The Associated Press is standing by its dismissal last week of an Arizona-based news associate over pro-Palestinian messages on social media, but has promised employees it will reexamine the company’s social media policy.
AP editors said Monday in a memo obtained by the Post that a committee of staffers would review ideas for updating the wire service’s social media guidelines and bring forward their favorites by Sept. 1. Any potential policy changes would then be discussed as part of collective bargaining negotiations.
“One of the issues brought forward in recent days is the belief that restrictions on social media prevent you from being your true self, and that this disproportionately harms journalists of color, LGBTQ journalists and others who often feel attacked online,” said the memo, which was first obtained by The Intercept. “We need to dive into this issue.
“Another request we’ve gotten is for more clarity about what can and can’t be said online,” the memo continued. “One suggestion is to provide examples that help illustrate our social media guidelines. We like that idea, and are eager for more.”
Emily Wilder was fired May 19 over what she described as “supposed violations of the AP’s social media policy between my first day [May 3] and Wednesday.”
Wilder appeared to be referring to a May 16 tweet in which she wrote, “‘objectivity’ feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim. using ‘israel’ but never ‘palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices — yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”
That tweet attracted the attention of the Stanford College Republicans, who unearthed posts in which Wilder (a Stanford alum) referred to late Las Vegas casino magnate and Israel supporter Sheldon Adelson as a “far-right, pro-Trump, naked mole rat-looking billionaire” and talked about leading a protest against the Birthright program, which provides Jewish students the opportunity to travel to Israel at minimal cost.
Wilder’s posts were written up in conservative outlets like The Federalist and The Washington Free Beacon. Even Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) weighed in, tweeting that Wilder’s hiring was “[n]ot a surprise from a media organization that shared office space with Hamas.”
The AP sent out an initial memo Saturday, also initially obtained by The Intercept, which stated that the decision to fire Wilder “was a difficult one [and] we did not make it lightly. Much of the coverage and commentary does not accurately portray what took place.”
Meanwhile, 144 AP staffers have signed an open letter demanding “more clarity from the company” about Wilder’s dismissal.
“Wilder was a young journalist, unnecessarily harmed by the AP’s handling and announcement of its firing of her,” the letter said in part. “We need to know that the AP would stand behind and provide resources to journalists who are the subject of smear campaigns and online harassment. As journalists who cover contentious subjects, we are often the target of people unhappy with scrutiny. What happens when they orchestrate a smear campaign targeting another one of us?”
At least one AP staffer was not mollified by the Monday memo, describing it to The Intercept as “more kumbaye bulls—.”
“We have management that is woefully late in the understanding of disinformation and amplification on Twitter,” the staffer added.
Both memos were signed by 10 top editors, not including executive editor Sally Buzbee, who formally starts her new job as executive editor at The Washington Post June 1. The AP said Buzbee was not involved in the Wilder case since she handed over day-to-day responsibilities to others after accepting the Washington Post job.
With Post wires