Report: Newsrooms Warn Journalists to Keep Abortion Views Private

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It appears that newsroom managers have warned reporters against voicing their personal views on abortion as the Supreme Court potentially stands on the cusp of overturning Roe v. Wade.

According to a recent Vanity Fair report, certain news outlets have taken a markedly different tone than the one they employed during the Black Lives Matter protests over the death of George Floyd. For instance, during the height of the protests/riots of 2020, Axios chief executive Jim VandeHei told employees in a company-wide memo that they were encouraged to exercise their “rights to free speech, press, and protest.” In recent days, however, the company has been singing a different tune to its employees. Earlier this week, a memo circulated among the Axios staff urged journalists to keep their opinions secret.

“Abortion is a human rights issue that has become a highly politicized topic, with very specific policies being debated in Washington and in most states,” wrote VandeHei. “So it seems impossible to march—or tweet opinions—and not be perceived as picking a political side in public.”

VandeHei warned that such activism “could undermine our trusted journalism.”

An Axios spokesperson told Vanity Fair said that the policy stands in line with the company’s mission statement.

“We have been consistent and clear since Axios’s inception: we want our company focused on reporting and fact-based news, not opinion. We know this is hard for staff when they feel their values or identity are under attack, but this is our shared mission,” said the spokesperson.

Reporters with the Associated Press and NPR were also issued a similar memo, according to Poynter.

Journalists have since taken to Twitter to voice their discontent.

“As we speak, journalists who expressed their anger and distress on Twitter over their bodily autonomy and rights being taken away are now getting reprimanded for it,” said Jess Joho of Mashable. “Please, explain to me: exactly whose version of ‘objectivitie truth’ are we supposed to stick to here?”


Though the New York Times has issued no memo on the matter, the outlet directed Vanity Fair to its ethical journalism guidelines, which says staff members “may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements” or do things such as “sign ads taking a position on public issues” that may “reasonably raise doubts about their ability or The Times’s ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news.”

Only Rolling Stone (not exactly a bastion of objectivity) told employees that they were welcome to share their beliefs on the issue.

“Unlike so many other newsrooms, you don’t have to stifle your beliefs around here. This is a place where we can champion our convictions, where we can be our fullest selves,” Rolling Stone top editor Noah Shachtman told staff in a Slack message last Tuesday.

 “Of course, we have to maintain the highest standards of accuracy and authenticity in our reporting; we can’t take shortcuts, or substitute opinions for facts. But this is a multi-pronged offensive against our rights and we need to be frank with our readers about what’s at stake—no euphemisms, no sugar-coating,” he added.


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