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Inside The Washington Post’s Social Media Meltdown – Vanity Fair



A flurry of Twitter flare-ups and Slack spats involving Post journalists, along with a controversial suspension, have upended the newsroom and are presenting a major test for executive editor Sally Buzbee, who urged staff Tuesday to “be constructive and collegial.”

June 8, 2022

Image may contain Building Office Building Architecture Steeple Spire and Tower
The exterior of The Washington Post via Getty Images building at One Franklin Square on December, 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. By Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images.

On Tuesday afternoon, Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted that he was “proud” to work at the paper, a place “filled with many terrific people who are smart and collegial.” Four minutes later, reporter Rosalind Helderman, too, tweeted that she was “proud” to work at the Post, which is “always striving to be better than it was yesterday.” Six minutes later, another reporter, Amy Gardner, tweeted how she was “proud” to work at the paper, followed by other top journalists at the publication, such as Matt Viser, Carol Leonnig, and Dan Balz. 

The public outpouring of Post pride—which I’m told political reporters were urging one another to take part in—followed executive editor Sally Buzbee’s memo reiterating workplace policies and promoting collegiality among staff. The memo dropped following a few days at the Post that have been, as one reporter described it, a “clusterfuck.” Dave Weigel, a national political correspondent, is, as of Monday, suspended without pay for the next month after retweeting a sexist tweet last week, which he then promptly unshared and apologized for after a colleague called him out both on the company Slack and publicly. Hours after news of Weigel’s suspension broke Monday, that colleague, political reporter Felicia Sonmez, was urging the paper to take action against a different colleague, Jose Del Real, who on Saturday took aim at Sonmez for “the cruelty you regularly unleash against colleagues.” (He made this point after commending Sonmez for “your bravery in sharing your story,” adding, “I support your fight against retribution for doing so.”)

Meanwhile, in another corner of Twitter on Saturday, Taylor Lorenz—the star Post tech writer and social media lightning rod—was explaining how a “miscommunication with an editor” resulted in an error in a recent Post piece while also hitting back against critics and CNN reporter Oliver Darcy, who was covering the incident. 

The Post drama spilling out publicly onto Twitter has upended the newsroom, where there’s no shortage of opinions on the continued fallout. “I think Felicia initially was right—that was a gross Dave Weigel tweet, and we were all grateful she called attention to it,” one Post staffer told me. The problem, the staffer added, was in “continuing to make it an issue and go after more and more colleagues.” And as a reporter said of Lorenz: “Taylor is very talented, but her personal antics frequently overshadow her journalism.” 

Sonmez, Lorenz, and Weigel declined to comment for this article.

The social media meltdown has turned the spotlight on Buzbee, who just last week celebrated her one-year anniversary as the paper’s top editor. Staff use of Twitter bedeviled Buzbee’s predecessor, Marty Baron, who took issue with how journalists, including Sonmez, used Twitter, but failed to enact a new social media policy. (Other legacy publications, such as The New York Times, have likewise been tested by the social media use of their reporters—something Dean Baquet talked about often, especially on his way out.) The consequences of that inaction are now falling on Buzbee, as the Post’s social media policy is “so intermittently enforced, or not at all, that it leaves it to the most extreme characters to end up getting us into these kinds of situations,” one reporter said.

In the Tuesday memo, Buzbee stated shared newsroom values and emphasized how employees should treat one another. “We do not tolerate colleagues attacking colleagues either face to face or online. Respect for others is critical to any civil society, including our newsroom,” she wrote. “The newsroom social media policy points specifically to the need for collegiality.”

“In the last year, we have enforced, through conversations, mediation and disciplinary measures, egregious violations of our social media policy, just as we have enforced our overall standards,” Buzbee added. “As we have said, we plan to update the social media policy. Until then, the current policy remains in effect. It states: When it comes to your colleagues, be constructive and collegial: If you have a question or concern about something that has been published, speak to your colleague directly. We respect and do not wish to inhibit any employee’s right to raise legitimate workplace issues. We know it takes bravery to call out problems. And we pledge to openly and honestly address problems brought to us. We moved quickly to show our intolerance for a sexist re-tweet sent by an employee last Friday.”

