Washington Post unveils new social media policy after newsroom battle

The Washington Post reportedly unveiled an updated social media policy for its journalists on Thursday – days after a newsroom dustup over a retweet culminated in the suspension of politics reporter Dave Weigel and the eventual firing of reporter Felicia Sonmez.

The Jeff Bezos-owned news outlet issued the fresh guidance in an internal memo to staffers – reminding reporters that personal social media posts and accounts “inevitably reflect upon The Post’s reputation and credibility,” the report said.

“Post journalists should not feel compelled to engage or broadcast on social media platforms, except for those whose roles explicitly require it,” the memo said. “Post journalists who choose to use these platforms will be expected to do so responsibly.”

“A Post journalist’s use of social media must not harm the editorial integrity or journalistic reputation of The Post,” the memo added.

The policy noted that Washington Post reporters should be mindful of “our collective responsibility to protect that integrity and reputation” and included a reminder to be more aware of the potential impact of their retweets and likes.

Sonmez, who covers politics for the Washington Post, defied management’s edict to cease tweeting about colleagues.
Twitter / @feliciasonmez

The Washington Post did not immediately return a request for comment.

Chaos struck the Washington Post’s newsroom earlier this month after Weigel retweeted a post by a user who wrote “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”

The retweet drew a furious response from Sonmez, who publicly slammed Weigel for sharing the tweet, which she considered sexist, as well as the newspaper’s leadership for their handling of the incident. Weigel apologized and was suspended without pay for a month.

Dave Weigel was suspended without pay for sharing a sexist joke.
Twitter / @daveweigel

Sonmez continued to publicly rip the Washington Post and engage in arguments with colleagues in a days-long Twitter tirade. The outburst eventually resulted in her firing.

Washington Post Executive Editor Sally Buzbee had earlier indicated that the outlet planned to update its social media policy.

Another source of newsroom drama occurred Washington Post features editor Dave Malitz reportedly lost a promotion shortly after internet reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted that a miscommunication with her editor had resulted in a mistake in one of her articles.

“Last Thursday, an incorrect line was added to a story of mine before publishing due to a miscommunication with an editor,” Lorenz tweeted on June 4.

Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee angered staffers when she rescinded a promotion offer to an editor days after he was criticized by star reporter Taylor Lorenz.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

“I did not write the line and was not aware it was inserted. I asked for it to be removed right after the story went live.”

While the Washington Post denied that Lorenz’s tweets impacted any decision by management, some staffers reportedly confronted Buzbee about the decision to rescind Malitz’s promotion.

Taylor Lorenz is a Washington Post reporter covering the internet.
Getty Images

The Washington Post’s updated memo reportedly included a passage about addressing “personal grievances” on Twitter.

“It is not appropriate to use your social media account to air personal grievances with an individual or to mention a company in a way that could be construed as unwarranted criticism or seeking favor or special treatment,” the memo said.

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