In late 2009, the Washington Post's response to a tweet from its managing editor that betrayed a clear left-leaning worldview was to censor all of its employees for fear that they might betray their (gasp) opinions. A more sensible policy might have been to acknowledge that the paper is staffed by people who are, for the most part, liberals.
The same managing editor, Raju Narisetti - who has since added a strongly-worded statement to his twitter bio disclaiming his employer from any views expressed there - shot out a similar tweet on Monday, once again conveying his left-of-center views on major policy priorities. “Thought encounter of the day: ‘Would be good if our schools are fully funded and DoD has to hold a bake sale to buy its next fighter jet,'" Narisetti wrote.
The wisdom of that (facetious?) policy prescription is a debate for another forum. It should, however, remove any remaining doubt about Narisetti's political views. And while his tweet does not represent the Post's official position, it ought to give readers pause that someone with such obviously left-of-center views is in such a position of power at an ostensibly "objective" publication.
The Washington Post's new employee guidelines for the use of online social networks such as Twitter and Facebook have sparked a debate over the proper role of new media for journalists, and the objectivity of major media outlets generally.
The Post's new guidelines, handed down from on high by Senior Editor Milton Coleman, disregard the potential of new media to engage readers in a conversation about the paper's reporting. Rather, the new social media policy attempts to buttress the Post's supposed objectivity, at the expense of journalistic transparency.
The Post's rules forbid employees from "writing, tweeting or posting anything—including photographs or video—that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility" and prohibit "the discussion of internal newsroom issues such as sourcing, reporting of stories, decisions to publish or not to publish, personnel matters and untoward personal or professional matters involving our colleagues."
A few weeks ago Washington Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti rued in this tweet via his Twitter account: “We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not. But we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.” Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander cited the tweet in a Friday night blog post about how the newspaper has issued new guidelines, on the use of social network sites, which state “nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment.” That forced Narisetti to close his Twitter account. Alexander recounted:
Narisetti said today he now realizes that his tweets, although intended for a private audience of about 90 friends and associates, were unwise. They were “personal” observations, he said. “But I also realize that...seeing that the managing editor of The Post is weighing in on this, it’s a clear perception problem.”