Over 100 Associated Press employees signed a letter to management Monday saying they “strongly disapprove” of how Emily Wilder’s firing was handled and calling for updated social media policies.
“As employees of The Associated Press, at all levels and across the globe, we strongly believe in our organization’s stated commitment to fairness and advancing the power of facts. Journalists demand transparency from the subjects of our reporting and seek to hold the powerful accountable,” began the letter, signed at press time by 111 staffers.
It went on, “That’s why we strongly disapprove of the way the AP has handled the firing of Emily Wilder and its dayslong silence internally. We demand more clarity from the company about why Wilder was fired. It remains unclear — to Wilder herself as well as staff at large — how she violated the social media policy while employed by the AP.”
The firing, which has put the AP and its social media policies in the public eye since Thursday night, could also affect “morale” and the organization’s “credibility, according to the letter. The employees called for updates on the social media policy management has said Wilder violated. Wilder went on the record over the weekend saying she still doesn’t know which posts of hers violated the company’s policy. The staff letter notes the AP caused her “unnecessary harm.” (An AP rep took issue with the letter’s assertion that the organization publicly named Wilder and noted the company “did not” actually do that. Instead, an internal note was posted on Twitter.)
Though the organization has remained largely quiet during the onslaught of bad press — both publicly and internally — representatives did defend the social media policy and Wilder’s firing Friday. In a subsequent statement to TheWrap, a rep said, “The Associated Press looks forward to continuing the conversation with staff about AP’s social media policy.”
They also said, “It’s worth noting that our longstanding social media policy is negotiated with the News Media Guild, which represents AP’s U.S. news staffers.”
A representative for the organization told TheWrap Friday, “The Associated Press covers conflicts all over the world. Our social media guidelines exist to ensure AP’s ability to cover the news accurately and impartially, and to keep our journalists safe. Every AP journalist around the world has the responsibility to adhere to our news values and social media policy.”
A second representative added, “We have this policy so the comments of one person cannot create dangerous conditions for our journalists covering the story. Every AP journalist is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report on this conflict, or any other, with fairness and credibility, and cannot take sides in public forums.”
On Monday, the representative re-affirmed the above statements.
Emily Wilder was a news associate at the AP only a few weeks when she was fired. In an initial statement to TheWrap, the publisher said, “While AP generally refrains from commenting on personnel matters, we can confirm Emily Wilder’s comments on Thursday that she was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP.”
Wilder frequently tweeted about the situation in the Middle East. Last Sunday, for instance, 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.”
The letter concluded with calls for the following action from management:
- Clarity about the disciplinary process used for Wilder, including which social media posts warranted termination and why.
- A forum to discuss what AP deems best social media practices for its journalists. It’s important that the AP and its employees can articulate where the lines are drawn.
- A clear commitment to and playbook for supporting staff targeted by harassment campaigns.
- The formation of a diverse committee to update the AP’s social media policy to support evidence-based, nuanced social posting.
Representatives for the AP did not immediately return a request for comment on the letter or its calls for action.