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'The Karen Carney abuse highlights the toxic nature of social media'

The Irish Independent’s Vincent Hogan and Teneo CEO Mick O’Keeffe discussed the pile on from ...


'The Karen Carney abuse highlights the toxic nature of social media'

The Irish Independent’s Vincent Hogan and Teneo CEO Mick O’Keeffe discussed the pile on from football supporters against journalist Karen Carney on the Sunday Paper Review on Off The Ball.

Former footballer Carney was the subject of mass abuse on Twitter after the Leeds Twitter account shared a post of her suggesting that they were ‘promoted because of COVID’, criticising the pundit.

Carney subsequently received a number of sexist and abusive tweets, resulting in the 144-time capped England footballer leaving Twitter on Friday.

Leeds issued a statement condemning the abuse that Carney had received, stating,” Everyone at our club respects Karen greatly for all she has achieved in the game, as well as her work in the media and the charity work she undertakes”.

Despite the statement condemning the abuse Carney received, their tweet, and the comments below it, remain on social media.

Hogan believes that Leeds should have known what would have happened when they targeted Carney with their tweet.

“I think inevitability of the pile on is the problem you’d have with what Leeds did,” Hogan said.

“What they tweeted, if it was in response to a male pundit, it wouldn’t have gotten a second comment.

“But the point is it was in response to a female pundit, and I think everyone has the responsibility to understand the inevitability of the lowest common denominator will just pile into stuff like that.”

Hogan suggested that Carney’s comments were open to a debate, but that she was not wrong or disrespectful to the club to make the comments.

“They could legitimately have questioned what Karen Carney said, which was that the COVID lockdown essentially gave them three months grace,” Hogan said.

“She was saying that they had a habit, which they did, of running out of steam because of their high energy [gameplan].

“Leeds were saying, I think they won their previous five games on the trot, so there was no real evidence that that was going to happen this time, but it was still a legitimate comment to make by her.

“She is an astute pundit, and I have seen her a few times and she is very interesting.”

Hogan thinks that Leeds were completely irresponsible in posting the tweet in the first place.

“Surely, that tweet by Leeds, they would have to have been pretty stupid not to understand what the reaction would have been,” Hogan said.

“They should have been more responsible than they were.”

O’Keeffe agreed, suggesting that the incident has highlighted the toxic culture that is prevalent on social media nowadays.

“I think she is a really good pundit, but I think she may have articulated herself slightly clumsily, which every analyst does,” O’Keeffe said.

“But how irresponsible I think of Leeds to have put that out as bait on an official Twitter account; and the pile on for me is just a representation of how toxic social media has become.

“It wasn’t just people bashing a pundit; as a pundit you expect people to pick you up when they disagree with you and people get offended when you criticise their own team.

“But it was extremely crude and sexist, the comments that came afterwards. I think Leeds were really, really irresponsible.”

Karen Carney Women pundits BT Sport presenter Lynsey Hipgrave (left) with pundits Joe Cole (centre) and Karen Carney during the FA Cup third round match at Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham. John Walton/PA Archive/PA Images

Carney is an example of the few female pundits in modern media

Hogan suggested that despite the strides made in balancing the gender representation in sport and sports journalism, there is still a major imbalance in how female sports analysts and journalists are treated.

“I think back now as a journalist, I have been around a long time, I was with the Irish Press in the 1980s and Yvonne Judge came in and worked at the sports department with the Independent, Cliona Foley with the Irish Times, then you had Mary Hannigan,” Hogan said.

“I have so much respect for those women, getting involved in an environment that was so male dominated, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them.

“There was a real kind of smugness [about the male reporters]; this sitting in press boxes with little comments being made, and you think back on it and the cowardly thing was just to kind of shrug your shoulders.

“It wouldn’t happen now, and it couldn’t happen now, and rightly so. But back then, they probably had to put up with a lot of innuendo and smart comments that really were unacceptable.”

O’Keeffe agreed that there has definitely been an improvement in the attitudes towards female sports journalists, however suggested that there is still a huge imbalance in the number of men and women attending press conferences at sporting events.

“I think females are completely underrepresented in sports media,” O’Keeffe said.

“I just still think that if you go to a press conference now that 95% of the journalists there are men; the reporters, particularly the daily beat, is still male dominated.

“There hasn’t been a wave of new, young female journalists come through; there is a few of them but there is not that many.

“I do think we need more female analysts, and the broadcast media are getting better at it, you do see and hear more female voices, and that is great.

“I don’t know the percentage, but I would argue it is 5% of the journalist population is female and I would encourage more women into sport to cover male and female sport.

“But we need to make the environment welcoming for everybody, no matter who they are and I think that is a work in progress.”

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