The Associated Press’ managing editor is speaking out after a firestorm that followed the ousting of former AP journalist Emily Wilder.
Wilder was fired last week after serving just two weeks on the job. The AP said a series of Wilder’s pro-Palestinian tweets violated its social media policy, although the AP has not said which tweets violated that policy.
“Emily Wilder was let go because she had a series of social media posts that showed a clear bias toward one side and against another in one of the most divisive and difficult stories we cover,” said Brian Carovillano, the AP’s managing editor, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday. “It was a difficult decision; it was not an easy decision, and it was not a personal decision, and we wish her all the best.”
Before joining the AP, Wilder was an active member of pro-Palestinian groups at her college. She was a proponent of Palestinian human rights and a critic of the Israeli government.
Last week, during the height of the recent war between Israel and the Palestinians, the Stanford College Republicans group called out Wilder for her tweets. Soon after, the AP fired Wilder — a unanimous decision among some senior managers at the AP, Carovillano said.
The AP believes Wilder’s tweets could have put its journalists in danger — if a perception exists that the AP is taking sides in a conflict, it could endanger journalists who are reporting inside a war zone, as AP journalists were doing at the time Wilder was tweeting, he said.
“It’s really important that we maintain our credibility on these stories,” Carovillano said. “Journalists’ safety is at stake and the AP’s credibility is at stake. Our credibility is constantly under attack. Our social media guidelines exist to protect that credibility, because protecting our credibility is the same as protecting journalists.”
Carovillano noted the AP believes “it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain that credibility.”
More than 100 employees at the AP signed an open letter criticizing the AP’s lack of communication about Wilder’s firing.
“It gives us no confidence that any one of us couldn’t be next, sacrificed without explanation. It has left our colleagues — particularly emerging journalists — wondering how we treat our own, what culture we embrace and what values we truly espouse as a company,” the letter said.
In a statement on Saturday, Wilder said she is “one victim to the asymmetrical enforcement of rules around objectivity and social media that has censored so many journalists — particularly Palestinian journalists and other journalists of color — before me.”
Carovillano acknowledged that the AP needs to do more to help its journalists when they come under fire on social media.
“Our internal discussions have clearly surfaced a need for better tools to be in place when journalists feel threatened or attacked online,” he said.
But Carovillano noted that the AP takes care of its journalists, fighting to get them out of prison and working with law enforcement to end harassment of reporters. So he rejected criticism that the AP fired Wilder because it was pressured by the Stanford Republican group.
“That would never happen and that didn’t happen here,” Carvovillano said. “This is the Associated Press, so anyone who thinks the AP would be cowed by the college Republicans does not know very much about the AP.”