On Tuesday, January 19, Lauren Wolfe, a New York Times editor, tweeted that she had "chills" when she saw President-elect Joe Biden's plane land outside of Washington, DC.
About 36 hours and a concerted campaign against the tweet later, Wolfe stopped working on the filing paper. Her friends and several other journalists claim it is because of this tweet.
Other media outlets have come to Wolfe & # 39; s defense, saying this could open a door for journalists to be targeted with the threat of unemployment due to perceived or exaggerated crime.
Denying the narrative of Wolfe's hiring, the Times said in a statement that the paper "didn't stop someone hiring via a single tweet".
1. Some news …
Lauren Wolfe, editor at NYT, quit her contract after she tweeted what it says on the left.
Wolfe also tweeted what's to the right, but deleted it when she learned that Biden took his own plane.
Per two sources. pic.twitter.com/uaB0INZ1q8
– Yashar Ali (@yashar) January 22, 2021
Whatever happened between the newspaper and Wolfe, the response to their social media post has become the latest focal point in an ongoing conversation about how media organizations apply ethical and objective standards and how to respond to attacks on reporters in a post-Trump era -Era should respond.
This question was of course relevant during the tenure of former President Donald Trump. He regularly sowed suspicion of credible media sources, labeled the press "the enemy of the people" and directed vitriol from his followers to journalists who covered his rallies and other events.
But even when he's out of office, his loyal base continues to seek to publicize their dissatisfaction with perceived liberal bias in the media, and prominent news organizations need to respond to well-orchestrated press audiences.
The fallout also points to the lack of occupational safety and health faced by many American workers, including those in so-called prestigious areas like journalism, and has also led some to point out differences between the alleged circumstances of Wolfe and the Times' response to others Employ reporters in their areas to point out who have been accused of wrongdoing.
The controversy over Lauren Wolfe & # 39; s possibly tweet-related layoff, explained
Here's what we know: Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work has primarily focused on women's rights and sexual violence. She had worked with organizations and outlets such as the Committee for the Protection of Journalists and Foreign Policy.
Working with the non-profit Women's Media Center (WMC), she led Women Under Siege, which documented and mapped cases of sexual violence during conflict, including the Syrian civil war. One of her stories about war crimes in Eastern Congo is attributed to the arrest of the perpetrators.
More recently, she edited the Live section of the Times and worked mostly on breaking news, according to journalist Yashar Ali. However, a Times spokesman told Vox that Wolfe does not work full-time there and has no contract.
On Tuesday afternoon, the day before Biden's inauguration, Wolfe tweeted a photo of his plane landing at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, DC. "I have the chills," she wrote. (She has since deleted the tweet.)
She also called the administration of former President Donald Trump "childish" for not sending a plane to bring in the new administration. According to Ali, she deleted this post after learning that Biden had used his own plane.
The journalist Glenn Greenwald, a prominent warrior against the so-called "Cancel Culture", responded with screenshots and criticism of the mood.
If you're in the national press and you're going to be on TV at some point today and you feel the need to cry joyfully, just hold onto it until you find a private place. Nobody expects controversial reporting in the next 4 years, but it's just a matter of personal dignity. pic.twitter.com/FNKcFRPF56
– Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 20, 2021
Critics flooded the Twittersphere with criticism of Wolfe and allegations of widespread anti-conservative bias among journalists.
Ali reported Thursday, January 21, that Wolfe had lost her job at the Times after two unnamed sources after a concerted campaign against her and the Times.
In a statement, Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha denied that version of events.
"There is a lot of inaccurate information circulating on Twitter. For privacy reasons, we do not go into personnel matters, but we can say that we did not end a person's employment with a single tweet. Out of respect for the people involved, we are not planning any further comments," wrote Rhoades Ha.
She added that Wolfe did not have a contract as Ali had written, but rather refused to answer a follow-up question about the exact nature of Wolfe's employment with the Times.
The online campaign against Wolfe also involved serious harassment against Wolfe himself. On Twitter, Wolfe posted examples of some of the online harassment, many of which used obscene, misogynistic, and homophobic language.
Wolfe didn't respond to Vox's comments. She has not publicly commented on her breakup with the Times. Throughout the day on Sunday, she retweeted messages of support from other journalists, some of whom said she was fired for the tweet before closing her account. The account was offline from Sunday afternoon.
In a long tweet thread, Wolfe & # 39; s boyfriend Josh Shahryar said that Wolfe was followed outside her home and received death threats. Shahryar also said that Wolfe wasn't specifically about Biden, it was about the successful transfer of power just two weeks after a bunch of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the confirmation of the election.
