Jun 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

Journalism's moment of reckoning

Illustration of news clippings
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The protests have forced many media companies to seriously reckon with their own long-standing policies around newsroom diversity, social media use, activism and coverage of race issues.

The big picture: The protests are also forcing some outlets to take a harder look at whether and how they should allow journalists to publicly support or speak out about issues they care about.

  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is being slammed by its own journalists for barring two African American journalists from covering protests in the city because of "apparent bias."
  • Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller was placed on a two-month administrative leave last week after receiving criticism for a Twitter back and forth about an op-ed she wrote about diversity.
  • Fox News anchor Bret Baier apologized to his viewers on Monday for airing an image last week that noted the stock market's rally in the wake of George Floyd's death and other notable deaths of black men.
  • Axios, like other media companies, has addressed internally whether employees are allowed to participate in protests, according to an internal email obtained by The New York Times.
  • Business Insider's top editors have reportedly also had conversations with staff over its policy about whether journalists can donate to bail funds following public outcry.
  • The Washington Post and The Times have grappled for years about how journalists speak out on social media. The Times on Monday obtained a report about "Recommendations for Social Media Use" that was commissioned by The Post about how reporters have used social media in the past.

The bottom line: Many companies are having to re-examine long-standing policies around activism, diversity and social media use from a moral lens.

  • The key, as The Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan notes, lies in whether journalists and journalistic institutions are able to uphold their core missions of serving their readers while also considering ways to make moral choices surrounding civil rights, press rights, racial justice and gender equity.

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