Journalist receives anonymous hate mail

JULY 1, 2008
Posted July 1, 2008

Michelle Ferrier, Daytona Beach News-Journal

Ferrier, a columnist with the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Florida and managing editor of MyTopiaCafe, aWeb site sponsored by the News-Journal, received a series of disturbing letters and notes written in a consistently personal, racist, and violent tone.

Ferrier received a total of seven letters and one larger envelope–each one addressed to her at the Daytona Beach News-Journal office building–between October 5, 2005, and July 17, 2007, according to copies of the posted correspondence that Ferrier provided to CPJ. Each letter or envelope contained either handwritten letters or handwritten notations marked on photocopies of her columns or other newspaper or magazine articles. The handwriting on each piece of correspondence appears to have been written by the same individual.

Ferrier is black, and her picture runs alongside her column in the News-Journal. She has written often about matters of race, she told CPJ, in a way to try and “bring people together.” Each piece of correspondence is personally directed at Ferrier as a representative of black people as a group. “Have you played the race card Michelle this week,” reads the first letter postmarked from Daytona Beach on October 5, 2005.

Ferrier quit her job on the night desk at the News-Journal in August 2006. “I was afraid,” she told CPJ. She worked part-time assignments from her home over the next nine months before returning to work full-time again at the News-Journal in May 2007, this time in a daytime position in which she felt reasonably safe coming to work.

The posted correspondence crossed state lines. The first letter was postmarked from Daytona Beach. The following letters were postmarked from Mid Florida. The next two were both postmarked from Florence, South Carolina. The remaining letter was postmarked from Research Triangle Region, North Carolina.

Ferrier sent copies of the letters to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Criminal Section, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Daytona Beach Police Department.