Apr 7, 2022 - Economy

NYT's top editor says he wants newsroom to tweet less

(Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet says he wants Times reporters to spend less time on Twitter.

Why it matters: Relying too much on Twitter is "especially harmful to our journalism when our feeds become echo chambers," Baquet said in a letter to staff Thursday obtained by Axios.

  • "We can be overly focused on how Twitter will react to our work, to the detriment of our mission and independence," he wrote. "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."

Details: The letter also detailed changes to The Times' social media policies broadly, including making it optional for journalists to maintain a presence on Twitter and other social media platforms.

  • Baquet said The Times will support anyone who decides to do so step away from social media. But for those that chose to remain active on social platforms, Baquet asked that they "meaningfully reduce how much time" they spend on the platform in relation to other parts of work.
  • Baquet also urged journalists that choose to stay on social media ensure their posts "reflect the values of The Times" and be consistent with the company's editorial standards, social media guidelines and "behavioral norms." Tweets that "attack, criticize or undermine the work of colleagues," aren't allowed.
  • To ensure the rules are followed, Baquet said masthead editors, department heads and The Times' standards department "will pay close attention to how all Times journalists use social media."

The big picture: Baquet, who is expected to depart the company this year, has been leading The Times during a period of internal conflict around free speech.

  • Most recently, outgoing Times journalist Taylor Lorenz and established Times political reporter Maggie Haberman recently got into a public feud on Twitter over personal branding.
  • The Times' opinion editor James Bennet resigned in June 2020 after green-lighting an op-ed from Republican Sen. Tom Cotton that The Times said didn't meet its editorial standards following backlash internally and externally.
  • Opinion editor Bari Weiss a few weeks later resigned after claiming she was the victim of persistent bullying within the organization and warned the New York Times that "Twitter has become its ultimate editor."

"This is a complicated topic, and our views have evolved considerably over the last several years," Baquet acknowledged in his note.

  • In addition to the new social media rules, Baquet also announced a new initiative "to support journalists who experience online threats or harassment," which includes rolling out new training and tools to help prevent and respond to online abuse.

What to watch: Times Managing Editor Joe Kahn is expected to be named Executive Editor this year. Sources say Kahn has a more traditional leadership style and approach to social media that more closely aligns with the policies introduced Thursday.

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