Cronkite School criticized on Twitter for student social media policy

An ASU alumna's viral tweet has spurred a conversation about the journalism school's social media guidelines

In a tweet that has since gone viral, an ASU alumna took to Twitter to share an experience she had while a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Aída Chávez, now a journalist for The Intercept, posted a tweet on July 26 that included screenshots of an email from 2016 in which she was reprimanded by the Cronkite School for a tweet that has since been deleted about her father being an immigrant. 

The original tweet, which read, “fact: I wouldn’t be here if my father didn’t cross the border. He’s an engineer. I’m trying to get two degrees and graduate early," was posted while Chávez was working as a reporter for Cronkite News, a professional program hosted by the school, in Washington D.C. 

Shortly afterwards, she received an email from the Cronkite School telling her to delete the tweet and be more careful of what she posts online. 

“A news reporter in Washington working for an organization that is trying to fairly cover a variety of issues cannot post a pro-immigration tweet during an immigration speech by a presidential candidate," read the email. "The tweet would not be appropriate regardless of the timing.”

The tweet gained traction overnight, with 14.7K likes and over 2.8K re-tweets at the time of publication, garnering the attention of professional journalists across the globe as well as other Cronkite alumni and students.

“I’ve been getting a lot of responses from journalists as a whole who are all kind of universally appalled at the email, but I've also gotten a lot of very heartbreaking messages from either Cronkite alumni or current students of color — more women of color — and they say that they feel similarly or they experienced something similar,” Chávez said. 


Chávez said that she hoped sharing her story would make an impact in some way.

"I feel like the Cronkite School kind of scares people away from being themselves and they tell you you're never going to get hired,” she said. “But that's a very antiquated notion of the journalism industry, so I just hope it's comforting that a few non-neutral tweets aren't gonna ruin your career actually in the real world. Most professional journalists do have their own voice on social media.”

In response, the Cronkite School provided an emailed statement to the State Press:

"Under federal law (FERPA), the Cronkite School is barred from discussing any student's performance in an academic program. However, we believe that journalistic impartiality, especially in today's media climate, continues to be an important journalistic standard. Separating professional and personal lives is a well-established daily practice for working journalists and is an important part of the teaching that takes place at the Cronkite School and at journalism schools across the country."

Kevin Dale, the man who sent Chávez the email in 2015 and the former executive editor of Cronkite News, posted a thread in response to her tweet in which he disagreed with her assertion that the journalism school "wanted to kick her out” and defended the school's social media policy.

The Cronkite School's social media policy states that journalism students should "avoid posting information to social networking sites or blogs that could call into question your ability to act independently as a journalist. This includes expressing political views."  

Chávez said she did not and still does not feel that she did anything wrong by posting the tweet in question.

“I don’t see where I said anything political or anything about immigration as a policy area,” she said. “I just stated biographical facts.” 


Reach the reporter at bstoshne@asu.edu and follow @itsbrennaaaa on Twitter. 

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