While a number of Post journalists turned to Twitter to praise the paper, one I spoke to was less than impressed with Buzbee’s memo, as it not only felt like a read-out of preexisting social media policies but also failed to explain the inconsistency—why Weigel had been suspended but not Sonmez or Del Real, both of whom had arguably violated the nondisparagement rule she cited in the email.

And it was immediately clear that Buzbee’s email had no effect on Sonmez, who hours later was not only still going at Del Real but also deploying Buzbee’s own language to do so. “So I hear The Washington Post is a collegial workplace,” she said, with a screenshot showing Del Real had blocked her. Followed by: “These tweets falsely accusing me of ‘clout chasing,’ ‘bullying,’ ‘cruelty’ and directing an ‘eager mob’ to carry out ‘a barrage of online abuse’ are still up … even after I repeatedly raised them to management and noted that I’ve been receiving threats and abuse. Collegial!” To which Lisa Rein, another reporter at the Post, responded, “Please stop.”

Buzbee’s memo raises questions about whether additional Post staffers may be disciplined. Addressing the overall situation in recent days, the Post’s communications chief, Kris Coratti, told me Wednesday: “While we have not commented publicly, this is being addressed directly with the individuals involved.”

Sonmez has a history of taking the paper to task. Last year she sued the Post and some of its highest-ranking newsroom members for temporarily preventing her from covering sexual-misconduct stories after she publicly identified herself as a sexual assault victim; the case was later dismissed. Lorenz was also known for mixing it up on social media prior to the Post scooping her away from the Times earlier this year.

But the two Twitter-fueled controversies playing out simultaneously emphasize the extent to which social media policy, or lack thereof, has become a headache for the Post. The paper has barely updated its social media guidelines since they were issued more than a decade ago, despite management acknowledging the need to do so. Meanwhile, the flurry of tweets and Slack messages, as well as staff assurances and apologies, suggests there isn’t an effective channel for raising concerns about inappropriate behavior at the Post, or at least not one staff are utilizing.

Here’s how things played out: On Friday afternoon, Sonmez called Weigel out for his tweet, first in an internal Slack channel and then, two minutes later, on Twitter. Within 90 minutes, Weigel had apologized and taken down the tweet, and National editor Matea Gold (who replaced Steven Ginsberg, whom Sonmez named as a defendant in her suit) had, in the same Slack channel, put out a note to “assure all of you that The Post is committed to maintaining a respectful workplace for everyone” and “we do not tolerate demeaning language or actions.” 

Twenty-four hours later, Sonmez was still tweeting about a lack of accountability. “​​Imagining a world where news organizations evenly enforce their social media policies, rather than allowing certain reporters to feel entitled to tweet racist/sexist things without fear of repercussions, thus turning their colleagues into targets of online hate when they object,” she wrote. Minutes later, Del Real got involved. “Dave’s retweet is terrible and unacceptable. But rallying the internet to attack him for a mistake he made doesn’t actually solve anything. We all mess up in some way or another.” Buzbee on Sunday morning sent a memo to staff that said, without mentioning Sonmez or Del Real by name, to be respectful and to bring issues to H.R. or leadership—a response that one reporter called “meaningless,” and that Sonmez said on Twitter “provide[d] fodder for *more* harassment.”

Come Monday morning, some staffers were waiting to see if there’d be a firmer message from leadership. Meanwhile, another staffer, video technician Breanna Muir, who three months ago was misidentified on Twitter as Breonna Taylor by a colleague (who publicly and privately apologized for the error), had replied-all to Buzbee’s Sunday memo. Her note to the entire newsroom included a screenshot of that tweet, as well as one of Weigel’s retweet, and praised Sonmez “for speaking out against harassment, discrimination and sexism.” Meanwhile, Sonmez was still tweeting. Hours later, news of Weigel’s punishment broke. The reaction was mixed among journalists. Some praised Sonmez for demanding accountability. Others felt like the Post caved to pressure or, at the very least, overreacted in the heat of the moment. “The paper has put optics and politics before ethics and fairness,” tweeted New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi.

