Bye, Felicia

The Washington Post has fired a reporter for her rants against colleagues.

In Wednesday’s post “Who’s Running the Washington Post, Anyway?” I pointed to a days-long Twitter rant by reporter Felicia Sonmez against her colleagues and management and observed, “I don’t understand why Post management is putting up with it.” As of yesterday afternoon, they’re not.

As is typical in these cases, the paper is being scooped on the story by their competition.

The Daily Beast (“The Washington Post Fires Felicia Sonmez Amid Week of Infighting“):

The Washington Post has fired national political reporter Felicia Sonmez, The Daily Beast has confirmed, capping off a week’s worth of highly public drama at the paper.

The Post and Sonmez both declined to comment.

Sonmez’s exit from the paper comes after a week of WaPo infighting that stoked heated conversations over newsroom inequity and social-media use, with multiple reporters taking shots at each other in public.

Somnez was emailed a termination letter, according to The New York Timespointing to “misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.”

“We cannot allow you to continue to work as a journalist representing The Washington Post,” the letter said.

The Washington Post Guild declined to discuss Sonmez’s firing in a statement Thursday, but it did warn that workers should only be disciplined with “just cause.”

“The Washington Post Guild’s mission is to ensure equal treatment and protection for all employees and uplift members as they fight to create a just and inclusive workplace in which workers can thrive,” the guild’s leadership said. “Unit leadership is committed to ensuring that our contract is respected and workers are only disciplined with just cause. We represent and provide support to all members facing discipline. We do not comment on individual personnel issues.”

POLITICO (“Felicia Sonmez fired by The Washington Post“):

The Washington Post has fired Felicia Sonmez for “insubordination” after the well-known reporter spent days publicly accusing fellow colleagues and leadership at the paper of fostering an environment unsupportive of female staffers.

The news was first reported by The Daily Beast and confirmed by a person with knowledge of the decision. The Washington Post did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Sonmez’s firing tops a whirlwind week for one of the nation’s most venerable media institutions, in which internal newsroom strife erupted into public view, affecting some of the most high-profile people on staff. It comes just days after the paper suspended a fellow reporter, Dave Weigel, for a month after he retweeted a crude joke about women.

Tastes differ on these things but I wouldn’t describe the joke as “crude” so much as juvenile.

NYT (“Reporter Felicia Sonmez Is Fired by The Washington Post“):

Felicia Sonmez, a reporter for The Washington Post who in recent days has been at the center of a debate over the organization’s social media policies and the culture of the newsroom, was fired on Thursday, according to three people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

Ms. Sonmez was fired over email on Thursday afternoon, according to one of the people. In an emailed termination letter, which was viewed by The New York Times, Ms. Sonmez was told that The Post was ending her employment, effective immediately, “for misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.”

The email, from Wayne Connell, the Post’s chief human resources officer, also said Ms. Sonmez’s “public attempts to question the motives of your co-journalists” undermined The Post’s reputation.

“We cannot allow you to continue to work as a journalist representing The Washington Post,” the letter said.

Ms. Sonmez’s internal Slack account was deactivated by Thursday afternoon, according to a screenshot viewed by The Times. Reached by phone, Ms. Sonmez said that a statement would be coming from The Washington Post Newspaper Guild.

The guild’s statement said it would not comment on individual personnel matters. “We represent and provide support to all members facing discipline,” it said. The news that Ms. Sonmez was no longer employed by The Post was reported earlier by The Daily Beast.

My initial reaction to the firing was that 1) it was inevitable and necessary and 2) recoverable. Alas, I was operating on the mistaken belief that Sonmez was relatively junior and could just go to work for a smaller paper and work her way back up. But she’s a seasoned reporter who graduated Harvard in 2005, putting her in her late 30s, and has been with the paper for quite a long while. She has had multiple dust-ups with management, including a failed harassment suit. I can’t imagine why anyone would want that toxicity on their team.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Lounsbury says:

    The overall fact set rather suggests someone who’s quite the drama llama and probably not pesonally suited for large organisation irrespective of gender or politics. Poor fits

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Only a surprise, in that the WaPo has been dithering over this for a while. Sonmez, may have a point in some of her accusations, but she was a prime contributor to a toxic work environment for her peers, that weren’t named Weigel and Del Real.

    Given her history at the WaPo, she needed to go and will need a career adjustment. Perhaps she should head to Faux News, it works for Greenwald.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    the WaPo has been dithering over this for a while

    FWIW, given their likely internal HR policies and the need to follow them to the letter to protect them as much as possible from the inevitable lawsuit, I suspect it went about as fast as it could.

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  4. EddieInCA says:

    I am loathe to ever celebrate someone losing their job but….. ABOUT TIME!

    I have to deal with men and women like this every day on my shows. I had an HR complaint filed against me because I was “too aggressive in my speech” when giving a speech to the entire crew on stage about a serious safety issue. The person claimed I made them feel unsafe by the “tone” of my voice. The HR person, to their credit, called it “bullsh!t”, but there was no repercussions for the asshole employee to filed the frivolous charge.

    My only issue with the WAPO is that they took so long to fire this employee. They should have done it when she sued them for not giving her the assignments she wanted.

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