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AP Journalists React To Reporter's Firing

May 24, 2021
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A growing number of staffers at the Associated Press have signed a letter to protest the dismissal of a junior colleague. The AP fired Emily Wilder for sharing tweets in the last couple of weeks sympathetic to Palestinians in the recent Israel-Gaza conflict. Her posts received sharp scrutiny after college Republicans at her alma mater raised flags about past pro-Palestinian tweets from her college days. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is here to talk about the uproar at the AP and what it means for other news organizations.

Hi, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So Emily Wilder was fired last week, and today many AP journalists are speaking out against their bosses over this. What are they saying?

FOLKENFLIK: More than a hundred of them at last count - they're condemning what they're saying is a lack of transparency by the news agency, saying that the Associated Press' leadership, while announcing her dismissal, didn't identify what the offending tweets or retweets or posts were or what specific part of AP's social media policy was violated. They said, look; this seems to have been done as part of an effort to discredit the AP's coverage of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. We expect the AP to have our back and that the AP's very reaction may lead people to question the credibility of the news agency on the most touchy of conflicts of all.

SHAPIRO: Give us more detail about how this dismissal actually happened. What took place here?

FOLKENFLIK: So let's be precise. Emily Wilder is the reporter in question. She joined the AP just at the beginning of May, a few weeks ago. She's less than a year out of Stanford University, had been working for a stint at The Arizona Republic. And last Wednesday, Stanford College Republicans did basically a little tweet storm, resurrecting tweets of hers from her days in college when she was indeed an activist - although herself Jewish - an activist in favor of Palestinian rights and critical of Israeli actions there. I spoke with Emily Wilder earlier today. Here's a clip of what she had to say.

EMILY WILDER: I'm a young woman. I'm just starting out. I believe institutions really need to support their reporters. And they really - they advocated their responsibility to stick up for me in the face of a dishonest disinformation campaign.

SHAPIRO: What's the AP saying about this?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the AP says that, you know, her very statements online - which in her tweets and retweets, even in the past few weeks, do evince, certainly, a sympathy for Palestinians and the plight there and those who have been suffering in recent weeks - that those statements imperil the safety of AP colleagues there and elsewhere. There are thousands of Associated Press journalists in more than a hundred countries across the globe. Many cover conflicts. And I think it has to be pointed out this happened just days after Israeli missiles took out - I think it was a 22-story office building, where the AP's offices were and bureau was in Gaza. The Israelis say that's also the site of an office of Hamas, which the AP says it wasn't aware of. Sally Buzbee is the executive editor of the Associated Press. She just took a job with The Washington Post. She tells NPR as a result that she had handed off her duties and had nothing to do with this decision. But the AP is saying this was done to maintain the safety and integrity of the AP.

SHAPIRO: And what are the larger implications of this, not just for the AP but for other news organizations?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, this is something that folks have been struggling with at mainstream news organizations. And you've seen - I think it's particularly a generational divide. But also, journalists of color and other journalists have bridled at the restrictions placed upon them in their ability to express their lived experience and, in some ways, their own personal perspectives on social media outside their publications' themselves. And in a memo sent out late this afternoon, the AP essentially acknowledged this, that this affects colleagues of color, those who are LGBTQ more than most, that they wanted the newsroom to have a greater discussion about social media practices and also that they wanted to promise they would have their colleagues' backs.

SHAPIRO: NPR's David Folkenflik, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

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