John Solomon

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  • Washington Times Continues Unethical Relationship With National Rifle Association

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    After originally excluding mention of opinion editor David Keene's ongoing relationship with the National Rifle Association in his most recent piece for the paper, the Washington Times quietly added the disclosure after being contacted by Media Matters.

    In a September 29 commentary, Keene wrote about the fight over gun legislation in Colorado, echoing the NRA's own messaging in the state. Keene, a former NRA president and current board member, is, according to the Times' own standards, "free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization." But his ongoing relationship with the gun group was originally missing from the column.

    At the bottom of the original commentary, which appeared online and was the top-billed opinion piece in the print edition of the conservative paper, the following note was appended: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times."

    Media Matters contacted Times editor John Solomon to ask about the omission, only hearing back after the column had been updated to read: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He is a former president and current board member of the National Rifle Association." (Solomon responded that the version he was viewing "has his role as current board member.")

    Keene became the Times opinion editor in July 2013 after serving as NRA president between 2011 and 2013. According to the NRA, Keene has served on the group's board of directors since 2000.

    After Keene described participating in the crafting of the NRA's 2014 midterm election strategy in a February 2014 interview with The Washington Examiner, Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp asked Solomon whether Keene's continuing role with the NRA created a conflict of interest on the Times' opinion page.

    While acknowledging Keene's ongoing NRA role, Solomon said, "Our ethics rules allow an employee in special circumstances to hold an outside position, if it is pre-approved and the appropriate ethical steps are followed. That's the case with David Keene and his membership on the board of the NRA. We knew when we asked David to be our opinion editor that he would continue on the NRA board. We also knew that his role with the NRA was publicly and extensively known."

    Among the "set of rules" that Keene is supposed to follow, Solomon said, "He is free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization."

  • Media Reporter Erik Wemple Questions The Wash. Times' Relationship With The NRA

    Blog ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO

    Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple is raising questions about the Washington Times' relationship with the National Rifle Association after the paper ran a "Special Report" sponsored by the gun group featuring several articles from the Times' news coverage.

    Wemple highlighted an August 27 "special pullout section" in the Times that was clearly "sponsored by the NRA" and featured disclaimers on each page explaining the pullout was "A Special Report Prepared by The Washington Times Advertising Department." Instead of being filled only with advertisements, the section featured past gun-related news stories from Times reporters Kelly Riddell, David Sherfinski, and Jessica Chasmar, which Wemple cites as evidence that the paper's news coverage "pleases the mighty gun lobby."

    But when Wemple asked Times editor John Solomon whether the presence of news stories in "a special advertising section cross[es] some sacred journalistic trench," Solomon defended the paper by arguing that the articles had all "already been written."

    Solomon also defended the paper from Wemple's suggestion that there might be a "risk" in the Times' behavior, since reporters may "be inclined to tilt their stories" to appease pro-gun advertisers:

    Though Solomon says the stories piled up in the Washington Times archive in the course of normal journalistic business, isn't there a risk here? Once reporters see how the paper monetizes their work via pro-gun advertisers, won't they be inclined to tilt their stories in that direction? No again, says Solomon: "Writers never know, and it's no different thantomorrow waking up and seeing a Boeing ad in The Washington Post and having a defense story in the newspaper."

    The Washington Times has long had a cozy relationship with the NRA. David Keene, who edits the paper's aggressively pro-NRA opinion page, is a former NRA president. In a move that sparked concern from journalism experts, Keene has continued to operate as a spokesman for the gun group and sit on its board while also serving as the Times opinion editor. Solomon told Media Matters this year that Keene's dual role avoids conflict since he "recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA." 

    The Times has previously partnered with anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage for a June 2014 event. The paper's "Advocacy Department" put together a "Special Report" supplement for the event with articles from its news and opinion sections. The Times has long been a platform for virulent homophobia.

