The Washington Post, a newspaper with one of the most terrible op-ed sections to speak of, has a mixed recent record with The Gays. The paper unabashedly ran a photo of two men kissing on its front page — to illustrate a story about D.C. legalizing same-sex marriage — and defended its decision to do so. And unlike many papers, the Post actually used the word “bigot” to describe a real-life bigot (Virginia’s Attorney General hopeful Ken Cuccinelli), rather than dance around the subject with vague pleasantries. But it’s also guilty of many gay atrocities. There was the time it identified all gays as rich, well-educated types, forgetting about the poor and sometimes homeless among us. And then there was this month’s National Coming Out Day, when the paper lent space to Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, whose job it is to demonize minorities, so he could blame homosexuality on recent bullycides. The paper tried making nice by letting “the other side” (Sirdeaner Walker, mother of a bullycide victim) respond. GLAAD wasn’t having it, and took to Twitter to criticize the Post. The paper responded in defense. And now the higher-ups at the Post have demanded staffers stop using its Twitter feed to speak to those who call it out for spread hate speech. Idiots.
As Techdirt notes:
The Washington Post’s official Twitter feed tried to defend the story, by claiming that the newspaper was trying to cover “both sides” of the story. As GLAAD correctly pointed out, this was not a story that had “both sides.” It’s unfortunate that so many news organizations appear to believe that there are two (and only two) sides to every story, and are willing to report each equally without ever taking a stand on which is the actual story.
So what was the Post‘s ultimate decision? To stop using Twitter — a technology built for communicating with the masses — to speak to its publics. Reads an internal memo from the paper:
Even as we encourage everyone in the newsroom to embrace social media and relevant tools, it is absolutely vital to remember that the purpose of these Post branded accounts is to use them as a platform to promote news, bring in user generated content and increase audience engagement with Post content. No branded Post accounts should be used to answer critics and speak on behalf of the Post, just as you should follow our normal journalistic guidelines in not using your personal social media accounts to speak on behalf of the Post.
Perhaps it would be useful to think of the issue this way: when we write a story, our readers are free to respond and we provide them a venue to do so. We sometimes engage them in a private verbal conversation, but once we enter a debate personally through social media, this would be equivalent to allowing a reader to write a letter to the editor–and then publishing a rebuttal by the reporter. It’s something we don’t do.
Leaving aside the fact that the Post completely obliterates the mission of a newspaper and how a technology like Twitter can better reporting, let’s note that what the Post did not do in the aftermath of its GLAAD spat is institute a new policy banning bigots from using its space to demonize LGBTs and pretend that gay kids are somehow responsible for their own depression and suicides. FTW? No. FTF.