The Post’s guild responded Tuesday to the disputes playing out online. “Guild leadership has tried hard to run our union in a way that centers kindness, respect, fairness, and empathy while holding people and institutions we care about accountable. It’s our hope that all Washington Post employees keep that in mind when one of us makes a mistake and we are tasked with being part of the accountability process,” Katie Mettler, who has been cochair of the Post Guild for more than three years, told me. “In the last few years, hundreds of guild members—often led by women and people of color—have worked relentlessly and thoughtfully together to advocate for more fair and inclusive systems at the Post.” She added, “We are doing the work to hold all our institutions and ourselves to a high standard, and we will keep doing that work in ways big and small, public and private.”

In the past, Sonmez has had widespread support in the newsroom; hundreds of colleagues signed a letter on her behalf in 2020, after Baron suspended her for tweeting an article detailing a rape allegation against NBA legend Kobe Bryant shortly after his death. (A “newsroom revolt” is how this publication described it at the time.) Soon after the paper’s guild sent that letter to management, she was reinstated. But since then, there have been multiple instances of Sonmez calling out the paper publicly—and she has done so internally in response to a staff email as well.

About two weeks ago, Gold, the National editor, sent out an email urging colleagues to “take time to assess how you are doing” and “seek help if you need to talk to someone” in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde and the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. “Just a reminder that I was punished after I told an editor that I had to take a walk around the block after reading a difficult story,” Sonmez replied—to the entire National staff—according to emails reviewed by Vanity Fair. One reporter noted that Sonmez has said both publicly and privately that she’s still at the Post because she wants to help fix things. “Discouraging reporters at the Post from seeking help they need—that’s actively being part of the problem,” they told me. “This idea that she’s fighting for sexism and gender, while that might have felt true at some point, now just rings disingenuous, even for people who want to give her the benefit of the doubt.” 

The thrust of Sonmez’s critique over the past few days has been about how the Post holds different journalists to different standards, and what message that sends about the Post’s values. Sonmez tweeted Sunday that Del Real had “publicly attacked” her for highlighting Weigel’s sexist retweet, writing, “When women stand up for themselves, some people respond with even more vitriol.” In another tweet in the thread, she dismissed the idea that objecting to sexism was “clout chasing”—Del Real’s words—and tagged Buzbee and Gold to ask if the paper agreed with her. On Monday and Tuesday, she was once again urging management, via Twitter, to intervene. 

“Working at a huge news organization—the Post, The New York Times, CNN—is like living in a big city where there are always emergencies,” one staffer said. An embarrassing correction for the Styles desk might be a fire; a story the Times beats the Post on, a flood. “As a colleague, you probably should be trying to help fund the fire department or city services and make it a better place to live; at worst, you’re not paying your taxes,” they continued. “And then you have Felicia, who is essentially pouring gasoline on every fire and inviting people to watch.”

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Company set to buy Trump’s social media app faces subpoenas – Global News



The company planning to buy Donald Trump’s new social media business has disclosed a federal grand jury investigation that it says could impede or even prevent its acquisition of the Truth Social app.

Shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. dropped 10% in morning trading Monday as the company revealed that it has received subpoenas from a grand jury in New York.

Read more:

Jan. 6 committee hears of Trump’s pressure on Justice Department over election

The Justice Department subpoenas follow an ongoing probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Digital World broke rules by having substantial talks about buying Trump’s company starting early last year before Digital World sold stock to the public for the first time in September, just weeks before its announcement that it would be buying Trump’s company.

Trump’s social media venture launched in February as he seeks a new digital stage to rally his supporters and fight Big Tech limits on speech, a year after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The Trump Media & Technology Group – which operates the Truth Social app and was in the process of being acquired by Digital World – said in a statement that it will cooperate with “oversight that supports the SEC’s important mission of protecting retail investors.”

The new probe could make it more difficult for Trump to finance his social media company. The company last year got promises from dozens of investors to pump $1 billion into the company, but it can’t get the cash until the Digital World acquisition is completed.

Stock in Digital World rocketed to more than $100 in October after its deal to buy Trump’s company was announced. The stock traded at just around $25 in morning trading Monday.

Digital World is a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, part of an investing phenomenon that exploded in popularity over the past two years.

Click to play video: 'U.S. Capitol siege hearings focus on Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn 2020 election'

U.S. Capitol siege hearings focus on Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn 2020 election

U.S. Capitol siege hearings focus on Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn 2020 election

Such “blank-check” companies are empty corporate entities with no operations, only offering investors the promise they will buy a business in the future. As such they are allowed to sell stock to the public quickly without the usual regulatory disclosures and delays, but only if they haven’t already lined up possible acquisition targets.

