How Not to Do Social Media, WYPR Style

wypr_logoUPDATE: This morning (1/4/2015), I received the following missive from Tony Brandon, head of WYPR. Sadly, he seems to have dismissed the matter, and doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of censorship by the media:

“WYPR has a policy of not blocking social media unless it is abusive or excessive. We are taking steps to de-couple Dan’s personal social media from WYPR’s.
Thanks
Tony”

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UPDATE: Some of us have been unblocked, but that’s not enough — WYPR owes us an apology, and they need to change either their policies, or staff, or both — to ensure this never happens again to anyone.

Any time the media tries to silence public discourse, it cannot be tolerated in even the slightest fashion. Particularly a media outlet that relies on public funding, via our tax dollars.

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If you’re active in Baltimore politics or city revitalization, you eventually find yourself on the outs with a few reporters or folks who don’t agree with what you’re doing. It happens — doesn’t make it right or wrong, it just happens. A bunch of us who are active on Twitter were blocked by Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun columnist and WYPR show host. Honestly, it didn’t bother me that much — Dan’s a funny guy…and by “funny” I mean, kind of an odd duck. But — it’s Baltimore. Lots of odd ducks here, and it kind of makes the city a more interesting place. So it’s been something I’ve laughed about.

However, after the City Paper wrote about us being blocked by Dan — and by no means is this list complete…Dan has caught the blocking bug, and you might be next!…the station that hosts Dan’s show also blocked us. WYPR is an NPR affiliate. One of those stations that claims to offer open viewpoints, and claims to foster open dialogue. Except…when you don’t agree with their viewpoint, I guess.

Detail of screenshot from WYPR's Twitter page

Detail of screenshot from WYPR’s Twitter page

I find being blocked by a media outlet more menacing than being blocked by Dan Rodricks. Why? Because Dan is a person — yes, he’s a media figure, but he’s still human and subject to the same flaws and grievances as the rest of us. In person, he’s quite an affable guy. The last time I saw Dan was my birthday last year. I was a guest on David Warnock’s show on WYPR, and Dan hugged me and wished me a happy birthday. No hard feelings on my part then, and none now.

But when a media outlet starts blocking people, simply because they have a different point of view, you have to wonder what else they’re doing to censor the viewpoints of others. Especially when that media outlet depends on the goodwill of its donors to stay in business — many of whom are also donors to Housing Policy Watch and other initiatives to make Baltimore City a better place for all residents. We work really hard to improve the lot of people across the city — most of whom we’ll never meet, but we do it because it’s what needs doing. We do it because we live here, too, and we care about what happens to our friends, our neighbors, and complete strangers across town. Are these voices that should be silenced by the media?

Does WYPR’s social media policy allow for this kind of blatant censorship? I find it rather ironic that their website claims to “contribute to a strong civil society and active community life, provide access to knowledge and culture, extend education, and offer varied viewpoints and sensibilities” while at the same time, blocking and censoring many varied viewpoints and sensibilities, with little to no regard for the bigger picture. And yes, these principles allegedly apply to their social media policy:  “These standards apply across all public media channels and platforms – broadcasting, online, social media, print, media devices, and in-person events.” (Emphasis in both quotes are mine. You can read all of the “Public Media Code of Integrity” on their website here.)  I have been a guest on many NPR shows, and never imagined I would find myself, along with friends and colleagues, blocked from the very media that’s encouraged my work from Day One.

Frankly, to allow this kind of disruption to public discourse is wrong, and sets a dangerous precedent — and it must be stopped. Whether WYPR’s leadership is behind this or not — it doesn’t matter. They’ve hired people who obviously believe this is how we conduct discourse in a civil society — and this cannot be allowed or encouraged.

Because you, dear reader, might be next.