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Scottish journalist Angela Haggerty reveals ‘shocking levels’ of online abuse after Herald and Sunday Herald columns axed

By Charlotte Tobitt

Scottish journalist Angela Haggerty has revealed the “shocking levels of abuse” she routinely receives after trolls attacked her when she revealed her Sunday Herald and Herald columns had been cut.

The National Union of Journalists condemned the abuse and called on “all journalists everywhere to stand up against these bullies”.

Haggerty revealed on Twitter on Tuesday night that, due to the imminent closure of the Sunday Herald and subsequent changes to the newsroom, her column at the title and sister paper the Herald had been axed.

She wrote: “I was informed today that, with the changes coming at the papers, both my Herald and Sunday Herald columns have been cut.

“I thought you lot should know first because your support has been truly amazing at times. It was nice while it lasted!”

Newsquest announced last week the Sunday Herald will close, to be replaced by two new newspapers, the Herald on Sunday and the Sunday National.

This Sunday’s edition of the Sunday Herald will be its last.

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Haggerty has been targeted with online abuse for six years since editing Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s book Downfall: How Rangers FC Self-destructed. She has also received criticism for outing a gay Scottish MSP’s partner in a post on social media, seemingly by accident.

Haggerty decided to share a series of screenshots on Twitter showing the level of abuse she received after announcing her columns had been cut.

One message said “the Erskine Bridge is always open hen”, referring to one of Scotland’s most notorious suicide spots.

Others included “you deserve everything you get”, “hope your life is permanently ruined”, “back to yer cage where you belong”, and calling her a fat, ugly and a “fucking vile cow”.

“There isn’t enough abuse for you, ya wee horrible excuse of a journalist…,” another said.

Haggerty told Press Gazette: “It seems that I don’t have to do very much to get a backlash like that. I’m okay, I think. It’s been quite an intense few days.

“But the thing that’s interesting about it for me is how shocked everyone else is because I’ve never posted a pile-on in the way that I did the other night. That wasn’t all of the replies by any means, but it was a good number of them.

“And everybody else is so shocked by it, really surprised and really shocked, but I’m sitting thinking that this is actually normal for me now.”

She added: “One of the things I’ve been saying a lot to people recently is that it’s not the individual abusive tweet that’s the main problem, it’s the quantity of tweets, it’s the culmination of all that nastiness that actually is the most harmful thing.

“And I think that posting the tweets in that thread in the way that I did let people see that – that if you have that happening over and over and over again for a period of years it’s very very difficult to maintain the work that you’re doing without it having a serious effect on you.”

Haggerty left her role as news editor at the Sunday Herald last month after three months in charge after deciding she needed to “step back from the intensity” of the threats and abuse directed at her online.

However she had continued to write her weekly column until the editorial shake-up this week.

Haggerty, who was editor of Scottish news website Common Space between 2015 and February this year, began a non-journalism job last month, which she has decided to keep private to avoid the harassment which has previously extended offline to target her employers.

But she said she intends to continue making TV and radio appearances because it “feels like it would be handing total victory to bullies” to give up the industry altogether.

“I think I’m just going to take it a day at a time at the moment,” she added.

One of Haggerty’s abusers, David Limond, was jailed for six months in December 2013 after calling her “Taig of the day” – a derogatory term used against people of an Irish Catholic background – in his unofficial Rangers podcast over her involvement in Mac Giolla Bhain’s book.

NUJ Scotland national organiser John Toner said in a statement yesterday: “The egregious, concerted and frankly appalling abuse which Angela is being subjected to is shocking.

“For six years, she has been subject to sectarian and misogynistic abuse that has already seen one of her abusers put behind bars. The bigots and the faceless cowards sitting behind their keyboards will not win.

“The NUJ fully supports Angela and we call on all journalists everywhere to stand up against these bullies. The threats to journalists and journalism are increasing daily and we must stand united against abuse of any of our own.”

In a statement, Mac Giolla Bhain said he was “heartened” to see the NUJ “come out so strongly” in support of Haggerty, adding: “I hope it will encourage other journalists in Scotland to tell the truth about matters [related to] Ibrox [Rangers’ stadium] without fear or favour.”

Haggerty also shared her sadness at the closure of the Sunday Herald, where she had been a columnist for three years.

She said: “I still remember when the Sunday Herald launched, I think I was only a kid, and I remember the adverts for it on TV and it felt like it was a really big thing.

“It was something very fresh and vibrant coming on the scene in Scotland and the Sunday Herald definitely had that brand about it – it was the edgier newspaper in Scotland and it was very well liked and respected, it has been for a long time.

“So I think everybody’s feeling quite sad about the closure of that because of what it represented. It’s a shame, it’s really sad to see the Sunday Herald close.”

Referring to the launch of the Herald on Sunday and Sunday National, Haggerty added: “In a climate where newspaper sales are constantly falling and staff jobs are constantly under threat I hope that the new papers do well and offer some security for staff.”

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