Elon Musk Is His Own Spokesman

Particularly since the main subject of the coverage appears to be paying close attention.

A self-professed “free speech absolutist,” Mr. Musk has said that he wants Twitter to be a town square where all ideas, no matter how unpopular, may be expressed. He has also been cooperative with Walter Isaacson, who has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein and is now working on a book about Mr. Musk. “He’s been very, very open,” Mr. Isaacson told The Times last year, “not only him and the people around him, but he’s been very good at allowing me access to people from his past.”


What we consider before using anonymous sources. Do the sources know the information? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved reliable in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with these questions satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source.

At the same time, Mr. Musk has tangled publicly with journalists who have seemingly gotten under his skin. In December, Twitter suspended the accounts of eight journalists, including Ryan Mac, a tech reporter for The Times. Those suspensions came a day after Mr. Musk pulled the plug on more than 25 accounts that tracked the planes of government agencies, billionaires and celebrities.

Some of the journalists barred by Twitter had reported on the accounts that tracked flight data or had chronicled Mr. Musk’s stewardship of the company in detail. “You’re not special because you’re a journalist; you’re a citizen, so no special treatment,” Mr. Musk told reporters during a Twitter audio session shortly after the accounts were deactivated. Following criticism from First Amendment advocates and threats of sanctions from European regulators, Twitter reinstated the journalists’ accounts.

One reporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his employer would not permit him to discuss Mr. Musk publicly, compared writing about Twitter to covering a White House in which the person in charge is both press-obsessed and chaotic, leading to debates on whether his airing of grievances about the news media is part of his genius or a manifestation of his childishness.

Mr. Musk has enlisted communications consultants at times. But his history of capriciousness and saying incendiary things (often by tweet) has sometimes created challenges for the advisers brought in to manage those impulses.

In 2018, Mr. Musk lobbed an insult at one of his critics, calling him a “pedo guy,” or pedophile, in a series of angry tweets. Amid substantial fallout, he turned to the communications consultant Juleanna Glover, whose clients have included John McCain and James Murdoch and who had advised Mr. Musk’s electric car company, Tesla. Mr. Musk ultimately apologized for the tweets.

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