The New York Times has told its journalists to get off Twitter after recent concerns of online harassment – and have issued a ‘reset’ on how the newsroom uses the social media platform. 

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has written to staff telling them that maintaining a Twitter presence is now ‘purely optional’ for staff, a memo leaked to The Insider revealed. 

Baquet also told staffers who choose to stay on Twitter to ‘meaningfully reduce’ their time on the platform. 

 ‘We encourage you to meaningfully reduce how much time you’re spending on the platform, tweeting or scrolling, in relation to other parts of your job,’ Baquet wrote in the memo. 

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet wrote in a leaked memo obtained by the Insider, that maintaining a Twitter presence is now ‘purely optional’ for Times staffers

A Times spokesperson told Insider that this ‘reset’ is ‘absolutely not a ban’ and that the policy change is in response to an uptick in concerns of harassment.

But the top editor made clear that masthead editors will monitor reporters’ tweets for any behavior that violates the paper’s editorial standards. 

‘Tweets or subtweets that attack, criticize or undermine the work of your colleagues are not allowed,’ Baquet wrote in the memo.

As part of NYT’s social media policy ‘reset,’ Baquet added that the Times will be stepping up efforts to support their journalists by rolling out new training and tools to help prevent and respond to online abuse, saying it’s an ‘industry-wide scourge.’ 

‘We can rely too much on Twitter as a reporting or feedback tool — which is especially harmful to our journalism when our feeds become echo chambers,’ the editor wrote in the memo. 

‘We can be overly focused on how Twitter will react to our work, to the detriment of our mission and independence. We can make off-the-cuff responses that damage our journalistic reputations. And for too many of you, your experience of Twitter is shaped by harassment and attacks.’  

Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss has long been a critic of the Times’ use of social media, stating that ‘Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor.’ 

Weiss quit the paper with a resignation letter that went viral where she railed against the liberal bias and said the paper no longer served journalism.

Weiss, in her resignation letter, said her opinions had resulted in her being bullied by coworkers.

 ‘Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space.’ 

She described the Times as a ‘hostile work environment’ and criticized management for allowing her co-workers to ‘publicly smear’ her on Twitter and also on company-wide Slack messaging channels.

Weiss said some employees would post an axe emoji next to her name on company Slack channels and others would discuss the need for her to ‘rooted out’ if the NYT was ‘truly inclusive’.

In recent months, several journalists at the Times and other media outlets have shared concerns about an uptick in threats they say they’ve received online. 

Taylor Lorenz, a former New York Times reporter, has been outspoken about online harassment and attacks of her reported that she faced while at the Times – which she has criticized for how the paper handled.

In response to the Times’ Twitter policy change, Lorenz, who is now a Washington Post tech columnist, tweeted that the new social media rule ‘only deepens the NYT’s vulnerability to bad faith attacks.’

She accused Times editors of being ‘more obsessed’ with Twitter than ‘the majority of the newsroom’ and that they have been ‘stalking down employees every reply.’  

Taylor Lorenz, a former NYT reporter, has been outspoken about online harassment of her reported that she faced while at the Times - which she has criticized for how the paper handled

Taylor Lorenz, a former NYT reporter, has been outspoken about online harassment of her reported that she faced while at the Times – which she has criticized for how the paper handled

In response to the Times' Twitter policy change, Lorenz, tweeted that the new social media rule 'only deepens the NYT's vulnerability to bad faith attacks'

In response to the Times’ Twitter policy change, Lorenz, tweeted that the new social media rule ‘only deepens the NYT’s vulnerability to bad faith attacks’

She accused Times editors of being 'more obsessed' with Twitter than 'the majority of the newsroom' and that they have been 'stalking down employees every reply'

She accused Times editors of being ‘more obsessed’ with Twitter than ‘the majority of the newsroom’ and that they have been ‘stalking down employees every reply’

She pointed out that the rule was also ‘regressive’ and not consistent with how younger people use the internet.  

‘This is not how a newsroom should approach the internet or social media,’ she wrote in a thread of tweets on Thursday. 

‘A good social policy is about *supporting* your staff, protecting them against bad faith attacks, and recognizing that we all live as full humans online now,’ she continued. 

