06 April 2021

The Washington Post Sounds Like a Horrible Place to Work


You may, or may not, recall that when Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez retweeted an old story from The Daily Beast detailing the (VERY credible) allegations that had been lodged against the Basketball player in the past.

In response to this, the paper suspended her, and did not give her any assistance in responding to the (literally) thousands of death threats against her.

She was reinstated when outrage from the newsroom became such that the Post editors were forced to reinstate her and provide her security.

Because of her status as a survivor of sexual assault, the Post forbade her from covering any stories that touched on this issue, a prohibition that stands to this day, which means, for example, when accused rapist, and ex-Governor, Eric Greitens announced his run for Senate a few weeks back she was not allowed to cover this.

It should be noted, as in the attached tweet, that this is in violation of DC employment law, and it's not a good look for the Washington Post

The problem is that under then Editor-in-Chief Marty Barron and now, journalistic objectivity is defined at 1301 K Street NW as, "What would an upper-middle class white man think."

It was supposed to be an upbeat town hall to rally the newsroom, as Washington Post leaders highlighted their moves to defend reporter Seung Min Kim from internet trolls. But sources tell us the March 16 Zoom meeting with hundreds of staffers went off the rails briefly when Felicia Sonmez, a breaking news reporter who has spoken openly about her experience as a sexual assault survivor, typed a pointed comment in the chat box: “I wish editors had publicly supported me in the same way.”

Sonmez was referring to an incident that occurred the day Kobe BryantT died in January 2020. Former top editor Marty Baron and upper management suspended Sonmez for tweeting a reminder that the basketball legend being showered in praise had also been accused of raping a woman. The Post retracted the suspension after more than 300 reporters signed a letter demanding her reinstatement. It also sent physical protection for Sonmez, who had to leave her house after her Bryant missive went viral and she received death threats.


She didn’t stop there. Sonmez also publicized that she is barred from writing about anything related to sexual misconduct or #MeToo. According to several people familiar with the decision, the prohibition began around the time that sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against Supreme Court Justice Brett KAavanaugh, and continued recently with news about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) acknowledging she is a survivor of assault as well as the harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Last Monday, Sonmez had to take herself off a story about former Missouri Gov. Eric GreitensS running for Senate, according to comments she made in an internal newsroom Slack channel. (Greitens resigned as governor following allegations that he sexually assaulted and blackmailed a woman.) That came just days after the staff meeting, when a fellow reporter followed up on Sonmez’s comment in the Zoom chat and demanded to know why Post leadership defended some reporters but not her. (Acting Executive Editor Cameron Barr, we are told, said the meeting was not the appropriate venue to address the matter.)


Sonmez declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the Post. But the Post reporters I spoke with about this recently questioned the fairness of the ban. Every reporter has internal biases, they said; part of the job is checking them at the door. One said Sonmez has become something of an advocate for sexual assault victims, making management uncomfortable with her writing on this topic. But even that person said a blanket prohibition is overkill.

It's white male privilege, and it stinks on ice.


“I believe it’s important for you to know that The Post’s decision on this matter has had negative repercussions for me personally in the past,” she wrote. “[I]t’s the tortured explanations I have to give whenever there is breaking news on this topic and I’m not allowed to cover it.”

Sonmez was responding to being informed by Ginsberg earlier that day that the Post would maintain its prohibition on her writing about sexual assault or harassment. His deputy, Peter Wallsten, followed up soon after, acknowledging that while the policy may cause her “emotional distress,” the newspaper stood by the arrangement: “I’m really sorry you are unhappy with the parameters of your assignment … But it is up to The Post to determine coverage assignments and I do not anticipate yours changing anytime soon.”

In addition to being a truly sh%$ty way to treat an employee, this is, as noted above, illegal.


I just did a quick Google, and when this sh%$ blew up again, the WaPo FINALLY reversed the restrictions on Sonmez's reporting.

Doesn't make them look any better, because it's clear that they are only doing so because they were forced to do the right thing.


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