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The Washington Post unveiled its updated social media policy to staff Thursday after the viral turmoil the paper faced earlier this month.
“A Post journalist’s use of social media must not harm the editorial integrity or journalistic reputation of The Post,” the memo obtained by Fox News read, “Your association with The Post gives you a large platform and may bring you a blue checkmark and added followers. Along with that comes our collective responsibility to protect that integrity and reputation. This guidance applies to content you post or amplify – such as in a retweet, like or share – on any digital platform.”
That guidance appeared to allude to Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel, who retweeted a joke about women. He was later placed on a one-month unpaid suspension after removing the retweet and apologizing.
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The second guidance stressed Post journalists “should ensure that their activity on social media platforms would not make reasonable people question their editorial independence, nor make reasonable people question The Post’s ability to cover issues fairly.”
The memo stressed it is “not appropriate” to use social media to “advocate for causes issues, governmental policies or political or judicial outcomes.” The guidance also urged journalists to “avoid curating” content “that suggest you have a partisan point of view on an issue The Post covers,” noting that columnists and critics are exempted.
“Before you publish a post on social media, ask yourself if it compromises our newsroom’s mission to prioritize fact-finding,” the third guidance pleaded. “Ask yourself if it would be harmful for your message to be associated with The Post. Ask yourself if the words or images you are using – especially if your message includes offensive content – will undermine The Post’s journalistic reputation for reporting the news fairly, accurately and without bias. If the answer to any of these is yes, don’t post.”
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The fourth guidance, which called for Post journalists to be “civil” and “treat people with respect,” echoed the memos previously issued by executive editor Sally Buzbee when Post reporter Felicia Sonmez went on the warpath against her colleagues in multiple tweetstorms. Sonmez was ultimately fired for insubordination.
“Social media is not the platform to engage in disputes with your colleagues,” the memo stressed. “When mentioning or tagging someone on social media – a colleague, competitor, source or someone else – be aware that such posts can bring undue attention and sometimes harassment to those who are tagged.”
The Post warned employees they cannot “publicly reveal internal discussions or communications concerning editorial issues such as coverage plans, reporting of stories, and decisions to publish or not to publish.”
Other guidance listed included staff not using their association with The Post for “personal benefit or private gain,” the protection of journalists from harassment being made a “top priority” and that “standards editors and deputy managing editor for news operations are responsible, in concert with newsroom leadership, for ensuring these guidelines are followed.”
Fox News reached out to the Washington Post for comment.
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The updated social media policy, which was first reported on by The Daily Beast, comes just weeks after utter turmoil broke out among Washington Post staff.
The drama began when Sonmez publicly shamed Weigel for retweeting a joke critics deemed sexist while also putting her employer on blast.
“Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!” Sonmez reacted.
Sonmez’s tweets berating co-workers received public pushback from at least two colleagues, reporters Jose A. Del Real and Lisa Rein, who Sonmez then attacked.
After Buzbee urged staff to be respectful to one another, several prominent reporters from The Post expressed solidarity with the paper, all of whom were mocked by Sonmez.
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Following six days of constant tweetstorms attacking colleagues and the Post, Sonmez was terminated.
Since her firing, Sonmez has gone radio silent on Twitter, fueling speculation that she may revive her discrimination lawsuit against The Post after it was previously tossed out of court.