News & Politics

Washington Post Employees Can’t Take a Public Stance on Statehood

A DC flag shirt "is fine." A pro-statehood one "would be an expression of public advocacy on a matter we cover."

Photograph by Evy Mages

Management has advice for any Washington Post newsroom employees who are wondering which parades and festivals they can pencil into their summer calendars: It’s fine, as long as you’re not expressing public advocacy. So, Pride is fine. Juneteenth is great. July 4—go nuts.

But, a memo Monday from Post honchos warns: “Context matters: It would be fine to participate in a celebration at BLM plaza but not a protest there or attend a Pride gathering but not a demonstration at the Supreme Court.” The same rubric applies to issues like DC statehood: “details matter. A shirt with the flag of the District of Columbia is fine. One supporting statehood would not be – that would be an expression of public advocacy on a matter we cover.”

The point is the Post‘s “longstanding expectation that newsroom employees refrain from such expressions of public advocacy,” interim Executive Editor Cameron Barr and Managing Editors Krissa Thompson, Tracy Grant, and Kat Downs Mulder write in the memo. “As a rule, we are witnesses and observers in the public square, not participants or activists.”

Full memo:

Colleagues,

As we enter the season of festivals and parades, we want to take this moment to clarify our guidance on certain expressions of personal identity. We value the individual identities of all our journalists because our backgrounds and experiences make our 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.

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. Protests, demonstrations and partisan activities are another matter – we intend no relaxation of our longstanding expectation that newsroom employees refrain from such expressions of public advocacy. As a rule, we are witnesses and observers in the public square, not participants or activists. Context matters: It would be fine to participate in a celebration at BLM plaza but not a protest there or attend a Pride gathering but not a demonstration at the Supreme Court.

We should do everything possible to avoid partisanship or advocacy for specific policies or special interests, or the appearance of such activity. For instance, a newsroom employee would not hold a protest sign at a parade or wear a hat supporting or opposing a political candidate or legislative policy, but might wear a rainbow cap, wave an American flag or wear a t-shirt celebrating their identity. Here, details matter. A shirt with the flag of the District of Columbia is fine. One supporting statehood would not be – that would be an expression of public advocacy on a matter we cover.

If you have questions about whether a gathering or some other activity is partisan or political in nature and thus falls outside of this guidance, please ask your department head or one of us before participating.

Cameron Krissah Tracy Kat

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.