AP Reviews Social-Media Policy After Controversial Firing

  • by May 26, 2021

The Associated Press this week said it's reviewing its social-media policies for reporters after facing questions about the firing of a journalist who had expressed pro-Palestinian views on Twitter. It's not clear what the review will accomplish, other than to remind AP editorial staff to refrain from sharing opinions about the news.

The AP this month fired Emily Wilder within a few weeks of her hire as a Phoenix-based reporter covering the Western U.S. The cause for termination was her alleged violations of the AP's social-media policy, according to the AP's own reporting. The news organization forbids commentary on controversial issues that would hurt its reputation for objectivity and jeopardize other reporters.

The news organization didn’t specify what Wilder had said to break those rules, citing its policy against discussing personnel issues to protect worker privacy. In other words, it would rather avoid a costly lawsuit for wrongful dismissal, defamation of character, discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and whatever other claims an aggrieved ex-employee can dream up.



After joining the AP, Wilder retweeted other posts expressing sympathy for Palestinians during the Gaza conflict, such as a video showing demonstrators chanting, “Free, free Palestine!” She also tweeted criticism about news coverage of the conflict, saying, “‘objectivity’ feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly take a claim. using ‘israel’ but never ‘palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices — yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”

Perhaps that commentary violated the AP's rules against declaring "views on contentious public issues in any public forum," or retweeting the opinions of others without additional comment to provide some context. The AP Stylebook also urges reporters to avoid references to “Palestine” because it isn't a fully independent, unified state.

Firing a cub reporter for violations of social-media policies is a harsh punishment, as opposed to asking Wilder to remove the posts and to avoid such commentary in the future. However, the alleged violations occurred during the worst fighting between Israel and Hamas in seven years, spurring intense debate about U.S. policy in the region.

In addition, the AP's credibility is being questioned and even ridiculed. Israel this month destroyed a building that housed its offices in Gaza, claiming that Hamas also operated in the building. The news agency claimed it wasn't aware of the militant group's presence.

The AP's review follows an outcry by more than 100 AP journalists who in the wake of Wilder's firing demanded more definitive rules about what they can say on social media, along with some reassurance the news agency would defend them from pressure campaigns.

Wilder was targeted by a young Republicans' group from Stanford University, where she graduated last year, for her activism in support of Palestinian rights. Wilder shared her side of the story on Twitter, taking aim at the news agency for its handling of the controversy. The AP said her past activism wasn't an issue, only her violations of its social-media policy. Ultimately, the AP's rules are sensible in its efforts to avoid charges of bias.

1 comment about "AP Reviews Social-Media Policy After Controversial Firing".
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  1. melinda craig from Epstein, Gore Publics, May 26, 2021 at 8:47 a.m.

    Israel exposed the fact that the AP has been harboring palestinian terrorists for years.  The bases that the AP provided the palestinian terrorists was used to plot and carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli school children for the past 8 years.  How dare the AP now try to curry public opinion by singaling out one of thousands of pro-terrorist opinion writers!

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