When I wrote last Wednesday about The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, and criticism of her social media use, many readers – and some of those quoted in the blog post – responded. Readers who are on Twitter can see some of it there (though, let’s face it, in the Twitter universe, something that old is about as fresh as Chaucer), and others can see a lively and provocative discussion in the comments below the post.
But I do want to make two points, after having some time to consider what I wrote and the reaction.
1. As has been pointed out to me by a number of readers, I should have provided more context for the quotation from Jeffrey Goldberg, briefly describing him, as I did another source of criticism, Philip Weiss.
One reader (“freespeechlover” from Wichita, Kan.), made this comment:
“Jeffrey Goldberg is not labeled in the manner as is Philip Weiss. Why not? Why is Phillip Weiss an “anti-Zionist Jewish American,” while Goldberg is just Goldberg? Why isn’t he a “Zionist Jewish American, who served in the IDF as a prison guard during the 1st Intifada?” or even a “Zionist Jewish American who writes about the Middle East for The Atlantic?” Why is that missing parallel technique of representation absent?”
Those descriptions are accurate, to my knowledge, and at least some of that certainly would have been helpful for readers in evaluating his comments. I have also heard from the Palestinian-American journalist and activist Ali Abunimah, who was mentioned unfavorably in Mr. Goldberg’s quotation. He called Mr. Goldberg’s description of him as wanting the destruction of Israel “wildly inflammatory,” and also objected to the lack of context. Mr. Abunimah’s views on a one-state solution to the conflict are the subject of his 2006 book, “One Country,” and may also be found in this article on his Web site.
2. Many readers and media critics deplore the idea of The Times’s assigning a foreign-desk editor to work with Ms. Rudoren on her Facebook posts and her Twitter messages. They were quick to say that The Times has assigned her a social media “minder” or “baby sitter,” and that edited posts were useless since they remove the person-to-person communication that is at the heart of social media.
They make some good points. The idea of editing anyone’s social media posts runs counter to the ethos of Facebook and Twitter. And I may have gone too far in calling it “a necessary step.” But I remain sympathetic to Times editors. They have to take Ms. Rudoren’s presence on social media seriously and, from all I can tell, they did not have a lot of options.
I also heard from readers who said that the real problem isn’t what a reporter blurts out on social media in an unguarded moment, but what he or she really thinks – their entire worldview and mind-set. And they would prefer to know what that is, even if they don’t agree.
Important journalistic questions of objectivity, impartiality, bias and transparency lie just beneath the surface here. I plan to explore some of these in a print column later this month. (And then I’ll send a link to the column out on Twitter – all by myself.)
I appreciate the discussion