The New York Times re-assigned federal law enforcement reporter Ali Watkins from Washington to New York and to a “new beat” after an internal review, the Times announced.
As iMediaEthics has reported, the review of Watkins’ work history came after the revelation she had a three-year relationship with Senate Intelligence Committee aide James Wolfe, who has since been charged in a leak investigation. Watkins’ communications records were seized during the investigation.
The Times‘ executive editor Dean Baquet said in a memo to staff that she will have a mentor in New York and a “fresh start.” The memo is published on the Times‘ corporate website.
“We are troubled by Ali’s conduct, particularly while she was employed by other news organizations,” Baquet wrote in his memo. “For a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable. It violates our written standards and the norms of journalism. Additionally, on the advice of her personal lawyer, she did not disclose to The Times that her records had been seized months ago, which put our news organization in a difficult position.”
Baquet said Watkins cooperated with the review and added,
“Ali is a talented journalist, and no one has challenged the accuracy of her reporting. She has also made some poor judgments. But as she started her career, I believe she was not well served by some editors elsewhere who failed to respond appropriately to her disclosures about her relationships. We also bear some responsibility: Our inquiry found that during the hiring process she disclosed aspects of her past relationships to some editors at The Times.”
Watkins provided iMediaEthics with the following statement:
“I respect and understand the Times‘ review and agree that I should have handled aspects of my past relationships and disclosures differently. I sincerely regret putting The Times in a difficult position and am very grateful for the support I’ve received from my editors and colleagues here. I also appreciate the review’s conclusion that my reporting has been fact-based and accurate.”
Baquet also slammed the government’s seizure of Watkins’ records as “an attempt to interfere with the work of journalists.”