The Wall Street Journal reported last week:
A group of journalists at The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones staffers sent a letter on Tuesday to the paper’s new publisher, Almar Latour, calling for a clearer differentiation between news and opinion content online, citing concerns about the Opinion section’s accuracy and transparency.
The letter, signed by more than 280 reporters, editors and other employees says, “Opinion’s lack of fact-checking and transparency, and its apparent disregard for evidence, undermine our readers’ trust and our ability to gain credibility with sources.”
The letter cites several examples of concern, including a recent essay by Vice President Mike Pence about coronavirus infections. The letter’s authors said the editors published Mr. Pence’s figures “without checking government figures” and noted that the piece, “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’” was later corrected.
The letter says many readers don’t understand that there is a wall between the Journal’s editorial page operations, which have been overseen by Paul Gigot since 2001, and the news staff, which is overseen by Editor in Chief Matt Murray. Mr. Murray was also copied on the letter.
The letter proposed more prominently labeling editorials and opinion columns on the website and mobile apps, including the line “The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion pages are independent of its newsroom.” It also suggests removing opinion pieces from the “Most Popular Articles” and “Recommended Videos” lists on the website, and creating a separate “Most Popular in Opinion” list.
The letter also proposes that “WSJ journalists should not be reprimanded for writing about errors published in Opinion, whether we make those observations in our articles, on social media, or elsewhere.”
Reporters should not be expressing opinions on media-owned social media accounts.
The letter doesn’t challenge the right of the editorial page to offer its own opinions and analysis.
“We are proud that we separate news and opinion at The Wall Street Journal and remain deeply committed to fact-based and clearly labeled reporting and opinion writing,” said Mr. Latour, chief executive of Dow Jones & Co. and publisher of the Journal. “We cherish the unique contributions of our Pulitzer Prize-winning Opinion section to the Journal and to societal debate in the U.S. and beyond. Our readership today is bigger than ever and our opinion and news teams are crucial to that success. We look forward to building on our continued and shared commitment to great journalism at The Wall Street Journal.”
Messrs. Latour and Murray earlier received letters from journalists seeking more diversity in the newsroom and voicing concerns regarding hiring practices and how stories involving race are covered by the Journal.
Among the other examples the latest letter highlighted was an opinion article titled “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism,” which the letter’s authors said was one of the paper’s most read articles in June. The article argued that the “charge of systemic police bias was wrong during the Obama years and remains so today.” The letter says the piece “selectively presented facts and drew an erroneous conclusion from the underlying data.”
In their opinion.
The letter said that many “employees of color publicly spoke out about the pain this Opinion piece caused them during company-held discussions surrounding diversity initiatives” and added that if the “company is serious about better supporting its employees of color, at a bare minimum it should raise Opinion’s standards so that misinformation about racism isn’t published.”
The letter also said that “Opinion has also published basic factual inaccuracies about taxes,” citing two specific articles.
Opinion pages recently have become subjects of newsroom controversy.
In early June, James Bennet stepped down as editorial page chief of the New York Timesfollowing widespread criticism in the newsroom and on social media of an opinion column by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) that called for the government to deploy U.S. troops to cities to deter looting following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd. Mr. Bennet was succeeded by Kathleen Kingsbury, now acting editorial page editor for the Times.
Bari Weiss, a well-known editor and writer for the Times’s opinion section, resigned on July 13, writing on her website that she had been bullied by colleagues and that her work and character were “openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in.”
A spokeswoman for the Times said at the time that it is “committed to fostering an environment of honest, searching and empathetic dialogue between colleagues, one where mutual respect is required of all.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial section replied:
We’ve been gratified this week by the outpouring of support from readers after some 280 of our Wall Street Journal colleagues signed (and someone leaked) a letter to our publisher criticizing the opinion pages. But the support has often been mixed with concern that perhaps the letter will cause us to change our principles and content. On that point, reassurance is in order.
In the spirit of collegiality, we won’t respond in kind to the letter signers. Their anxieties aren’t our responsibility in any case. The signers report to the News editors or other parts of the business, and the News and Opinion departments operate with separate staffs and editors. Both report to Publisher Almar Latour. This separation allows us to pursue stories and inform readers with independent judgment.
It was probably inevitable that the wave of progressive cancel culture would arrive at the Journal, as it has at nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution. But we are not the New York Times. Most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle, and our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.
“Most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle.” Coming from fellow WSJ employees that should have left a mark.
As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse. And these columns will continue to promote the principles of free people and free markets, which are more important than ever in what is a culture of growing progressive conformity and intolerance.
As a reader I have to wonder about the WSJ reporters who do not “attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle,” and wonder why they are still employed. Say, the “more than 280.”
The WSJ is one of the few national news media outlets (and in state daily newspapers there are none) that actually gives conservative viewpoints fair treatment, let alone express the correct conservative point of view.