single instance of this abuse, but when you’re in the centre of a storm engulfing every part of your online life, it’s impossible to ignore.”

Recently, Junkee co-founder Tim Duggan revealed – just before the launch of his first book, Cult Status – that he would soon step back from the company he helped form 14 years ago. In 2016, Duggan and co-founder Neil Ackland sold the business to Ooh Media, which restructured in May, to bring Junkee into its creative and marketing team. This involved the elevation of Ackland from Junkee CEO to marketing lead at Ooh, in addition to content and creative.

From October, Duggan will shift from being publisher to editor-at-large in order to spend more time writing, travelling and developing other projects.

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