Feb
18
2015
Ding dong, the bully is dead!
By Stephanie Wei under General

This is a post I wrote on February 18, 2015, but I didn’t end up publishing it at the time because I felt too ashamed and embarrassed over the whole fiasco. Which seems silly, but I felt long-lasting psychological effects and suffered from post-trauma.

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Well, it appears after my Twitter rant on Sunday, along with the onslaught of support I received, either scared my cyber-bully formerly known as @weioverpar into deleting the account, or Twitter finally shut it down after the numerous reports myself and others filed. Basically, thanks to you all, this person is no longer harassing me or anyone else (that we know of).

Unfortunately, based on the contents and “inside golf” nature of the tweets, I can’t help but believe that the person behind the nasty account was an insider of some sort. I, along with other colleagues, strongly suspect a member of the media was at the very least feeding the troll information because of several reasons — namely, the information they tweeted, and they had access to the same areas that media members (or someone with similar credentials) have.

There were pictures taken of me at TPC Scottsdale walking out of the clubhouse parking lot (see above), where fans aren’t permitted, along with a photo of me on the 16th tee Wednesday the week of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which appears to have been taken from someone who had inside the ropes access (see below).

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In addition, following Tiger Woods’ opening round in Phoenix, I was in the flash (interview) area outside of scoring when ESPN.com’s Michael Collins was double-checking with me what Woods shot. He said something like, “Tiger was two-over, so he shot 74, right?” I corrected him that it was actually 73 because the par was 71. Later that day, @weioverpar tweeted the following…

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Creepy, right? Before that, I thought the person was just an annoying troll, but relatively harmless. Well, at this point, it certainly made me uneasy because it had to be someone who was within an earshot that overheard our conversation. I had blocked @weioverpar and ignored him, but would occasionally look at the account to see what he was saying. After Collins texted me asking if I knew who the user was, I checked @weioverpar’s timeline and saw the above tweet, and that was also when I discovered the two aforementioned pictures of me that had been taken on-site.

At this point, I became quite disturbed and concerned for my safety — not because I per se thought that this person would physically harm me (but hey, actually, you never know). This person was clearly deranged enough and had stalked my Twitter, website, YouTube, etc., and obsessively posted tweets, many of which harassed other media members, players and their wives, and even my roommate. I spent the next two weeks on Tour in Phoenix and San Diego looking over my shoulder, which was not a pleasant feeling by any means and it’s not something *anybody* should have to endure.

These screenshots don’t do the harassment justice. I really should’ve done a better job capturing the more awful ones, but I think it was just their persistence and non-stop tweeting that made it worse. Anyone who saw the account was disturbed and expressed concern — even the PGA Tour emailed me with theirs. I wish I’d taken more and better screen grabs, but they posted so much that I wasn’t going to bother going through 1,000-plus tweets.

Oh, by the way, the first tweet was posted on CHRISTMAS DAY. That’s quite telling about this person.

I was very disappointed by Twitter that despite the reports I, along with others, had filed, the account was active and I had heard nothing back from them, but that’s another story.

For those who missed my epic Twitter rant, it basically started because I woke up late Sunday morning after having a nightmare that I was being bullied in high school and I felt very angry. Then, I quickly realized that this wasn’t so much a nightmare, but rather, it was what I was dealing with in real life via an anonymous cyber-bully (but with a high probability that it was someone I knew). I had enough and I mindlessly started tweeting. Here’s my timeline in case you missed it:

 

 

Next, here’s Shane Ryan’s full diatribe:

SHANE RYAN FOR PRESIDENT.

Jokes aside, he’s someone who has been a true friend, and I couldn’t be more appreciative for the way he stood up for me. (By the way, you should all order his bookI’m sure most of you read the exposé he wrote on Patrick Reed, which was simply a small preview of the year he spent on Tour.)

Again, I’d like to thank everyone (again) for the kind words and encouragement, whether it was via tweets, text, email, or a phone call. I can’t begin to express how touched I was by the outpouring of support, especially after the risk I took with my impromptu rant — not only about the harassment I’d endured over the last couple of months, but also the ongoing hostile work environment I’ve dealt with over the last four-five years while covering the PGA Tour. I’d like to clarify that my charges against the “golf media” wasn’t meant to impugn *everyone*. In fact, quite a few colleagues reached out to me about the troll and tried to help uncover his identity and whomever was aiding and abetting him. However, when I first emerged on the scene (along with my first few years on tour), I wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms, with the exception of perhaps a handful of mentors, but that’s in the past and things have improved over time.

I also want to be clear that this is NOT the column I’ve promised to write expanding on the allegations I made via Twitter on Sunday. I know that I need to name names and be more specific, but I also need to be careful with how I handle this. (Just an FYI, the treatment I endured was so hostile in 2010 and 2011 that my editor at the WSJ asked me to write a piece about it, but I wasn’t ready at that time and I didn’t want to create more antagonism than I already was dealing with.) I haven’t quite decided the format that I want to write it in, or the forum where I’d like it published. I also want to speak with more of my colleagues and get their feedback on what can be done to avoid what experiences like the one I endured and how the golf media can be more welcoming and encouraging toward female journalists. I’m not sure I’ll get answers, but the least I can do is try.

I know that there are variables that made my experience perhaps worse than others, namely that I had emerged from a new school of media and didn’t take the traditional route or go to journalism school. I also understand that I was lucky and landed some high-profile opportunities early in my career, which didn’t sit well with some of my detractors. However, there are others — males, of course — who also made their way into the media, whether they cover golf or another sport, but didn’t nearly encounter the same kind of hostility I did. There are also females covering other sports — like my college roommate Katie Baker who writes for Grantland and didn’t attend journalism school or go through conventional means to reach and achieve what she has — that weren’t forced to deal with the same kind of hostility I did. (Of course, everyone’s experience is different, but I’ve been led to believe by several veteran female sports journalists that golf is worse than covering other sports.)

Regardless, nobody should have to endure harassment or feel uncomfortable in the workplace. I wouldn’t wish what I went through upon my worst enemy. As an independent contractor with my own website, I didn’t always have an editor to back me up or someone to help intervene. There were times in the last five years where I’d never felt so alone. But, truth is, it made me stronger; it drove me to work even harder. I had to make the best out of a less than ideal situation and turn it into my favor, so I kept my head down and did my job. I’ve been told by colleagues who had formerly judged me or treated me poorly that they acknowledged my hard work and positive attitude, which forced them to change their opinion of me.

In a messed-up way, I cherish the crap I went through, as it’s made the journey all the sweeter. However, I do look back at the past four-five years and I wonder if knowing what I do now, would I do it over again? I’m not sure the answer to that, but I want to say, yes, because it was not only character building, it also showed me just how strong I am/was.

Thank you for your continued support — it means more to me than I can express in words.

More screenshots: