Writing business

Felicia Sonmez: Washington Post reporter fired after week of wrangling with colleagues

The Post’s dismissal notice, a copy of which was seen by CNN, said Sonmez was terminated for “misconduct that includes insubordination, slandering your colleagues online and violating the Post’s standards of collegiality. and inclusiveness in the workplace”.

“We cannot allow you to continue working as a reporter representing The Washington Post,” the letter concludes.

Reached by phone, Sonmez declined to comment. The Washington Post also declined to comment.

Sonmez has been at the center of an intra-Post battle that began last Friday when journalist David Weigel retweeted a sexist joke.

On Monday, the Post suspended Weigel for a month without pay and reprimanded him in public and private statements.

But the retweet, which Sonmez was the first to highlight on both Twitter and the Post, sent the newspaper’s newsroom into disarray.

Sonmez, who in 2021 sued the paper for discrimination (the suit was recently dismissed; she plans to appeal), has been outspoken over the past week on issues related to newsroom inequality.

In his public comments, Sonmez had been highly critical of The Post’s management, including editor Sally Buzbee, as well as several of her colleagues.

At times, some of his colleagues took to Twitter to implore Sonmez to stop attacking The Post on social media.

Post reporter Jose A. Del Real responded on Twitter Saturday to Sonmez’s initial tweet. Del Real said Weigel’s tweet was “terrible and unacceptable”.

“But,” he added, “bringing the internet together to attack him for a mistake he made doesn’t solve anything. We’re all wrong in one way or another. There’s such a thing as challenge with compassion.”

Sonmez responded by saying that “exposing sexism is not ‘cruelty,’ but something that is “absolutely necessary.”

Buzbee has twice attempted to quell public bickering through statements, including a stern memo to employees on Tuesday. In the memo, Buzbee, “in the strongest terms,” ​​outlined the rules that all staff members are expected to follow.

“We do not tolerate co-workers attacking co-workers face-to-face or online,” Buzbee wrote. “Respect for others is essential for any civil society, including our newsroom.”

But that memo failed to put an end to the matter.

Just hours after Buzbee posted her memo, Sonmez tweeted a screenshot showing she was still blocked on Twitter by Del Real. And she retweeted another user mocking some of her colleagues who had come together to send tweets expressing their pride in working at The Post.

Journalist Lisa Rein tweeted at Sonmez that evening, writing, “Please stop.”

Sonmez responded and asked, “Do you have any idea what torrent of abuse I’m facing right now?”

As recently as Thursday, Sonmez was still tweeting long threads criticizing The Post.

In his Thursday thread, Sonmez suggested that The Post was only a good place to work for those who are white and well paid.

In a statement, the Washington Post Guild said its mission was “to ensure equal treatment and protection for all employees and uplifting members as they fight to create a fair and inclusive workplace in which workers can flourish”.

“Unit management is committed to ensuring that our contract is upheld and that workers are only disciplined for cause,” the statement said. “We represent and provide support to all members facing disciplinary action. We do not comment on individual personal issues.”