Politico pulls reporter from Akin beat


Todd Akin, beneficiary of experimental tweets from Politico reporter. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

Catanese was among the few to attempt a defense of Akin, who made a stream of boneheaded and plain wrong statements about rape, pregnancy and female biology to a St. Louis TV station.

For the sake of “argument,” Catanese tried to see the controversy from Akin’s side, writing, “We all know what he was trying to say.”

A genuine Twitter beatdown then materialized.

Here’s the memo in response from Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris and Executive Editor Jim VandeHei:

From: John Harris

Sent: Mon 8/20/2012 5:33 PM

To: TP-Edit

Subject: Twitter

We have had newsroom conversations about the importance of good judgment on social platforms like Twitter and the perils of letting that slip.

Unfortunately, today offered a good example. David Catanese crossed a line a reporter shouldn’t cross on Twitter when he seemed to weigh in on the merits of Todd Akin’s comments — especially in a way many people, including many POLITICO colleagues, understandably found offensive.

Dave’s tweets on Akin created a distraction to his own work, and to the newsroom as a whole. They also made himself part of the story, requiring us for now to remove him from Akin coverage.

Today’s episode is a reminder that we need to be paying more attention to the ongoing issue of the right way for POLITICO journalists to be using social media. We have raised this issue before, and if you have questions about how this applies to your own work please speak with your direct editor.

John

Jim

[UPDATED at 7:53 p.m.]

Analysis: Expect some static on Twitter and elsewhere slighting Politico for a double standard: That is, why does it suspend and then part ways with former White House correspondent Joe Williams, yet only tweak the beat assignment of Catanese?

Such chatter, in fact, is already available:

So, basically, Politico, Joe Williams is fired for telling the truth, and Dave Catanese gets a pass for being a despicable dumbass? OK then.

— Cymbeline (@Cymbeline3) August 20, 2012

So, will Dave Catanese, Politico Reporter who is defending the Akin rape comments suffer same fate as Joe Williams? @morning_joe @politico

— laynie(@laynier) August 20, 2012

Williams states a fact: Romney is comfortable around white people. Fired! Catanese tweets rape apologia & bad science. *crickets* @politico

— Anika (@faboomama) August 20, 2012

So there’s the allegation: A double standard prevails at Politico. A fun story line, if only all the facts were at hand to support it. They’re not.

Williams, during the spring, had been tweeting out some stuff that drew the notice of his supervisors at Politico. The tweets suggested a political tilt on his part. He did a penis joke aimed at Mitt Romney and hammered Republican views on voter fraud, among other thoughts. As first reported on this blog, Williams got a talking-to regarding the tweets. Cool it, came the message from Politico leadership. Okay, responded Williams.

Weeks after that episode, Williams appeared again on the radar of Politico brass, when he appeared on MSNBC and suggested that Romney didn’t felt comfy only in the presence of white people. Suspension time! Not long thereafter, Williams was out the door.

That sequence of events speaks well for Politico’s move on Catanese, at least in terms of disciplinary consistency. When Politico saw an issue with Williams’s tweets back in May, they reprimanded him; when Politico saw an issue with Catanese’s tweets, they reprimanded him and adjusted his responsibilities.

The brushback from Politico bosses has the feel of appropriateness. An all-staff memo starring Catanese has gone out to the world; he has to face his colleagues, knowing how much embarrassment he has caused; he has to somehow navigate around one of the best stories of the political season. And Twitter won’t let him forget it, either. Every tweet the guy produces post-Akin-experiment surely produces an ounce or two of viscous sweat. Catanese has got to be an apocrine mess at this point.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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