The Mirror

WaPo Relishes Wesley Lowery’s ‘Digital Relentlessness’

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger

The Washington Post is handing Wesley Lowery a hand grenade of a new beat: the interactions between law enforcement and their community.

No joke. Have they lost their minds?

It’s not as if Lowery is biased or anything. He just spent the last several months covering Ferguson from the perspective of an activist and involved himself in the story as much as humanly possible. Even reporters within his own establishment are growing increasingly uncomfortable with his behavior on social media in which he accuses other journalists of being racist, blasts Politico as a place where black employees won’t be comfortable, and rants at MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to actually get to Ferguson.

Scarborough had the audacity to wonder why Lowery didn’t just “move along” at the McDonald’s when police asked him to do so, as a riot erupted outside. So Lowery, 24, went on CNN’s “New Day” and pummeled him.

“Well, I would invite Joe Scarborough to come down to Ferguson and get out of 30 Rock where he’s sitting sipping his Starbucks smugly,” he said. “I invite him to come down here and talk to residents of Ferguson where I have been Monday afternoon having tear gas shot at me, rubber bullets shot at me, having mothers, daughter, a 19-year-old boy, crying, running to pull his 21-year-old sister out from a cloud of tear gas thinking she would die. I would invite Joe Scarborough down here to do some reporting on the ground, and then maybe we can have an educated conversation about what’s happening down here.”

And now WaPo is pushing him head first into a beat that has him fighting bitterly on Twitter 24/7?

Let’s remember this is the same guy who went on Twitter and trashed Politico for not having enough black people in their newsroom as WaPo faces a contentious age and racial discrimination lawsuit. Wesley sure will discuss the former but not the latter.

At the end of 2014, he announced that he was abandoning Twitter for a saner medium: Tumblr. But by the last week of January, that experiment, or whatever it was, was over and he was tweeting in full swing trash talking Politico.

I’m just going to get this out of the way here and now. Some observers, including Lowery, Bloomberg PoliticsDave Weigel and Weigel’s good buddy Anthony Weiner, are apparently appalled that I wrote a story about Lowery’s race and an incident in which Maryland State police pulled him over and suspended his license last October. (Some context: During a bizarre Twitter fight Weiner started with me this week after I reported that he said the New York Post “makes stuff up,” Weigel sent him my story as a form of oppo research. Good muckraking Weigel!) The news of Lowery’s license suspension was first reported by GotNewsCharles Johnson, one of Lowery’s arch online rivals.

I referenced a police report that reeled off a number of races to describe Lowery — none of which were black. I called the District Court of Maryland to ask how police decipher race when they stop someone. They told me it was the officer’s discretion that is sometimes based on a person’s driver’s license. I asked Lowery about it and he refused to comment. Lowery has addressed the matter of his own race on Twitter, saying his mother and grandmother are white. He discusses race and makes accusations about it any chance he gets.

But let’s get this straight — the reporter who writes about race, who heavily takes sides in racial coverage and who fights about it on social media won’t discuss his own race?

The headline was bold — that’s a given. But God forbid you ask the race reporter about race — which was really my only point there — that’s incomprehensible. My post was in no way intended to demean whatever race he is, whatever police think he is and whatever race with which he most identifies.

This is a reporter who you can’t even describe as “angry” because if you do, he’ll insinuate that you’re calling him “uppity” — which is not a word I’ve ever used to describe him or any black person.

But forget about all that. Let’s congratulate Wesley on his new beat.

The WaPo announcement states: “Wes Lowery is pioneering a new beat focused on a national issue of critical importance: the interactions between law enforcement officials and their communities.”

They go on to discuss Lowery’s “digital relentlessness.” Sure, accusing people of racism is one way to be relentless. So is injecting yourself into the story. And “most recognizable?” Even WaPo can’t be dim enough to get that making yourself the story and pushing narratives will get a reporter some attention.

“Wes’s new beat arises from the reporting skill and digital relentlessness he displayed in covering Ferguson, where he established himself as one of the country’s most recognizable journalists covering the ensuing unrest and its causes,” says the statement posted on WaPo’s website. “We’re eager to have him delve deeply into the reasons behind the tensions that exist between minority communities and police. He’ll also focus on a digital project developed in concert with Local about which we’ll have more to say later.”

A D.C. reporter told me, “Surely every story [Wesley] reports won’t in some way uncover that the ‘reasons behind the tensions’ are race related.”

Wesley was rather happy about the news.

On Twitter, he started off his new beat by linking to the WaPo announcement — and gloating.

“Shot: is WaPo getting tired of me?!?! Chaser: WaPo promotes me.”