(Photo Provided)

Matt Hawkins
April 26, 2017

Bradley alumnus Brad Burke ’01 will receive broadcasting’s top honor, a Peabody Award, for a campaign against online trolling. Burke’s #MoreThanMean social media campaign highlighted social media harassment women in sports media routinely face.

#MoreThanMean captured the reactions of men reading actual mean tweets to Chicago sports personalities Julie DiCaro (CBS radio affiliate 670 The Score) and Sarah Spain (ESPN.com). The video received attention from national media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes, Mashable, ESPN and NPR. It topped 7 million views and nearly one billion impressions across traditional and social media outlets.

“We knew we had something solid, but I never imagined it would go this big,” Burke said. “After a year of living with this project, it’s overwhelming to receive the award. We’re so thrilled, especially for Julie and Sarah, who courageously agreed to combat this issue with us.”

Burke, an executive vice president at PR firm Weber Shandwick’s Chicago office, developed #MoreThanMean for the Just Not Sports podcast. Just Not Sports is a side project he launched with former Green Bay Packers PR rep Adam Woullard, Emmy-winning CBS Sports producer Gareth Hughes and fellow Weber Shandwick employee Joe Reed. The podcast discusses culture and personality of sports.

As he researched guests for the show, Burke saw a flood of harassing comments, with extra vitriol targeting women. He decided to challenge the culture and brainstormed the campaign.

“I think everyone needs to take a breath and ask why we’re collectively using the greatest communication tool in history to shout at the world anonymously,” Burke said. “There has to be a better way.”

The video shoot produced uncomfortable moments for both the sports anchors and “everyday” men chosen to read comments aloud for the first time. Even in a controlled environment, words wielded dangerous power.

“I saw how the power of words often gets lost on a screen, but you really feel every word when you read it to someone’s face,” Burke said. “The men struggled to read these comments. If you wouldn’t say it to another person’s face, don’t type it.”

#MoreThanMean will be recognized May 20 at a New York City gala hosted by actress Rashida Jones. The gala will air on PBS and Fusion networks June 2.