Senior Associated Press staffers conceded “mistakes” were made in the firing of a rookie reporter over her pro-Palestinian tweets, but insist the move was still the “right decision.”
Top brass at the news organization held a town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss Emily Wilder, a 22-year-old news associate in Phoenix who was terminated on May 19 after just two weeks on the job for violating its social media policy during her brief tenure, the Washington Post reported.
While some executives said they regretted how the AP handled the matter, managing editor Brian Carovillano insisted “mistakes of process, and not of outcome” were made, saying the news agency made the “right decision” to fire Wilder, according to an audio recording shared with the newspaper.
Carovillano told AP staffers that Wilder was given guidance on social media rules upon hiring, including an hour-long tutorial with her manager due to previous tweets that were deemed to be “borderline” appropriate, according to the report.
“We’re sorry that Emily was targeted by online groups that dredged up her past, and we really do wish her the best,” Carovillano said Wednesday. “There was nothing easy about the decision to let her go.”
Still, the decision to fire Wilder was unanimous, Carovillano said.
“We do need to be honest with ourselves and we need to admit that we’ve made some mistakes in the past week,” he said.
Deputy managing editor Amanda Barrett, meanwhile, admitted that the organization “made missteps in handling this crisis” that began after Wilder veered from its apolitical stance for reporters as recently as May 16. The AP said in a memo to employees Monday that it plans to update the wire service’s social media guidelines.
“Please know that the AP will protect you,” Barrett told employees Wednesday. “We’ll have your back when you face threats online.”
Wilder’s tweet got the attention of Stanford College Republicans, which shared a post she sent while at the college that referred to late Las Vegas casino magnate and Israel backer Sheldon Adelson as a “naked mole rat-looking billionaire.”
Wilder, who is Jewish, has said she was the victim of a “smear campaign” by the group that sought to “expose her history of activism for Palestinian human rights” while at Stanford.
“I was transparent with my editors, and they reassured me I would not face punishment for my previous activism,” Wilder tweeted Saturday. “I was told my editors were only hoping to support me as I received an onslaught of sexist, antisemitic, racist and violent comments and messages.”
Julie Pace, AP’s Washington bureau chief and assistant managing editor, told staff Wednesday that the company “failed to initially see this more than an HR issue,” according to Wednesday’s report.
“We thought this was the type of internal, personnel issue that AP is used to dealing with. What we failed to see is how this impacted our staff broadly in so many ways … We saw it primarily as an issue of social media standards. We failed to see that it is much deeper than that.”