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TIMES SPANKING: On Wednesday, The New York Times informed the chief of its Jerusalem bureau, a 14-year veteran of the paper, that she can’t be trusted with her own Facebook account.
The paper did this by way of a blog post from public editor Margaret Sullivan taking to task bureau chief Jodi Rudoren for a series of controversial status updates on her public Facebook profile. In the blog post, foreign editor Joseph Kahn tells Sullivan he assigned Rudoren an editor to monitor her output on social media.
The decision came a week after Rudoren took to her public Facebook profile, as she does often, to answer a reader’s question about the recent conflict in Gaza. In her reporting, Rudoren said she has found Palestinians don’t seem as traumatized as Israelis by the loss of life or bombing. “They seem a bit ho-hum,” she wrote.
The status updates were quickly and roundly criticized by frequent observers of Middle East news as insensitive. Some of the criticism came from admittedly partisan bloggers, like Philip Weiss. Rudoren had already taken flak upon her appointment for reaching out to activists considered to be anti-Israeli.
In censuring Rudoren, the Times and Sullivan were again offering its reporters a lesson in online manners. Since her appointment in September, Sullivan’s prolific blog has become the soapbox for public spankings of Times employees who take one too many liberties on Twitter and Facebook. Earlier this month, Sullivan scolded political blogger Nate Silver for jokingly betting, based on the strength of ample polling, that Mitt Romney was likely to lose the presidential election. Andrew Goldman was punished even more severely: he was temporarily suspended from the Times Magazine for what Sullivan considered sexist tweets.
This time, Rudoren’s mistake was to venture into the complicated Twitterverse without parental supervision.
“The idea is to capitalize on the promise of social media’s engagement with readers while not exposing the Times to a reporter’s unfiltered and unedited thoughts,” Sullivan concluded in the blog post. In his answers to Sullivan, Kahn did not specify who’d be responsible for shielding readers from the volatile contents of a reporter’s unedited thoughts. He did not respond to a request for comment, nor did a Times spokeswoman.
Rudoren told Sullivan she regretted the use of the word “ho-hum,” but in an earlier Facebook post, she made her views on social media clear: “My feeling is that my posts on social media have to adhere to the same fairness standards as my work in the [Times] itself, but not to the same tone or content standards as I try to bring…behind the news.”