Associated Press managing editor Brian Carovillano justified the firing of junior reporter Emily Wilder earlier this month, telling CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday that pressure from “college conservatives” had no influence on the wire service’s decision.
Wilder fired only a few weeks into her job as a news associate at the AP for what the company called “violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP.”
Stelter pointed out that the timing of Wilder’s firing was suspect to many, saying, it “happened after what critics call ‘bad faith trolling campaign’ to take down one of your staffers because she didn’t have the right point of view in college.” On May 17, the Stanford College Republicans homed in on Wilder’s Twitter account, criticizing the AP’s latest hire for tweets dating from her college days that the group said proved her to be an “anti-Israel agitator … who referred to the late Sheldon Adelson as a ‘naked mole rat.’”
Carovillano was quick on the defense. “That would never happen and it didn’t happen here,” he said. “We take care of our people… This is the Associated Press. So, anyone who thinks that the AP would be cowed by the College Republicans does not know much about the AP.”
Wilder’s firing “exposed a social media policy that has a lot of contention all around it,” Stelter said, asking Carovillano, “What exactly went wrong?”
It came down to preserving AP’s credibility, Carovillano said, and that it was a “unanimous decision among some senior managers at the AP.”
“She had a series of social media posts that showed a clear bias toward one side and against another in one of the most divisive and difficult stories that we cover anywhere in the world,” he said. “It was a difficult decision, it was not an easy decision, and it was not a personal decision, and we wish her all the best.”
In addition to old posts that outside groups had resurfaced, Wilder continued to comment on the Middle East during her time at the AP. Wilder frequently tweeted about the situation in the Middle East. In one instance last month, she tweeted: “‘objectivity’ feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim. using ‘israel’ but never ‘palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices — yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”
Carovillano said that maintaining credibility and keeping journalists safe is of great importance — the firing took place just days after the AP’s Gaza bureau was decimated by Israeli forces. “Our credibility is under constant attack,” he said. “We’re attacked from the right, from the left, from foreign governments and sometime even from the U.S. government. And so our social media guidelines exist to protect that credibility because protecting our credibility is the same as protecting our journalists.”
More than AP 100 staffers rallied around Wilder and sent an open letter to management to protest her firing and demand more transparency around the decision and around the news agency’s social media policies.