Washington Post says staff can attend Pride but not Black Lives Matter protests because of ‘politics’
The Washington Post is facing criticism after it said staff can attend Pride marches and Juneteenth celebrations because they’re not political – but protests remain out of the question.
The newspaper’s managing editors made the comments in an email sent to staff, which was acquired by Max Tani of The Daily Beast.
In the email, the managing editors of The Washington Post said they wanted to “take this moment to clarify our guidance on certain expressions of personal identity” ahead of the season of festivals and parades.
The editors said they “value the individual identities of all our journalists”, saying each person’s background and experience makes their work better.
“As we say in every job posting, our mission is best served by diverse, multi-generational journalists with varied life experiences and perspectives,” the editors said.
They continued: “With these principles in mind, we want to make clear that newsroom employees may participate in celebratory parades or festivals that are not partisan or political.
“For example, newsroom staff may attend Pride or Juneteenth celebrations, July 4th parades, heritage festivals and other such non-political gatherings.”
However, the editors said protests and demonstrations “are another matter”, and insisted there will be “no relaxation” of the newspaper’s longstanding policy that staff stay away from “expressions of public advocacy.”
The newspaper’s editors went on to tell staff that they are “witnesses and observers” in the public sphere and are not allowed to be “participants or activists”.
Giving an example, the managing editors said staff could attend a “celebration” at Washington DC’s Black Lives Matter Plaza, but they would not be permitted to attend a protest there.
The managing editors went on to say that staff should not hold “protest signs” at parades, nor should they wear hats that support political candidates.
However, staff would be allowed to wear a “rainbow cap”, wave an American flag, or wear a t-shirt that celebrates their personal identity.
The Washington Post managing editors face backlash for suggesting Pride is not political
The managing editors have been roundly criticised on social media for the letter, with many people pointing out that Pride parades are inherently political – and that stripping them of their meaning renders them pointless.
David Menschel, an attorney, said the letter is “a fancy way of saying ‘we allow journalists to celebrate ideas that have widespread respectability’… but not things that challenge the status quo.”
He also argued that, 30 years ago, Pride marches would have been “off limits” for staff.
A fancy way of saying “we allow journalists to celebrate ideas that have widespread respectability” (Pride, Juneteenth), but not things that challenge the status quo. (30 years ago, Pride would have been off limits.) As though celebrating the status quo isn’t a form of advocacy.
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) May 3, 2021
One Twitter user pointed out that Pride is an “annual commemoration of a riot against continual, systemic police mistreatment of LGBT people” in New York City.
Ah yes, Pride, the totally "non-political" annual commemoration of a riot against continual, systemic police mistreatment of LGBT people in NYC.
It's as non-political as new yorker's favorite transportation option, the yellow ACAB.
— Daniel P (@dannypgh) May 3, 2021
Another questioned why staff are allowed to attend a celebration at Black Lives Matter Plaza but not a protest there.
“So, you can celebrate Black lives but you can’t ask the police not to murder them,” they tweeted.
“Participate in a celebration at BLM plaza but not a protest there. So, you can celebrate black lives but you can’t ask the police not to murder them.
— lauraaesthetic (@LauraAesthetic) May 3, 2021
Napp Nazworth, a political analyst, summed up most people’s thoughts, simply writing: “Every example they gave of non-political parades are political parades.”
Countless others shared their thoughts, arguing that many of the supposedly celebratory events listed by the editors are actually forms of protest.
Hi, Black Queer person here. I can absolutely tell you that Pride and Juneteenth are both political. https://t.co/Gi0IaJ39e6
— Preston Mitchum, he/him (@PrestonMitchum) May 4, 2021
It’s so quaint to think that Pride and Juneteenth aren’t political. https://t.co/jnLJSg7euf
— Wendi C. Thomas (@wendi_c_thomas) May 3, 2021
Because waving a flag isn’t political at all … https://t.co/ShGW58hDps
— Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (@atossaaraxia) May 3, 2021
The obvious problem with policies like these is that activities now viewed as neutral by newsroom leaders (attending pride parades, membership in a civil rights organization) were once viewed as activism unbecoming a journalist. https://t.co/LndTV7BUvp
— Joshua Hunt (@viajoshhunt) May 3, 2021
Love to march in the historically apolitical Pride parade. https://t.co/4sF3uk2wqP
— Mel Woods 🌾🌈 (@intothemelwoods) May 3, 2021
ah yes, Pride, the famously apolitical event that has nothing to do with protest https://t.co/Hi8Df7Mmt3
— julia reinstein 🚡 (@juliareinstein) May 3, 2021
PinkNews has contacted The Washington Post for comment.