New York Times Fires Editor Accused of Leaving Profane Voicemails

From a Washington Post story by Jeremy Barr headlined “New York Times fires ‘Wirecutter’ editor accused of leaving profane voicemails for gun rights group”:

The New York Times has fired an editor for Wirecutter, its popular product recommendation service, who was accused of leaving profane voice mails for a gun rights advocacy group….

The editor, Erin Marquis, had joined Wirecutter in July as lead editor for a section of the reviews site.

On Dec. 2, two days after a high school student shot and killed four classmates in Michigan, Marquis posted a message on Twitter criticizing a group called Great Lakes Gun Rights for urging supporters to oppose gun control legislation proposed in the aftermath of the shooting.

“Just got a news release from the Great Lakes Gun Rights organization about protecting gun rights from democrats in Michigan and I am literally shaking with rage,” wrote Marquis, who has since deleted her Twitter account following online criticism that she had violated journalism standards by promoting a political viewpoint. “I hope there is a God and they meet that God someday.” She also tweeted out a phone number and email address for the group, which is the Michigan state affiliate of the National Association for Gun Rights.

The national organization reacted by publishing an audio recording that it said contains voice-mail messages that Marquis had left at its offices, expressing her anger at the group. In the messages, which could not be independently verified as coming from Marquis, the speaker identifies herself as “a journalist at the New York Times” and asks: “How do you sleep at night? And aren’t you just, like, a little bit worried that there might be a hell, and when you meet God, he will send you there?” The speaker then says she is “letting everyone at the New York Times know” what she thinks of the organization.

After the voice mails were published, a Times spokesperson said the company would review the matter and suspended the employee.

“The employee has been terminated from Wirecutter following our investigation related to inappropriate behavior,” a spokesperson said on Friday morning. “We expect our employees to behave in a way that is consistent with our values and commitment to the highest ethical standards. Repeatedly invoking the New York Times’s name in an unprofessional way that imperils the reputation of Wirecutter, The Times, and all of our journalists is a clear violation of our policies and cannot be tolerated.”

Wirecutter, which tests and reviews a wide array of consumer products, was acquired by the New York Times Co. in 2016, but it operates with some distance from the newspaper, and its staffers are not part of the Times newsroom — as a Times statement took pains to note while announcing the review of Marquis’s actions.

“Wirecutter was always treated as a second-class citizen, isolated in its own Slack, its own offices, and its own reporting structure,” former Times style desk editor Choire Sicha wrote last month in a New York magazine story….

Still, Wirecutter employees are expected to uphold the editorial standards of the newspaper when reviewing and writing up product recommendations. “Our approach to journalism remains true to the mission that powers The Times: Seek the truth and help people understand the world,” a guide to the website says.

The Times’s social media policy for newsroom employees states that “journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation” — though it is not clear if that specific social media policy applies to Wirecutter employees as well.

Marquis served as secretary for the Wirecutter union, which recently reached a deal with Times management on a contract after a five-day strike that occurred during a busy holiday shopping period. “In a pandemic during historic inflation we are begging for scraps from one of the most powerful and profitable media companies in the world only to be constantly being told we aren’t worth it while we make them buckets of money,” she wrote on Twitter. “Fun!”

Before joining Wirecutter, Marquis served as the managing editor of Jalopnik, a news and opinion website dedicated to coverage of automobiles and transportation. In a farewell tribute this summer, a Jalopnik colleague described her as “an unfathomably decent, kind and hardworking person.”

Jeremy Barr covers breaking news about the media industry for The Washington Post.

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