On Twitter, however, Wolfe also defended The Times, saying people shouldn't cancel their subscriptions in response to the incident:
Hello everybody. I'm so grateful for everyone's support, but I have a favor to ask of you: PLEASE don't log out of @nytimes. I have loved this paper and its mission all my life. Their journalism is one of the most important and best in the world and they need to be read carefully. Many Thanks
– Lauren Wolfe (@ Wolfe321) January 24, 2021
A #RhireLauren hashtag began to spread on Twitter as other big names in journalism and elsewhere, including W. Kamau Bell, Alyssa Milano, and Ali Velshi of MSNBC, defended Wolfe.
Felicia Sonmez, a national political reporter for the Washington Post who grappled with the management of her newspaper through tweets, said that surrendering to online campaigns against reporters would "put ALL journalists at risk."
NYT shouldn't have fired Lauren @ Wolfe321, especially when other magazines in the paper have fared far worse lately and kept their jobs.
Knee-jerk shots in response to online harassment campaigns only encourage molesters further – and endanger ALL journalists. https://t.co/GB6O1VMMQo
– Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) January 24, 2021
And Jeremy Scahill, Greenwald's former colleague at Intercept, noted that other journalists have publicly expressed personal responses to political moments without incident:
I find it absurd and wrong that the NYT fired Lauren Wolfe. Also, does anyone remember how MSNBC's Chris Matthews literally cried over an Obama speech, compared him to Jesus, and said he "felt that thrill in my leg" when Obama spoke? https://t.co/ZA6iZ6892t
– Jeremy Scahill (@jeremyscahill) January 24, 2021
It is not clear what exactly happened between Wolfe and the Times, or why their employment was terminated. However, it is far from being harassed online over a story or tweet by a journalist (especially a woman), and far from being the last time a news agency's handling of it will be scrutinized.
Journalists deserve an exam – but exam increasingly means online harassment
This incident has highlighted an issue media companies are facing as they transition from an openly anti-press White House to a house with a more traditional relationship with journalists. News outlets are sensitive to allegations that they will not hold the Biden administration as accountable as the Trump administration.
While Wolfe's mood was relatively good, some reporters covering Wednesday's inauguration ceremony berated the incoming government, announcing it as an alleged "return to normal."
However, a journalist's targeting of apparent bias by questioning his or her employment has become a depressingly successful mob tactic at a time when reporters are routinely exposed to threats both online and in real life.
Sociologist Katherine Cross, who studies online harassment, compared this strategy used to attack Wolfe to harassment campaigns carried out at the height of #GamerGate:
Wolfe, who was fired from the NYT for a tweet saying she had "chills" after Biden landed in DC before inauguration, is the latest victim of a game book perfected by GamerGate and similar harassment campaigns. https://t.co/cVP3psguiG
– Katherine Cross (@Quinnae_Moon) January 24, 2021
While we do not know the exact reasons for Wolfe's loss of employment, this episode raises questions about the Times' hiring decisions, and particularly whether it applies a single standard to all employees.
A few weeks ago the newspaper weathered a major crisis after it was discovered that its award-winning podcast Caliphate contained significant inaccuracies. The newspaper withdrew the core of this show and returned a Peabody Award that the show had won.
Despite the fact that the main character of this show has been discredited, the journalist behind the project, Rukmini Callimachi, stays with the newspaper despite being reassigned.
Your project partner, producer Andy Mills, was not publicly disciplined for his part in this scandal. But Mills has faced numerous allegations of mistreating women, which his former employers on WNYC's Radiolab program have recognized, but the Times has not.
Elsewhere in the Gray Lady newsroom, reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended after Vox first reported allegations of predatory behavior towards young reporters. Despite no longer covering the White House, Thrush remains employed by the Times.
While the exact nature of Wolfe's relationship with the Times is unclear, the termination of the relationship underscores the shaky health and safety system that most American workers face – even those in prominent or respected positions. Shahryar, Wolfe & # 39; s boyfriend, said this loss of income will instantly harm Wolfe and her longtime pet, a rescue dog.
Wolfe has the benefit of famous friends and allies and a story tied to a compelling and emotional public moment. While her friends have so far said they won't be raising funds for her, her Venmo account has been released, and editors of other publications have publicly tweeted her with job offers.
This type of crowdsourcing safety net is not available to most American workers who do not have a large social safety net outside of their jobs. And in a country that is labor law governed at will, and amid a pandemic that left tens of millions of Americans unemployed, there is a predicament of Wolfe – out of the public eye – across the country.
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