Digital World said in a regulatory filing Monday that each member of its board of directors has been subpoenaed by the grand jury in the Southern District of New York. Both the grand jury and the SEC are also seeking a number of documents tied to the company and others including a sponsor, ARC Global Investments, and Miami-based venture capital firm Rocket One Capital.

Some of the sought documents involve “due diligence” regarding Trump Media and other potential acquisition targets, as well as communications with Digital World’s underwriter and financial adviser in its initial public offering, according to the SEC disclosure.

Digital World also Monday announced the resignation of one of its board members, Bruce Garelick, a chief strategy officer at Rocket One.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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GUNTER: Coun. Michael Janz doesn't need a social media censor – Edmonton Sun



Janz should not be investigated by the city’s integrity commissioner, or as I would recommend renaming the position, the city’s social media censor.

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It should be obvious I’m not a big fan of Michael “Mosquito Mike” Janz, the city councillor most responsible for ending the city’s mosquito-spraying program. The flying pests are noticeably worse this summer; I’ve got the bites to prove it.

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Thanks, Mosquito Mike.

In general, I don’t care for Janz’s politics and especially his anti-police harangues. Check out his Twitter feed. He complains about police about once a month, sometimes even more often.

He accuses them of race and class double standards. He thinks they slough off investigations of alleged crimes against lower-income Edmontonians and routinely mislead the public to cover their own misdeeds.

I find it particularly detestable that he is alleged recently to have retweeted a post from a Calgary account referring to police as “pigs.”

(Calling the police “pigs” is not only detestable, but laughably archaic, too. Hey, Councillor, the late ’60s called. They want their tie-dyed shirt and peace medallion back. Groovy, man.)

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Yet, so long as Janz must account to his voters, he should be free to tweet and retweet as he sees fit. The relationship is between the electors and their elected representative. If they disapprove of his online behaviour, they can vote him out of office.

Janz should not be investigated by the city’s integrity commissioner, or as I would recommend renaming the position, the city’s social media censor.

It should be up to the voters who elected Janz to punish him, if they so desire, not some appointed adjudicator who doesn’t answer to voters directly.

A complaint has been filed with the integrity commissioner, Jamie Pytel, by sometimes local Liberal candidate, Thomas Deak. In the complaint, Deak says Janz retweeted the following post, “So this week a co-worker got a $409 ticket for failing to stop his bike at a stop sign. It was 7 a.m. in a residential area, the roads were empty, except for the pig hiding in the bushes.”

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Get outraged. Compose an email to the Sun. Post your own tweet condemning Mosquito Mike for his retweeting of juvenile, anti-police name-calling.

But don’t go running to the censor asking her to clap Janz in irons just because you find his opinion (in this case his second-hand opinion) infuriating. Grow up. This is a democracy. We get to have opinions, even unpleasant ones, so long as we respect the right of others to opinions we vehemently disagree with.

Remember, that any government tool that can be used to hush-up your opponents will almost most certainly be turned on you one day, too.

I find it hilarious that Janz, in his own defence, insists there is a plot to “erroneously paint me as some sort of anti-police radical.” Nothing “could be further from the truth.”

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Apparently, in his own mind, Janz is a big fan of police.

But remember, Janz was recently also hauled before the integrity commish for tweeting, liking or retweeting nearly two dozen anti-police posts near the end of last year.

Hmm, he certainly has an odd way of showing his love and respect for the Edmonton Police Service.

Own it, councillor. You don’t like the cops much.

But that is his right. He gets to have a seat on council and hold juvenile, archaic, anti-police opinions until the voters in his ward tire of his schtick and punt him from office.

Even after that, he still gets to hold his objectionable views, he just can’t do it as a councillor anymore.

In his run-in with Pytel earlier this year, Janz was not sanctioned by Edmonton’s in-house play-nice-children scold.

And he shouldn’t have been, just as he shouldn’t be reprimanded now.

The whole integrity commissioner ideal just gets in the way of democracy.

