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The New York Times wants to shield its journalists from online harassment by encouraging them to minimize their time on Twitter, according to a newly circulated memo.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Gray Lady, told his employees that maintaining a Twitter account is “purely optional” after newsroom staffers reportedly raised concerns over being targeted by internet trolls.
Baquet told staffers that the Twitter policy “reset” was “absolutely not a ban,” according to Insider, which obtained a copy of the memo.
“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,” Baquet wrote in the memo.
Baquet pledged that the newspaper would bolster support for its journalists who are subjected to the “industry-wide scourge” of harassment on social media.
But the top editor added that reporters’ tweets would be monitored by their bosses.
“Tweets or subtweets that attack, criticize or undermine the work of your colleagues are not allowed,” Baquet wrote in the memo.
The new policy was panned by former Times staffer Taylor Lorenz, the social media beat reporter who moved on to the Washington Post after a high-profile departure from the Gray Lady.
Lorenz, who told MSNBC she contemplated suicide after being harassed and bullied on social media, said Times editors “consistently buy into bad faith attacks online and punish their journalists when they’re subject to … smear campaigns.”
She tweeted on Thursday that the new Times policy was “disappointing and contradictory to see.”
“This is not how a newsroom should approach the internet or social media,” she wrote.
Lorenz 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.”
“Saying they’re going to police that even *more* is counterproductive, damaging to journalists, especially those who need to use the internet for reporting,” Lorenz tweeted.
A Times spokesperson told 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.”
The masthead editors are more obsessed w/ twitter than the majority of the newsroom, stalking down employees every reply. Saying they’re going to police that even *more* is counterproductive, damaging to journalists, especially those who need to use the internet for reporting
The spokesperson added: “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.”
Twitter announced earlier this week that Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, would be joining its board of directors after the Tesla boss bought a 9% stake in the company.
Musk vowed to make “significant improvements” to Twitter, which has been accused by critics — including Musk himself — of stifling free speech.