Washington Post Says Reporter’s Kobe Tweets Didn’t Violate Social Media Policy

The Washington Post said a review of a reporter’s tweets about Kobe Bryant concluded the posts didn’t violate the paper’s social media policy.

Felicia Sonmez, a national reporter, was suspended after posting on Twitter a negative article from 2003 about Bryant shortly after he died on Jan. 27. Sonmez also posted other tweets saying she’d been threatened for posting the article, including one that included a screenshot of her email inbox that showed the full names of some people who allegedly threatened her.

The Washington Post said Sonmez was suspended pending a review and said the tweets “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

In a new statement on Tuesday night, Washington Post managing editor Tracy Grant said an internal review determined Sonmez’s tweets were “ill-timed” but “not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.”

“Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence,”‘ Grant said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.

“We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”

Sonmez, who deleted the tweets about Bryant, popped back up on Twitter late Tuesday to demand Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron speak publicly about her suspension.

“Washington Post journalists endeavor to live up to the paper’s mission statement, which states, ‘The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.’ My suspension, and Mr. Baron’s Jan. 26 email warning me that my tweets about a matter of public record were ‘hurting this institution,’ have unfortunately sown confusion about the depth of management’s commitment to this goal,” Sonmez said in a statement.

Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 27, 2019. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Sonmez told a reporter with the paper that Grant sent her an email before the suspension telling her that the tweets didn’t pertain to her “coverage area” and that “your behavior on social media is making it harder for others to do their work as Washington Post journalists.”

Sonmez’s posting of the article, which detailed the rape allegation against Bryant, was met with fierce backlash by some, who wondered why she would post the story so soon after the NBA star’s death.

“You weren’t adding new facts about breaking news. You were bringing up old news & that usually signals agenda,” writer Bridget Phetasy said on Twitter.

“There is a time for the ‘hammer of truth’ @feliciasonmez but it’s not a day after a man died in a horrible accident. Talk about his daughter who also died if you do not have it in you to say anything respectful about,” another Twitter user wrote.

Sonmez was supported by others, including the Washington Post News Guild.

“We understand the hours after Bryant’s death Sunday were a fraught time to share reporting about past accusations of sexual assault. The loss of such a beloved figure, and of so many other lives, is a tragedy. But we believe it is our responsibility as a news organization to tell the public the whole truth as we know it—about figures and institutions both popular and unpopular, at moments timely and untimely,” the union wrote in a letter to Baron and Grant.

After Sonmez was reinstated, the guild said in a statement that the Washington Post should apologize to Sonmez and “provide clarity on the social media policy for all employees.”

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Author: Zachary Stieber