Readers' Representative Journal A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards
LOCAL Readers' Representative Journal

L.A. Times ends relationship with freelancer who sent Trump tweet

Early Thursday morning, Los Angeles Times editors became aware of an inappropriate tweet posted on the personal Twitter account of Steven Borowiec, a freelance journalist in South Korea whose work has appeared in The Times over the last three years.

The tweet was a reply to one from Time magazine that read, “See Donald Trump’s life in photos” and included a link to a gallery of pictures.

https://twitter.com/TIME/status/794128250960248832

Borowiec tweeted in reply: “@TIME I would rather see Donald Trump’s life end”

Borowiec later deleted the tweet and tweeted an apology: “I apologize for my Trump tweet. I meant it in jest.”

https://twitter.com/steven_borowiec/status/794183955578699776

Media organizations including the Washington Examiner and conservative news sites Infowars and Breitbart picked up on the tweet. The Examiner’s headline read, “L.A. Times reporter wants to see Donald Trump’s life end.”

The tweet highlighted the risks inherent in social media platforms, where writers can publish instantly, usually without advance review by an editor. Social media allow journalists to develop followings and circulate their work to wide audiences. But platforms such as Twitter, by their very easy of use, invite impulsive, heat-of-the-moment responses. 

Borowiec’s Trump tweet was especially problematic, coming in the midst of a highly contentious presidential campaign during which Trump and his supporters have accused the mainstream media of trying to tilt the election to Hillary Clinton.

Times staff members are required to treat social media posts the same as articles they write for the newspaper and for latimes.com. News coverage must be objective and neutral; personal opinions have no place in it. Freelancers are held to the same standard.

After learning of the Trump tweet and verifying that Borowiec posted it, Times editors issued a statement saying that the comment violated the paper’s professional standards.

“The Los Angeles Times is committed to fair, evenhanded coverage of the presidential campaign and expects all journalists representing the paper, including non-staff contributors such as Borowiec, to adhere to this standard in their articles and social media posts,” said the statement from Times spokeswoman Hillary Manning. “Borowiec’s tweet was a violation of the organization’s professional standards, and The Times has ended its relationship with him.”

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