The Jersualem bureau chief of The New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, now has an editor specifically looking at her personal social-media tweets and status updates because of a perceived lack of objectivity. But the paper's Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, has already half-revealed that even though she supports this idea — and even though there are bigger questions at hand — well, maybe this whole thing was kind of a bad call. Here's what Sullivan's Twitter stream looked like this afternoon:
Eesh. Talentless is a bit harsh. And here are a few more:
As you can see, all those tweets stem from a blog post by Sullivan this afternoon, in which she outlines the measures put in place on Rudoren, who's been personally sharing a lot of things about the Israel-Palestine conflict that she should be covering objectively — and personally hanging out with a lot of people who aren't that objective, either. (The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has a pretty good rundown of the criticism Rudoren has faced.) And as Sullivan details, Rudoren now has a social-media keeper of sorts, who will be editing her presence on Facebook especially — not unlike the way Ashton Kutcher asked for help from his PR team to overlook his Twitter persona after he tweeted some dumb stuff about Joe Paterno back in the day.
But celebrities aren't bureau chiefs, and the first reaction from the media seemed to be whether the watchdogs had to worry about internal watchdogs. Avoiding some social-media schmoozing with Ali Abunimah would go a long way in avoiding that, apparently:
The real trouble, though, is a danger Sullivan seems fully aware of: What kind of damage can the paper of record do by limiting the free speech of a free speech? And even if Twitter becomes a journalists' playground with babysitters, shouldn't they at least be able to speak in their own voices? Judging by the response to Sullivan's column, and Sullivan's own highlighting of her critics, the answer isn't crystal clear.
"I don't think it's punitive; I think it's constructive and cautious. They could have just told me to stop altogether, but we all really believe in embracing social and other new media," Rudoren wrote to New York's Daily Intel. And, no, we're not sure if that response was edited by someone beforehand.