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Associated Press employees call for more information about young journalist's firing

Emily Wilder, 22, who was fired following conservative backlash, had objected to what she called "pro-Israel bias" in AP and other media coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

More than 100 employees of The Associated Press sent an open letter to the news agency's managers Monday demanding more information about the company’s decision to fire a young staffer who publicly questioned its coverage of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Last week, the AP fired Emily Wilder, a 22-year-old Stanford University graduate who joined its staff this month. Wilder had been the subject of outcry from some conservative groups that pushed for her firing, citing her previous activism on behalf of Palestinians. 

She had also recently tweeted that the language AP and other media outlets use in their coverage of the conflict betrayed a pro-Israel bias.

"'objectivity' feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim," she wrote. "using 'israel' but never 'palestine,' or 'war' but not 'siege and occupation' are political choices—yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased."

Image: Emily Wilder.
Emily Wilder.Angel Mendoza

Wilder’s tweet came one day after an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building that was home to the offices of AP and Al Jazeera in the Gaza Strip, claiming it was home to Hamas military intelligence. Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt said the organization “had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building," though several conservatives cast doubt on that claim and criticized the news agency for allowing Hamas to use its shared real estate with the AP as cover. 

The letter from AP employees called for "more clarity from the company" about its decision to fire Wilder and said they strongly disapproved of the company's handling of the situation.

"We are also concerned about the ramifications of this decision for newsroom morale and AP’s credibility," they wrote.

"Wilder was a young journalist, unnecessarily harmed by the AP’s handling and announcement of its firing of her," the letter states. "We need to know that the AP would stand behind and provide resources to journalists who are the subject of smear campaigns and online harassment."

Lauren Easton, the AP’s global director of communications, said in an email that the company “looks forward to continuing the conversation with staff about AP’s social media policy,” and noted that its “longstanding social media policy is negotiated with the News Media Guild, which represents AP’s U.S. news staffers.”

"As we have said, every AP journalist is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report with fairness and credibility," Easton wrote. "Our News Values and Principles, including our social media guidelines, exist to ensure that the comments of one person cannot jeopardize our journalism or the journalists who are covering the story. AP is in the business of fact-based journalism. It is who we are as a global news organization."

On Monday evening, AP leadership sent an email to staff outlining detailed plans to address the employees’ concerns about social media policy.

“This is a conversation that will take place internally,” they noted.

As for Wilder’s firing, they said that while they “do not publicly discuss personnel matters... We can assure you that much of the coverage and commentary does not accurately portray a difficult decision that we did not make lightly.”