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Flowers and tributes are left at a makeshift memorial for former NBA player Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Photo: Rachel Luna/Getty Images

The Washington Post faced blowback Monday for suspending a reporter after she tweeted a story without comment the previous day about Kobe Bryant's 2003 rape allegation as others posted tributes to the basketball star following his death.

What's new: The Post expressed regret at speaking "publicly about a personnel matter" on Tuesday and said that the reporter, Felicia Sonmez, "was not in clear and direct violation" of the newspaper's social media policy. Sonmez has been reinstated, according to the Washington Post Guild.

Why it matters: Critics argue that WashPost made the wrong call to suspend Sonmez — including over 200 Post journalists, who expressed their "alarm and dismay" at the action in a letter Monday via the Washington Post Guild supporting the reporter.

Details: Sonmez posted a link on Twitter Sunday to a 2016 Daily Beast report of an allegation of sexual assault leveled against Bryant in 2003.

  • WashPost executive editor Martin Baron sent an email to Sonmez at 5:38 p.m. before she was told that she'd be placed on administrative leave, saying "Felicia, A real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this," per the New York Times, which saw the email.
  • After the email, she posted two tweets documenting backlash she'd received for the Twitter post, including one stating: "To the 10,000 people (literally) who have commented and emailed me with abuse and death threats, please take a moment and read the story — which was written 3+ years ago, and not by me."
  • Per the NYT, Sonmez deleted all tweets on the matter on WashPost managing editor Tracy Grant's instruction. Grant thanked her for doing so before suggesting she "consider a hotel or a friend’s place for this evening."
  • Other Twitter users saved screenshots of her posts.

What they're saying: Grant confirmed in a statement to the Erik Wemple Blog, the paper's media criticism column, that Sonmez was placed on leave, pending a review into whether her tweets violated the newsroom's social media policy. Axios first contacted WashPost for comment after Sonmez was initially suspended.

  • "The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues," Grant added.
  • Wemple called the suspension "misguided."

The big picture: In the social media era, newsrooms have struggled to find a balance between enforcing uniform rules for their journalists to adhere to on social media and letting their journalists speak as individuals, and several have issued guidelines for journalists on the issue.

Our thought bubble: Regardless of whether you agree with the Post's actions, it's evident that something went wrong with how the Post handled the situation because the news organization itself has now become the story.

Go deeper: Journalists keep getting in trouble for tweeting

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

9 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.