Joe Kahn, the New York Times executive editor who took over the Gray Lady’s top job on Tuesday, thinks journalists should not use Twitter to “vet grievances.”
Kahn, who succeeds Dean Baquet at the helm of the influential broadsheet, also lamented that journalists were avoiding “lightning-rod type” stories due to fear of a backlash they would receive from readers on social media.
The 57-year-old Kahn told the Washington Post that some reporters at the Times “don’t even want to engage in certain kinds of stories because they anticipate the reaction that they’ll get from writing on, reporting on, a story that tends to be a lightning-rod type issue on Twitter.”
Kahn said he supported his predecessor’s policy encouraging staffers to spend less time on Twitter.
In April, Baquet circulated a memo to Times reporters and editors, telling them that maintaining a Twitter account is “purely optional” after staffers reportedly raised concerns over being targeted by internet trolls.
Twitter has become a forum for the public to criticize journalists as well as one in which reporters criticize each other as well as their bosses.
Last week, the Washington Post fired political reporter Felicia Sonmez after she blasted her colleagues and the paper’s leadership.
Sonmez, who had been at the paper for a decade, made headlines the week before when she blasted fellow political reporter Dave Weigel for retweeting a sexist joke.
Weigel subsequently apologized and was suspended without pay for a month.
Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee warned reporters to maintain a “collegial” workplace and refrain from attacking colleagues on Twitter.
But Sonmez took to the social media platform several times to blast Washington Post reporters who sent out tweets praising the Jeff Bezos-owned paper as a “collegial” workplace and “downplaying the Post’s workplace issues.”
New York Times media reporter Katie Robertson tweeted on Tuesday that the Washington Post will issue a revised set of social media guidelines to staffers on Wednesday.
Washington Post executives will also hold “listening sessions” with newsroom personnel over the next few days in order to give employees a chance to provide input, according to Robertson.
Baquet’s memo from April barred Times reporters from posting tweets or subtweets “that attack, criticize or undermine the work of your colleagues.”
The new policy was panned by former Times staffer Taylor Lorenz, the social media beat reporter who moved on to the Washington Post after a high-profile departure from the Gray Lady.
Lorenz, who told MSNBC she contemplated suicide after being harassed and bullied on social media, said Times editors “consistently buy into bad faith attacks online and punish their journalists when they’re subject to … smear campaigns.”
She tweeted that the new Times policy was “disappointing and contradictory to see.”
“This is not how a newsroom should approach the internet or social media,” she wrote.