The Associated Press drew intense backlash Thursday night after news broke that a young staffer was fired for her past tweets about Israel and Palestine. The axing took place just days after the AP’s Gaza bureau was decimated by Israeli forces.
Emily Wilder was a news associate at the AP only a few weeks when she was fired. In a 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.”
Her college participation in Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine was called out by the Stanford College Republicans, a group from her alma mater, the next day. Critics of the AP’s decision to terminate her say the organization bowed to conservative pressure.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler mused, “Amazing how quickly a talented young reporter’s career can be snuffed out by a Twitter mob that decided to feign outrage over some college tweets. And if @vv1lder somehow violated @AP’s social-media rules, the solution is to offer guidance, not termination, to a new reporter.”
He, like others, pointed to an internal memo about her firing that was leaked Thursday afternoon. In it, U.S. West news director Peter Pengraman briefly informed AP staffers that Wilder “is no longer with the AP” and the company will try to fill her position quickly.
“Firing journalists over things they wrote as students, without any evidence of bias that’s affected their professional work, won’t make journalism better, it’ll simply make student journalists more afraid to develop their voices and say anything interesting lest they anger a mob,” tweeted Yair Rosenberg, a senior writer for the Jewish magazine Tablet.
“I don’t know what this accomplishes other than signaling that it’s open season for troll campaigns on AP journalists. AP must acknowledge it made a mistake and rehire @vv1lder,” said the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce.
Every journalist should be outraged about @AP firing @vv1lder over college activism in favor of freedom for Palestinians. The industry is rife with clear double-standards on this,” wrote the Times’ Adam Elmahrek. “No college kid should have to fear losing a future career because they stood by their values.”