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Omnicom Media Group Heads Home from Cannes with 39 Lions, the Media Network Crown, a New Global Consultancy and a Big Lead in Connected Commerce – Canada NewsWire



OMG’s OMD Worldwide Named Media Network of the Year

NEW YORK, June 27, 2022 /CNW/ — With a combination of accolades and headline-making announcements, Omnicom Media Group (OMG), the media services division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) was a dominant presence at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

On the accolades front, OMG agencies earned a total of 39 Lions and its OMD agency, the largest global media network by billings, was named Media Network of the Year. This marks the second consecutive year that an OMG agency took the Network of the Year title, which was awarded to PHD in 2021. 

Concurrent with its performance in the competition, OMG earned headlines each day of the festival, announcing a series of first-mover collaborations with retail media networks, as well as the global expansion of its TRKKNanalytics and ad consultancy that is one of the largest Google Marketing Platform (GMP) partners in Europe.

OMG’s Lions’ Share
The 39 Lions earned by OMG agencies – 7 Gold, 13 Silver and 19 Bronze – encompassed work from APAC, EMEA, North America and LATAM, spanning the automotive, CPG, Beverage Technology and Travel sectors; and including competition categories that reflect a wide range of both established and emerging priorities for clients – from data-driven targeting and insights to integrated media to corporate purpose and responsibility.

A strong global footprint was also evident in OMD’s Media Network of the Year award, with work from Portugal, France and Australia helping fuel the agency’s win.

“Being named Media Network of the Year is especially meaningful coming at a time when brands are re-evaluating their business, marketing and technology operations to better address new realities – both economic and cultural,” said George Manas, CEO, OMD Worldwide. “They need a trusted partner in transformation – and this recognition helps confirm that OMD is that partner.”

Taking the Lead in Connected Commerce
During the Cannes festival OMG announced four first-mover strategic partnerships with retail media networks, beginning Monday, June 20, with Walmart Connect announcing their first-ever agency holding company partnership with Omnicom. The agreement will enable cross-screen planning against Walmart audiences in Omni – Omnicom’s open operating system which orchestrates better outcomes for clients across the entire consumer purchasing journey – allowing Omnicom’s agencies to deliver connected experiences across media and commerce platforms with-in owned, earned, and paid environments.

Over the next three days, OMG also revealed details of its partnership with Instacart, that will help Omnicom clients better understand how media spend drives purchase of products on that platform; how Amazon is supporting OMG’s eCommerce training and certification programs; and its collaboration with Kroger Precision Marketing that will allow planners to optimize in-market retail media, utilizing shopper behavior data to shift spend based on product availability, and still have the flexibility to optimize media while maintaining national consumer demand.

Describing the collective impact of the announcements, Omnicom eCommerce CEO Frank Kochenash said, “With each collaboration, we are adding another layer of unique capabilities to a connected commerce offering that encompasses the totality of client investment across all media channels, screens and environments.”

A Global Expansion for the Cookieless World
OMG wrapped the industry’s most global of events with news of a global expansion, announcing on the last day of the festival that it is expanding TRKKN- its digital analytics ad technology and cloud consultancy that is one of the largest Google Marketing Platform sales partners across the European market – to APAC, the Middle East and North America. The expansion will assure global best practices that enable GMP & GCP efficiency and effectiveness, while also giving OMG greater flexibility to help in-housed media operations manage their Google marketing and cloud stacks to drive better business results in the cookieless future.

Summing up the desired takeaway from OMG’s high profile throughout Cannes 2022, OMG global CEO Florian Adamski says, “People were coming to Cannes this year looking for more than the big parties – they wanted big ideas and big actions that will help them solve the big challenges that we as an industry are all facing: privacy, connected commerce, measurement, the cookieless future, talent. Through the work we submitted, the partnerships we announced, the capabilities we’re expanding, and the close to 20 thought-leader forums we hosted over the week with clients and partners, I think the net takeaway for marketers is obvious: OMG is meeting these challenges- and we can help you meet them, too.”

About Omnicom Media Group
Omnicom Media Group (OMG) is the media services division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC), a leading global marketing and corporate communications company, providing services to more than 5,000 clients in more than 70 countries. Omnicom Media Group  includes full- service media agencies OMDPHD and Hearts & Science as well as the Annalect data and analytics division that developed and manages Omni, the open architecture operating system underpinning all Omnicom agencies.

SOURCE Omnicom Media Group

For further information: Isabelle Gauvry, +1-917-435-6457, [email protected]

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