ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Spectrum News 1 reporter Brianna Hamblin never expected that a social media post about being sexually harassed would gain international attention.
Hamblin, 25, a broadcast journalist in Rochester, New York, said she shared her thoughts about an uncomfortable encounter as she reported in the field last week on her Twitter account and put her phone away. While getting a manicure that afternoon, her phone started to explode with alerts.
Before she even mentioned the incident to her family, her parents called to make sure she was OK. The response to her tweet, she said, has been “overwhelming.”
The minute-long video went viral, now with more than 5.3 million views, 6,300 comments and 40,000 retweets. The video shows Hamblin politely and professionally deflecting a man offering comments as she prepared to film a live report from Magnolia Street in southwest Rochester. It also shows her discomfort grow as the passerby repeatedly objectified her.
“So many women from all over related to it,” she said. “I’m happy this was able to start a discussion so more men can realize how widespread this is, and to work on themselves, but also to call each other out.”
Around 6 a.m. Friday, Hamblin was memorizing her script as two men approached her and Spectrum News 1 photojournalist Scott Barstow.
The duo first complained about the brightness of the lights set up near the road, in preparation for the live shot. Barstow was already filming the encounter, since the live shot was just moments away.
Hamblin at first ignored the men to focus on her job.
‘Gross and perverted’:Female journalists speak out after reporter harassed in viral video
Both men commented on her appearance as they walked by. She thanked them both and attempted to deflect, as one man repeatedly objectified her, using profanity and speaking about her race.
“In that moment, I was trying to find the fine line of how do I not make this man angry or get him riled up?” she said. “We couldn’t just pack up and leave.”
Anyone watching Spectrum News that morning, never would have guessed what occurred seconds before she appeared on screen to share details about a summer meal program for families in need.
“At the end of the day, you have to do (your job) and remain unphased,” she said, adding that she often will compartmentalize to not become distracted.
The men eventually moved on and walked away.
Hamblin, a Virginia native and University of Virginia graduate, joined the Spectrum news team last August. She’s been a multimedia journalist for over 3 years, starting her career at a CBS station in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Friday’s encounter was an extreme example of being sexually harassed while working professionally in and around Rochester.
Hamblin said she is harassed several times each week while working. Typically, she said, she endures basic catcalling.
Friday’s encounter “was particularly vulgar because of the profanity and bringing race into it,” she said.
“Every woman working in the field knows how this feels,” she said. “As a reporter, unfortunately you do deal with this. I hope bringing this to light helps men realize just how disgusting this behavior is.”
Spectrum News issued a statement about the incident on Friday.
“We are glad that Brianna wasn’t alone in the face of such adversity and we’ve never been more proud of her,” the statement read. “She handled the situation impeccably, remaining calm and professional throughout. We want our employees to feel safe and are constantly working towards achieving that goal.”
Hamblin advised reporters to speak up when they feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
“It does take practice and courage to speak up, it’s something I personally am still working on,” she said. “But nothing is worth putting yourself in danger or compromising your mental health.”
The Rochester Association of Black Journalists also issued a statement late Monday commending Hamblin “for her bravery in confronting the inappropriate behavior of male passersby during her news reporting Friday.”
“Unfortunately the harassment of women in public spaces is not uncommon,” the Rochester Association of Black Journalists said in a printed statement. “But women should not be forced to just ‘roll with it or ignore it,’ as emphasized in Hamblin’s tweet exposing the situation. In an industry that is still dominated by men, it is important that we all demand that women in the field be treated with respect and dignity. Additionally, as a Black journalist, Hamblin is already faced with an uphill battle to obtain equity.”
Follow Victoria Freile on Twitter @vfreile.