Over 280 Wall Street Journal employees raise credibility concerns about opinion page

More than 280 journalists, editors and other employees at The Wall Street Journal sent a letter to their publisher expressing concerns about misinformation in the paper’s opinion section.

The letter says that “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.”

Among several examples, the employees cite a column by Vice President Pence in which he said fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases were “overblown” and argued that the administration’s handling of the pandemic has been a success. They said editors failed to adequately fact-check the piece, which was later corrected.

Another example was a reportedly highly-trafficked column titled “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism,” by Heather Mac Donald, a conservative commentator. The Journal employees said the article “selectively presented facts and drew an erroneous conclusion from the underlying data.” 

“Employees of color publicly spoke out about the pain this Opinion piece caused them during company-held discussions surrounding diversity initiatives,” they wrote, adding 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.”

“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,” the employees added.

The Journal employees also asked for a more prominent distinction between opinion columns and news articles and for opinion pieces to include a more prominent disclosure that the views expressed there do not reflect that of the publication as a whole. 

In a statement to The Hill, Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones, said that the publication is “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.”

“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,” Latour said. “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.”

The move follows a similar action taken by employees at The New York Times, who raised concerns over an op-ed written by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R). The Times employees worried that Cotton’s call to bring law federal law enforcement in to quell protests would put people in danger and that his column also lacked adequate fact checking, so much so that it contradicted reporting from the publication’s own journalists. 

The Times’s editorial page director James Bennet, who had already been under scrutiny over previous missteps, resigned under pressure. Bari Weiss, a former conservative columnist at the Times, also resigned on July 13.

Tags Fact-checking Journalism Mike Pence misinformation The Wall Street Journal Tom Cotton

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