CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt was covering a Toronto FC soccer game on Sunday when a man interrupted her live broadcast and shouted a vulgar expression into her camera. That expression, known shorthand as FHRITP (by now you likely know what it means) is part of a vile trend in which passersby (typically men) interrupt reporters’ (typically women) live broadcasts and yell the offensive expression into their microphones. When Hunt was subjected to this prank, she challenged a group of snickering soccer fans nearby. One of the fans, later identified as a high-earning Hydro One employee, was fired and shamed on the Internet. Hunt spoke with Emma Teitel, Adrian Lee and Julia De Laurentiis Johnson—hosts of Maclean’s weekly culture podcast The Thrill—about why she stood up to the FHRITP trend and what life has been like since her newscast went viral.
Q: What have the last few days been like for you?
A: It’s been crazy because I knew this would get attention, but we didn’t know how widespread it would be. Not much sleep.
Q: How do you feel about the online shaming of the guys involved? Does it make you uncomfortable?
A: Yeah, of course it does. Online shaming is harsh. We didn’t go into this to shame these guys or vilify them. After this confrontation happened we just wanted to expose this attitude and behaviour that exists in Toronto and is still very prevalent. Not just in Toronto, [in] North America. Since this story broke I’ve been hearing from reporters all over the world who say it’s caught on in their countries too.
Q: Online shaming makes me uncomfortable, too. But I feel as though in this instance it serves a pretty useful purpose. I can’t see this [FHRITP] happening anytime soon with such frequency—at least in Canada. One hopes.
A: I think what’s amazing is that so many people took a stand on this. This has become a global discussion [about] harassment, respect of women.
Q: What do you think about Internet society being able to call for somebody to get fired when they have evidence of that person behaving in a substandard way? Do you think there is a line with this kind of stuff?
A: I think we’re still learning lessons from social media. This is a lesson to everyone that whatever you put on Facebook, on Twitter, whatever you do with cameras rolling—the power of social media is so far-reaching. That is something we all need to be very aware of.
Q: And with the FHRITP trend, as opposed to other similar cases where people are shamed or fired for behaving badly, the offenders directly sought out the attention that got them in trouble. So we have less sympathy for them.
A: The thing with this trend is these people go into live shots and yell this disgusting phrase into the microphone. They put themselves in that position. They are doing this to themselves. Now, I do need to make clear that the guys I confronted didn’t say it to me, but I could hear them snickering and conspiring to perhaps do it next. And I wanted to know: why is this funny? Why would you do it?
Q: What made you decide to confront them?
A: It wasn’t a decision. It was in the heat of the moment. It was a reaction—“Come on, again? Again? Again?” This has been going on for almost two years. It happens almost daily, sometimes numerous times a day, depending on the scenario.
Q: Would you say it happens more at sporting events or events where men are drinking?
A: From my experience, on Sunday, it was extreme. At the same time this is what’s so shocking about the trend: Men roll down their car windows and yell it at me. Stone-cold sober, walking down the street, men will say it.
Q: You say you know a lot of female broadcasters who have had this happen to them. What are some of the most grievous stories you’ve heard?
A: Cynthia Mulligan [of CityNews] was at a school and a kid who couldn’t be more than 10 years old yelled it at her. For me, about a month ago, I was doing an interview somewhere downtown on the street corner and some guy in a marked van, his company logo wrapped around the van, rolls down his window and [shouts FHRITP]. Another time I was interviewing Olivia Chow during the mayoral race on the street corner and some guy in a pickup truck turns the corner, slows right down, rolls down the window and [shouts] ‘F her right in the P!’ Olivia was mortified. I had to stop the interview and explain to her what this is and how stupid it is, and then regain my thoughts and get back into the interview.
Q: Do you think because of all this attention that things will change?
A: I can’t make predictions. I feel that the response has been overwhelmingly so positive. I’ve heard that people have come up to say, ‘Way to go CityNews.’ So that’s great. There have been so many harsh consequences out of this. I think people would be stupid to not think twice before interrupting us on the job.
Q: Toronto police have said charges against the men aren’t out of the question. Have you considered filing a complaint?
A: It’s not what I ever intended to do. We just had to expose the culture that is still out there.
Q: Do you feel a sense of relief?
A: I’m nervous. All this attention is a scary thing. I’m not used to being on this side of the news. I have a whole new perspective on all of it.