Lorenz added that top bosses policing staffers’ tweets is something ‘counterproductive, damaging to journalists, especially those who need to use the internet for reporting.’

Lorenz described a situation at the Times right before she left where she was ‘reprimanded saying ‘doxxing is bad’ on social media because it was ‘expressing an opinion’ and expressing opinions is banned in the social media policy.’ 

She added that she ‘argued it’s a fact, they disagreed. This is how ineffective policies like this play out.’

Lorenz described a situation at the Times right before she left where she was 'reprimanded saying 'doxxing is bad' on social media because it was 'expressing an opinion' and expressing opinions is banned in the social media policy'

Lorenz described a situation at the Times right before she left where she was ‘reprimanded saying ‘doxxing is bad’ on social media because it was ‘expressing an opinion’ and expressing opinions is banned in the social media policy’

A New York Times spokesperson told The Insider

‘What Dean is calling for is a reset in our newsroom’s approach to Twitter and other social media platforms. He’s telling our journalists that there’s no expectation that they individually need to be on social media. 

He’s responding in part to the concerns of numerous colleagues in our newsroom who told us that change was needed. But this is absolutely not a ban. The New York Times is committed to promoting our best-in-class journalism wherever our audience is, including on Twitter and other platforms.’ 

Read the full memo below: 

LEAKED MEMO: NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet issues Twitter ‘reset’ for newsroom staffers

Colleagues,

For some time, I’ve been hearing serious concerns from newsroom colleagues about the challenges that Twitter presents.

We can rely too much on Twitter as a reporting or feedback tool — which is especially harmful to our journalism when our feeds become echo chambers. We can be overly focused on how Twitter will react to our work, to the detriment of our mission and independence. We can make off-the-cuff responses that damage our journalistic reputations. And for too many of you, your experience of Twitter is shaped by harassment and attacks.

It’s clear we need to reset our stance on Twitter for the newsroom. So we’re making some changes.

First, maintaining a presence on Twitter and other social media is now purely optional for Times journalists. In fact, after speaking to dozens of you, it is clear to us that there are many reasons you might want to step away, and we’ll support anyone who decides to do so. If you do choose to stay on, we encourage you to meaningfully reduce how much time you’re spending on the platform, tweeting or scrolling, in relation to other parts of your job. 

We also all need to strengthen our commitment to treating information there with the journalistic skepticism that we would any source, story or critic. It should be only one input out of many for reporting, listening to feedback and gaining understanding of any story or issue.

Second, we’re announcing a major new initiative to support journalists who experience online threats or harassment. We take these attacks extremely seriously, and we know just how much this abuse affects our colleagues’ well-being, sense of safety and ability to do their jobs. We have a dedicated team to support Times journalists, and we’re rolling out new training and tools to help prevent and respond to online abuse. This is an industry-wide scourge, but we are determined to take action. We’ll be providing more details today.

Third, I want to emphasize that your work on social media needs to reflect the values of The Times and be consistent with our editorial standards, social media guidelines and behavioral norms. In particular, tweets or subtweets that attack, criticize or undermine the work of your colleagues are not allowed. Doing so undercuts the reputation of The Times as well as our efforts to foster a culture of inclusion and trust.

Masthead editors, department heads and our Standards department will pay close attention to how all Times journalists use social media to ensure it is in line with our social media guidelines.

I know that Twitter can play a helpful role, whether it’s aiding in reporting on breaking news, on specific beats or gauging feedback. It’s also been critical in highlighting the concerns of underrepresented groups. And I recognize that in the past, we’ve strongly urged you to use it to get our journalism in front of more people, engage with readers and uncover stories.

This is a complicated topic, and our views have evolved considerably over the last several years. I’m sure they’ll continue to. I want to be clear that we’re here to support you. That might mean offering guidance and protection against harassment; working with our audience team to responsibly promote stories online; or simply offering encouragement if you do decide to step away from social media.

You’ll likely have questions on this, so we’ve developed an FAQ with the main points from our social media policy and these updates.

I encourage you to come talk to me or other masthead leaders about this if you have concerns. We can all use this moment to reflect on our newsroom’s culture — both online and in person — and how we can help shape it.

 



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