Washington Times Editor-in-Chief Wesley Pruden has issued a memo entitled “NEWSROOM POLICY ON ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING” (i.e. websites). Long story short: The memo says, if you’re going to write for blogs, external websites, etc., get permission from your senior editors first.

What prompted this move? And why now? Here are some potential reasons that may have caught the attention of the higher-ups at WashTimes HQ:

  • Times reporter Audrey Hudson responded to accusations lodged by MediaMatters.org on her own personal blog (which has since been taken down).

  • Reporter Robert Redding Jr. has his own website here.

Plenty of reporters around town have their own blogs. But most have run that fact by their editors first. Further, newspapers–the smart ones at least–provide their reporters with opportunities to blog through the newspaper’s website. So, in the Times’ case, the real question is: Is the Times’ newsroom atmosphere such that reporters feel compelled to try to communicate through other venues?

Consider the case of Redding. Redding, an African-American, edits and publishes the website “Redding News Review: Black News,” which aims to bring “attention to minority issues ignored or buried by mainstream media.” On December 14, Redding wrote about protests held outside Times headquarters by Ethiopians upset about “a forum on the democratization of their country being held at The Washington Times newspaper’s headquarters.”

Why did Redding write about this? Simple: Because his own newspaper didn’t. One can argue whether the Times should have reported this story taking place right outside their front door. Still, when reporters are taking to the Internet to report on stories that their own paper won’t, a reexamination of newsroom culture and communication lines might be in order.

> The WT’s ME denies any link between the policy and Media Matters.

> In his washingtonpost.com chat, Jay Rosen makes an interesting point (albeit on a totally unrelated subject) that the folks at the Times might want to heed if they’re hoping that their new memo will keep everybody in line:

    My take is that a newspaper that argues with itself, and with the bloggers (who have arguments) is ultimately better off than one where no such disruptions are permitted by the priests in charge.