NY Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Gets Social Media Babysitter

New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren will "work closely" with an editor on her social media posts, following outrage.

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Rachel Hirshfeld ,

New York Times office
New York Times office
Flash 90

New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren will "work closely" with an editor on her social media posts, following outrage over her various musings, which have called into question her impartiality, political leanings and journalistic ethic.

The Times is taking steps to make sure that Ms.Rudoren’s further social media efforts go more smoothly,” wrote Public Editor Margaret Sullivan Thursday in announcing the news.

“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,” Sullivan said. “The idea is to capitalize on the promise of social media’s engagement with readers while not exposing The Times to a reporter’s unfiltered and unedited thoughts.”

“Given the spotlight that the Jerusalem bureau chief is bound to attract, and Ms. Rudoren’s self-acknowledged missteps, this was a necessary step,” added Sullivan.

Immediately following her appointment, Rudoren came under heavy fire for her seemingly anti-Israel stance and her adamant praise of Israel’s critics.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg summarized the outrage saying, “She shmoozed-up Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who argues for Israel’s destruction; she also praised Peter Beinart’s upcoming book (‘The Crisis of Zionism’) as, ‘terrific: provocative, readable, full of reporting and reflection.’ She also linked without comment to an article in a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper.”

More recently, though, Rudoren infuriated followers when she wrote on Facebook that the “Palestinians have such limited lives.”

"I've been surprised that when I talk to people who just lost a relative, or who are gathering belongings from a bombed-out house, they seem a bit ho-hum," she wrote.

"I just wasn't careful enough," Rudoren admitted in remarks to Sullivan.

"I don't think it's punitive; I think it's constructive and cautious,” Rudoren wrote to Daily Intel. “They could have just told me to stop altogether, but we all really believe in embracing social and other new media, and just realize that, especially in this highly scrutinized and polarized terrain, it's a sensitive and complicated business. So we're going to try a different way and see how it goes."

Commentary Magazine’s Alana Goodman speculates on the recent development saying, “Anti-Israel types — which probably includes a substantial portion of Times readers — claimed Rudoren was downplaying the feelings of Palestinians.”

The Times could have just assigned Rudoren an editor and left it at that,” Goodman writes. “But this column sounds like the paper felt it needed to give an additional mea culpa. It also raises some interesting questions. What observations does the Times feel are out-of-bounds for its journalists to make? And if social media — which is primarily used for quick observations — has to be edited, is there any point for journalists like Rudoren to use it at all?”