The prominent media organization Axios has given its reporters the green light to participate in public protests — going as far as saying it would cover employees’ bail and medical bills if necessary.
“First, let me say we proudly support and encourage you to exercise your rights to free speech, press, and protest. If you’re arrested or meet harm while exercising these rights, Axios will stand behind you and use the Family Fund to cover your bail or assist with medical bills,” read a company-wide memo from Jim VandeHei, co-founder and CEO of Axios, according to The New York Times.
The Monday memo reportedly came after a question from an employee about the company’s stance on staff members protesting. Axios, which employs 192 people, allows staff to anonymously submit questions to management every week, The Times reported.
VandeHei made the announcement amid both peaceful protests and violent riots occurring around the country following the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
With its articles on politics, finance, sports and tech — including frequent scoops — Axios has become a popular outlet among Beltway readers, and has garnered over one million subscribers.
Journalists obviously have the right to protest under the Constitution, though it is worth wondering whether reporters advocating for certain issues by publicly protesting will be able to report on some of those same issues in a nonpartisan, unbiased way.
VandeHei, for his part, said his memo to employees does not mean that Axios is changing its policy.
“We trust our colleagues to do the right thing, and stand firmly behind them should they decide to exercise their constitutional right to free speech,” he told The Times.
According to The Times, which cited “several people with knowledge of recent discussions at Axios,” VandeHei “said he did not intend his note to actively encourage marching in protests. He has also reminded the staff that the company’s reporters still need sources to open up to them, and that appearing to take one side could jeopardize their position.”
Still, does anyone think that allowing reporters to participate in protests will foster objectivity?
“Staff members may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements, sign ads taking a position on public issues, or lend their name to campaigns, benefit dinners or similar events if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or The Times’s ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news,” The Times’ ethics guidelines read.
If such a stance can’t even keep The Times, the nation’s so-called “paper of record,” from staying unbiased, how does Axios think its reporters will be able to maintain any semblance of objectivity?
President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, summed the issue up well.
“I’m old enough to remember when reporters covered the news, not took part in it,” he tweeted. “Journalists as political activists. This is objectivity?”
I’m old enough to remember when reporters covered the news, not took part in it.
Journalists as political activists.
This is objectivity?https://t.co/bOOqmYZgtP
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) June 8, 2020
When journalists become political activists, any pretense of nonpartisan objectivity.
Reporters are supposed to report on news, not take part in it or help create a narrative. Apparently, Axios doesn’t care.
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