The Associated Press has launched a review of its social media guidelines after more than 150 employees publicly condemned the firing of a young journalist for violating these guidelines.
In a memo to global newsrooms Monday, the AP’s top editors said they heard the concerns of many journalists over the weekend and were “determined to broaden the conversation on the AP’s approach to social media.”
The news agency faced a backlash after Emily Wilder, a 22-year-old news worker who joined the company in Arizona, was fired on May 19, three weeks after she was hired.
Ms. Wilder, who graduated from Stanford University in 2020 and worked in the Republic of Arizona, said in a statement Friday that she was the subject of a campaign by Stanford College Republicans whose social media posts were based on their pro Palestine had drawn attention to activism at the university. She added that her editors had assured her that she would not be fired for her previous legal work.
“Less than 48 hours later, the AP fired me,” she said. “The reason given was that I allegedly violated The AP’s social media guidelines between my first day and Wednesday. In the meantime, powerful conservatives like Senator Tom Cotton, Ben Shapiro, and Robert Spencer have cursed me repeatedly online. When I asked my managers what exact tweets were violating the guidelines or how, they refused to tell me. “
Ms. Wilder, who is Jewish, tweeted about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians while at The AP. In a tweet, she said that “using” Israel “but never” Palestine “or” war “but not” siege and occupation “are political choices – yet the media makes these exact decisions all the time without being biased to be marked. “
Dozens of AP journalists signed an open letter after Ms. Wilder’s dismissal, criticizing the news agency and asking for clarification on how it had violated the company’s social media guidelines.
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May 25, 2021 at 5:16 p.m. ET
“The lack of clarity about the violations of social media policy has made AP journalists afraid of getting involved in any form on social media – often critical for our work,” the letter said.
Ten editorial directors responded in a memo on Monday to staff announcing a plan to review their policies. They said formal groups would discuss ideas and make recommendations, and a committee of staff would review the recommendations by September 1st. Any policy changes would then be brought up in the next round of contract negotiations with the union representing AP workers, the News Media Guild.
“One of the issues raised in the past few days is the belief that social media restrictions prevent you from being your real self, and that it disproportionately does this to color journalists, LGBTQ journalists and others who are often attacked online harms, “says the memo.
The editors said in the note that “much of the coverage” of Ms. Wilder’s dismissal does not accurately reflect “a difficult decision that we did not make lightly”.
Lauren Easton, a spokeswoman for The AP, said the company had generally not commented on staff, but confirmed that Ms. Wilder has been fired for violating social media policy.
“We understand that other news organizations may not have made the same decision,” she said. “While many news organizations offer viewpoints, opinion columnists, and editorials, AP does not. We do not express an opinion. Our foundation is fact-based, unbiased reporting. “