Jun 9, 2022 - Economy & Business

Washington Post fires reporter following critical tweets

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post has fired Felicia Sonmez, a reporter who criticized management's handling of an array of social media issues over the past few years, a source confirms to Axios.

Why it matters: In recent days, Sonmez's critical tweets sparked a series of public spats among Post staffers, which quickly became the fodder of fascination amongst media junkies inside and outside of The Post.

  • The situation put the Washington Post in a difficult situation, making the storied institution the subject of a major story, instead of the chronicler of one.

State of play: The Post on Thursday fired Sonmez, ”for misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity,” according to a termination letter seen by the New York Times.

  • The misconduct management referred to was Sonmez’s public admonishment of the Post’s handling of issues in light of a retweet last week of a sexist joke from political reporter David Weigel. Weigel was suspended for one month without pay for the incident.
  • In the days following Sonmez’s initial comments in response to Weigel’s retweet, fellow reporters publicly urged Sonmez to pull back from her public dissent. But Sonmez refused to back down and instead tweeted a lengthy thread about failures of the Post’s leadership to address such issues.
  • The Post’s executive editor Sally Buzbee was forced to respond to the tweets with two vague emails urging colleagues not to speak ill of each other publicly.
  • In Sonmez’s termination letter, Buzbee noted that Sonmez’s “public attempts to question the motives of your co-journalists” undermined The Post’s reputation, per The Times.
  • A Post spokesperson said, “We do not discuss personnel matters.”

Catch up quick: Sonmez‘s battle with the Post began in 2021, when she sued the paper for discrimination after newsroom leadership barred her from covering stories about sexual assault, following her public admission that she herself was a victim of sexual assault.

  • Her lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year, but Sonmez’s lawyers said she would appeal the ruling.

The big picture: The spat represents a growing struggle for newsrooms trying to balance internal drama with very public personalities.

  • In recent months, many high-profile news leaders have said they plan to pull back from Twitter, or have urged that their journalists do so themselves.
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