New NY Times editor: Reporters should ‘step back’ from reliance on Twitter to ‘vet grievances’

Joe Kahn poses for a photo, Sunday, April 17, 2022 in New York. The New York Times has named Kahn as its new executive editor, replacing Dean Baquet as leader of the storied paper’s newsroom. The Times said Kahn, who has been managing editor at the the paper since 2016, will assume his new role effective June 14. Baquet will remain at The Times but in a new position, the paper said in a news release Tuesday, April 19 .(Celeste Sloman/The New York Times via AP)

Joe Kahn, who this week became the executive editor of The New York Times, said journalists should “step back” from using social media to complain about leadership at their outlets or get into arguments with critics online.

“What we’ve done is, a few weeks ago we put out our own sort of restatement of our approach to Twitter, which many of us spent quite a bit of time thinking through. And I’m glad we did it,” Kahn told Vanity Fair this week. “I think it’s time for people to put that particular platform into a bit more perspective, and frankly, to take a step back from an overreliance on Twitter as a place to vet grievances with your own news organization.”

Kahn had been asked about a recent controversy at The Washington Post, one of the Times’s top competitors, involving the suspension and firing of multiple high-profile staffers who engaged in behavior on social media the Post said it would not tolerate.

The controversy started when Dave Weigel, a campaign reporter, earlier this month retweeted a sexist joke. Weigel was panned online and reportedly also on internal communications channels by his colleagues, including national reporter Felicia Sonmez. After deleting the retweet and apologizing, Weigel was suspended by the Post.

Sonmez, who sued the Post in relation to a different matter and lost last year, continued to publicly criticize the Post over how it handled the Weigel saga, alleging a double standard for online conduct for certain reporters at the newspaper.

The Post fired Sonmez last week.

At the Times, leadership in April announced an updated policy for how its journalists use Twitter that emphasized use of the platform is optional, citing dangers of online harassment. In the months before, one of the Times’s most prominent reporters online, Taylor Lorenz, had publicly criticized the newspaper for not doing more to support her amid the torrent of harassment she has faced while covering internet culture.

Lorenz was hired by the Post in February.

“We did not say to people, we want you to block your Twitter account or drop the platform entirely. I mean, you can get ideas, you can develop sources, young journalists can begin to create a following, you can help drive some audience and conversation around the good journalism that you do,” Kahn said of the Times new social media policy.

“I think there are some reasonable uses of Twitter for, say, beat reporters as part of their job. The message that we had for our staff was, just do it less, and in particular, the parts that we would want you to do less of are, you know, getting into fights with trolls, going down rabbit holes, battling with your sources, airing grievances with your colleagues or other pieces of journalism.”

Kahn was hired by the Times to succeed previous editor Dean Baquet, who retired this month.

Tags Dean Baquet Felicia Sonmez
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