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Tasking an editor to review Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren’s social media output in advance will “capitalize on the promise of social media’s engagement with readers while not exposing The Times to a reporter’s unfiltered and unedited thoughts,” New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote yesterday. How’d that go over with Rudoren?
“I don’t think it’s punitive; I think it’s constructive and cautious,” she told New York magazine’s Daily Intel. Other journalists saw it differently.
“Mercy me! What newspaper would ever want to be exposed to the unfiltered and unedited thoughts of the people that it pays to think and write?” Gawker’s John Cook writes. He adds:
The utterance of a dumb thing now and again doesn’t disqualify anybody from being a good reporter, or a fair broker.
Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha told New York magazine’s Joe Coscarelli the arrangement wasn’t “punitive.”
“Editors here, including our social media team, work with a whole range of Times journalists to help them use social media effectively.”
Such oversight at the Times has at least one historical precedent: TV critic Alessandra Stanley “was the cause of so many corrections in 2005 that she was assigned a single copy editor responsible for checking her facts,” former Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote in 2009. That arrangement ended after the copy editor got promoted; Stanley “will again get special editing attention,” Hoyt wrote. Earlier this year, Stanley wrote about Ann Curry’s departure from “Today” and mistakenly said a year-old highlight reel was part of the show.
Rudoren’s arrangement “gets to the heart of the key overarching myth which establishment media outlets like to maintain about themselves: that their journalists are ‘objective’ and, therefore, expressing any subjective view or opinion is some sort of breach of journalistic propriety,” The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald writes.
It is far better to know a journalists’ biases than to conceal them or pretend they do not exist. Having a window into what Sullivan calls “the unfiltered and unedited thoughts” of journalists is of crucial value in knowing that these biases exist and in knowing what they are – which is precisely why the New York Times acted so quickly to slam that window shut.
Carl of the Israel Matzav blog wrote that while he “found some of what she wrote less sympathetic to Israel’s plight than I would have wished, I thought it was refreshing to hear what a reporter had to say without going through an editor.”
(As I write this, 44 percent of Poynter readers in a desperately unscientific poll said social media posts shouldn’t be edited before publication.)