The Mirror

WaPo Pronoun Police Officer Stomps On Paper’s Ethics Rules

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Washington Post reporter Caitlin Dewey resorted to LGBTQ agitprop last week when she unleashed a bot to trash anyone who used a male pronoun for the Olympic gold-medalist now identifying as a woman, despite still being perfectly capable of peeing while standing up.

So perhaps it makes a certain amount of perverse sense that Dewey’s bot designed to weed out “gender misidentification” did not identify its creator as a reporter. She certainly was not acting like one.

The WaPo standards guide tells reporters to never assume false identities. Journos are instructed that when “gathering news, reporters will not misrepresent their identity. They will not identify themselves as police officers, physicians or anything other than journalists.”

The policy was updated in 2009 to include social media.

“When using social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, My Space or Twitter for reporting, we must protect our professional integrity. Washington Post journalists should identify themselves as such. We must be accurate in our reporting and transparent about our intentions when participating. We must be concise yet clear when describing who we are and what information we seek.”

Dewey’s bot stunt clearly did the exact opposite of what the paper demands of reporters who troll for stories online.

Maybe in her zeal to head off “misgendering” Dewey could be forgiven for not identifying herself as a reporter. After all, it was such an awesome story: not every person in the entire country uses the pronoun for Jenner that Dewey and her fellow political activists demand.

Just look at the simpletons, bigots and ignoramuses out there!

But editors are supposed to keep the news section straight — pardon the heteronormative language. And newspapers are not supposed to trick readers.

Yet there was virtual radio silence at the paper about Dewey’s, uh, transgressions.

WaPo deputy national editor Scott Wilson forwarded an email request for comment to Dewey’s editors, Liz Seymour and David Malitz.

All three Posties then did a disappearing act.

WaPo national editor Cameron Barr, who previously flouted the paper’s standards by ignoring a sexual harassment scandal at the Family Research Council that was extensively covered elsewhere, did not respond to inquiries.

Erik Wemple, whose rarely reported WaPo media blog regularly impugns the ethics of everyone else, but rarely, if ever, criticizes his own paper, also kept his trap shut. My request for comment went unanswered. A June 3 email I sent reads as follows:

“How do you feel about this reporter not identifying herself as a reporter? And can you finally be man enough to stay on the phone with me? I will donate $100 to your wife’s legal defense fund for every minute you can stay on the phone about this or anything concerning the Washington Post.”

But Ed Wasserman, dean of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, told The Mirror that “people have a right to know when they’re speaking (or reacting online) for media publication.”

Dewey’s subterfuge clearly stacked the deck, he explained, because “brushing away an annoying criticism online may be something you might well avoid if [you know] it is going to be spotlighted in the Washington Post.”