Peggy Noonan (WSJ) on Why Marty Baron (WPo) Was Right to Suspend Post Reporter

From a column by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal:

Here is something small but big that happened this week and speaks of a generation gap within journalism. I write from the perspective of having worked the overnight shift at CBS News when I started out, choosing stories off the wires to lead hourly newscasts. I was young, and I sometimes got it wrong in terms of news judgment.

Last Sunday, when Kobe Bryant died, when word was just spreading, a political reporter for the Washington Post tweeted a link to a Daily Beast report from 2016 detailing a charge of sexual assault against Bryant. The 2003 case was settled out of court; it looked ugly and seemed believable in the broad outlines. The Post reporter apparently wanted people to remember that Bryant’s was not a blameless life and that the abuse of women is real.

The internet erupted and the reporter said she received death threats. The editor of the paper (hello boomer) emailed her that she was damaging the Post and should take her tweet down. She was put on paid suspension. Hundreds of Post staffers signed a letter protesting her punishment for merely tweeting out a news story. She was reinstated. . . .

But the point: The wreckage was still smoking. People were absorbing. And, as Americans used to say, “There is a time and a place.” That is not the moment to send out on social media, from an account that includes the great name of your journalistic institution, your reminder of perhaps the worst thing Kobe Bryant did in his life. . . .

All this is connected to something larger, a more difficult question we have trouble getting right in the age of causes. It is that you can’t judge somebody’s life by the worst thing he ever did. The worst thing he ever did is part of the story but it’s not “the story.” It’s too strict a standard, it’s not realistic, and though it pretends to be unblinking, it is really unknowing. A life, even a small one, is a big, dense, effortful thing, a real drama that can’t always be easily resolved.
A note: Nowhere in the column does Noonan name the Post reporter.

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