NYT: Jodi Rudoren’s social media arrangement not a punishment

Gawker | New York | Guardian | Israel Matzav
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.)

Previously: Should reporters’ tweets and Facebook posts be edited in advance?

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  • Yisrael Medad

    not really. journalism is professional and objective and fair. social media is personal and subjective, and rarely fair.

  • Yisrael Medad

    well, yes it is refreshing to have an unedited reporter’s thoughts but there’s a catch.

    if he/she displays ignorance, bias, or worse, it is obvious then to the media consumer that what he gets on the screen and in the paper is quite suspect. it’s one thing to have an editor act as a stylist or grammarian or fact-checker, it’s another to really really know the reporter may not be qualified, especially from a professional ethical aspect, to bring you all the news that’s relevant to the story. the performances of several correspondents in Gaza recently, caught out either working with terrorists or enabling their propaganda to spread or covering for them in their offices (retweeting Syrian dead children as if they were Gazans; BBC’s Hamas-connected employee plus what actually killed his son; ignoring the firing of missiles close by civilian areas) due to their social media usage can be a “good” thing if only the editors take real punitive action once these phenomena are caught out.

    and since that is where ultimate editorial and managerial responsibility lies, unchecked usage of social media surely does need to be, at the very least, reviewed although a heavy-handed special editor (the NYT has money for that?) does seem too much. if you can’t trust your reporter, why employ the same?

  • brigidquinn

    all journalists are used to having editors and having their pieces edited. when their work takes the form of social journalism, it should be no different.

  • JTFloore

    it seems to me that beat reporters/journalists generally should NOT be forced to blog/tweet because their best stuff can get you into trouble (for expressing the wrong or a sensitive opinion) without intending to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.janega James Janega

    It seems sensible that most news organizations have guidelines for how journalists should behave on social media. (We do at the Chicago Tribune.) And it seems like a poor use of resources to edit every tweet and post of every reporter in a newsroom.

    But in THIS case, when the journalist is The New York Times correspondent (i.e., probably heavily scrutinized, yes?) in Jerusalem — and particularly during such a delicate period there — I could imagine the argument that additional care is worthwhile.