A "Twitter Helper"

On November 28, the New York Times' newly-minted public editor, Margaret Sullivan, announced that NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief Judi Rudoren would be assigned "an editor on the foreign desk in New York to work closely with" on social media posts. Sullivan's decision came in response to criticism Rudoren received stemming from her Facebook statuses and Tweets over the last few weeks, compiled in a piece by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg called “Twitterverse to New NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief: Stop Tweeting!”

In addition to Goldberg's complaints, Sullivan writes: "More recently, during the Gaza conflict, she wrote one Facebook post in which she described Palestinians as “ho-hum” about the death of loved ones, wrote of their “limited lives” and, in another, said she shed her first tears in Gaza over a letter from an Israeli family. The comments came off as insensitive and the reaction was sharp, not only from media pundits, but also from dismayed readers."

Speaking of readers being dismayed, I was extremely dismayed to read Sullivan's piece. Since the re-start of fighting between Gaza and Israel earlier this month, I have turned to Rudoren on an almost daily basis for her deeply-reported, thoughtfully-written pieces, specifically about the impact that Israel's bombing campaign has had on life in Gaza. After reading a particularly captivating tale of a Palestinian family torn-apart by a bomb, I remember being so impressed that I took to Twitter to congratulate Rudoren and to tell her how much she has inspired me as a budding journalist (she replied "Thank you!") Her's is an extremely dangerous assignment -- several journalists reporting from Gaza have already been injured -- and I was amazed by how she was able to find stories from under the rubble and to shine some light on the human costs of warfare.

Understandably, Sullivan's decision was big news on social media platforms. It's rare for such a prominent journalist to be called-out in such a public way, and I'm sure in many ways it was quite embarrassing for Rudoren. My hope, however, is that this dust-up will not impact her reporting. The work she has done is simply too important to be hurt by hypersensitive readers and a green public editor intent on sending a message to other reporters.

Another question is: What does it mean to work closely with an editor on your social media posts? Will Rudoren still write her own Tweets and Facebook statuses? Considering that they are coming from her name, I sincerely hope so. This all sounds a bit too much like censorship -- of an extremely intelligent and thoughtful person -- for my taste. But maybe I'm just a Rudoren apologist.

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