After widespread outcry, including from staffers in its own newsroom, Washington Post editors reinstated a reporter they suspended over tweets she sent following Kobe Bryant’s death.
Editors put national political reporter Felicia Sonmez on leave after she tweeted, then deleted, a Daily Beast story that reported on sexual assault allegations against Bryant. WaPo leaders said the tweets were in “poor judgment” and suspended her as they assessed whether she violated the newsroom’s social media policy. The tweet itself attracted an onslaught of online threats against Sonmez.
The Post didn’t respond to a request for comment about which specific social media policy was potentially violated.
Since the suspension, Sonmez has seen support from more than 300 of her colleagues, who signed a statement from the union urging the publication to reinstate her.
“Felicia did nothing more than what The Post’s own news stories have done when she shared an article about the past allegation against Bryant,” the union wrote in the statement.
The Post reinstated Sonmez late today after an internal review found the tweets were “ill-timed” but not in clear violation of the social media policies.
“Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states, ‘We must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.’ We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths,” said Tracy Grant, WaPo’s managing editor, in a statement.
“We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter,” she added.
On Tuesday evening, Sonmez reacted to the decision and called for The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, to speak directly about the decision making. “I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will not only prioritize their employees’ safety in the face of threats of physical harm but also ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth,” Sonmez tweeted.