My recent interview for The Forward with New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, while she was covering the recent conflagration between Israel and Hamas from inside Gaza, was instigated by a remark I read in one of her Facebook posts. So, obviously, I regarded Rudoren’s providing personal reflection and commentary on the situation beyond what she was writing for publication in the Times to be a positive thing.
However, others took a more negative view of these social media posts and let their opinions be known. Most notably, the blogger Philip Weiss, citing examples of Rudoren’s posts on his Mondoweiss website, took issue with how, in his view, “[Rudoren] seems culturally bound inside the Israeli experience.”
Now, we learn from NYT’s Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that in response to this “problematic” situation, the paper “is taking steps to make sure that Ms. Rudoren’s further social media efforts go more smoothly. The foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, is assigning an editor on the foreign desk in New York to work closely with Ms. Rudoren on her social media posts.”
Rudoren’s apologies for her choice of her social media phrasing were not enough to prevent this step, which left-leaning +972 Magazine’s Noam Sheizaf labeled (in a Facebook post) as “unprecedented, unusual and worrisome.” He finds the assigning of an editor for the new Jerusalem bureau chief’s social media missives not only “anachronistic,” but also a sign as to “how discourse on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most monitored today, and how every wrong word makes a person out to be an extremist.”
After reviewing a number of social media missteps taken by Rudoren since assuming her position last spring, Sullivan did commend her for her reporting work, calling the articles she has written in the past month “exemplary.” Sullivan concludes: “Having taken on one of journalism’s toughest challenges, Ms. Rudoren deserves every chance to continue to show readers that she is a reporter whose only interest is in telling the story engagingly and truthfully.”
In her piece, Sullivan poses two questions. Do Rudoren’s social media blunders make her an unwise choice for the lightning-rod position of Jerusalem bureau chief? And can the Times really even think of surviving in the digital age without allowing reporters to tweet and post in unfiltered ways?
There’s one question she doesn’t ask, but probably should, especially when everyone from the local cub reporter to household names like Anderson Cooper, Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof are Twittersphere mainstays.
Is Rudoren being unfairly singled out?