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Newsrooms are scrambling to counter Elon Musk's bans

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Elon Musk
David Dee Delgado/Reuters

News organizations are scrambling to respond to Elon Musk’s suspension from Twitter of prominent journalists whose coverage he objected to.

On Thursday, Twitter suspended CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, the New York Times’ Ryan Mac, and the Washington Post’s Drew Harwell, as well as liberal commentator Keith Olbermann and reporters from Mashable and the Intercept.

News organizations are now considering a range of options to respond, people familiar with their conversations said. They range from pulling coverage from Twitter, as CBS News did briefly in November, to retaliating against Twitter’s advertising business: CNN executives have discussed whether their corporate parent, Warner Media Discovery, would stop its advertising on the platform.

News organizations have also discussed dropping out of the Amplify program, in which they post videos to twitter and share in the revenue, or simply asking their staffers to stop contributing to the service.

NBC News had already benched one of the journalists who has reported on Twitter and been harshly critical of Musk. NBC News temporarily suspended tech reporter Ben Collins from covering Musk on NBC and MSNBC airwaves. According to two sources, the network told Collins earlier this month that his criticism of Musk, which included comments about how the billionaire was purposefully trying to destroy Twitter, was not editorially appropriate. Collins continued to tweet his reporting about Twitter last night about the social network’s ban of journalists.

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The New York Times released a statement Thursday evening calling the move “questionable and unfortunate,” and called for the tech company to offer an explanation about the suspension. Privately on Friday, the paper’s leadership asked staff not to fight with Musk on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the news organizations aren’t sure whom to call to mediate the conflict. A CNN staffer told Semafor that network executives scrambled last night to reach Twitter after O’Sullivan was suspended, but almost all of the network’s previous contacts at the company had been fired or resigned.

Musk said that some received a 7-day suspension for "doxxing" him by sharing publicly available information about his private plane, though many of those suspended had simply covered the story about his ban on an account that followed the jet.

Correction: Collins was pulled from NBC's air over Musk coverage earlier this month, not in response to the latest conflict.

undefined headshotMax's view

Newsroom leaders have long had an ambivalent relationship with Twitter, even as it was embraced by working journalists. Now some journalists feel they have a professional responsibility to get the news out on the platform, even as their higher-ups look for ways to shift the relationship.

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