  • Washington Times Defends Its Opinion Editor's Outside Political Endorsements

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The Washington Times is defending its opinion editor's practice of offering personal political endorsements to Republican candidates, which media observers and editorial page editors at others papers say violates journalistic ethics.

    Since joining the Times in 2013 after a career in conservative politics, David Keene has endorsed several Republican senators for reelection, either on his own behalf or on behalf of the National Rifle Association, on whose board he sits. Reporting on the endorsements, Politico's Dylan Byers noted that such endorsements are unheard of for editorial page editors at major newspapers since it would be regarded as a "violation of ethics."

    But asked to comment on the endorsements, Times editor-in-chief John Solomon defended Keene, saying the opinion editor's actions were in keeping with the paper's "set of rules to maintain the highest ethical standards for the opinion department" that he and Keene hammered out upon Keene's hiring.

    Keene, a former president of the NRA and chairman of the American Conservative Union, says that his endorsements raise no ethical questions because he won't participate in a Times endorsement discussion of the candidates his organizations support.

    "As a practical matter, I would not participate in a WT discussion re an endorsement of someone whose NRA endorsement I had previously delivered," Keene told Media Matters via email Tuesday. "The important thing, in my mind at least, is to remember what 'hat' one is wearing and when. For example, I am also still on the ACU Board and ACU through its PAC endorses candidates that neither the WT or the NRA might endorse or even support. Therefore it is incumbent upon me or [anyone] else involved with multiethnic organizations to avoid mixing the roles. I have always endeavored to make certain I avoid that temptation."

    Keene has presented the NRA's endorsement of Sen. Mike Simpson (ID) and personally endorsed Sens. Pat Roberts (KS) and Lamar Alexander (TN). But Keene contends his outside endorsements raise no ethical red flags because they are for candidates the Times would not endorse.

    "We would not be endorsing someone to whom I had delivered an NRA endorsement in my capacity as a former NRA President and Board member," Keene stated. He added that the NRA's endorsements are made by its lobbying arm, not the organization's board, and that he had presented the NRA's endorsement to Simpson because he was "in Idaho for other reasons."

    Keene's actions appear consistent with the lax standards the Times has established for him. Earlier this year, Solomon told Media Matters that Keene had been hired with the understanding that he would continue his advocacy work for the NRA but would recuse himself from editing Times pieces about that organization.

    Solomon reiterated that statement in an email to Media Matters today, writing of the paper's ethics rules:

    They are simple, straightforward and consistent with the best practices of journalism aimed at mitigating perceived conflicts and creating transparency. David recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA. He is free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization.  When he acts in his role as NRA board member, such as delivering the group's endorsement, he does so solely in his role as an NRA member.

  • Washington Times is up for sale after all

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Almost exactly one month ago it was rumored that the conservative Washington Times was up for sale. The speculation was almost immediately put to rest by Times' then president and publisher Jonathan Slevin:

    "The Washington Times has been approached throughout its history with expressions of interest by parties interested in purchase all or part of the company," said president and publisher Jonathan Slevin. "Contrary to online reports, however, the Washington Times is not currently negotiating with any party for sale of all or part of the company."

    In the month since batting down the story, Slevin had a very public parting with the Times (his contract wasn't renewed) and the Washington Post reports this morning that the Times is up for sale after all:

    Washington Times executives are negotiating to sell the newspaper, after the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's family cut off most of the annual subsidy of about $35 million that has kept the Unification Church-backed paper afloat, company officials said.

    Nicholas Chiaia, a member of the paper's two-man board of directors and president of the church-supported United Press International wire service, confirmed that the paper is actively on the market: "We recently entered into discussions with a number of parties interested in either purchasing or partnering with the Washington Times," he said in a statement to The Washington Post.

    [...]

    The negotiations follow months of turmoil at both the 28-year-old conservative daily and the business empire founded by Moon, 90, whose children are jostling for control over the church's myriad enterprises, which range from fisheries to arms manufacturing.

    One of the individuals interested in purchasing the Times is none other than John Solomon who left the right-wing paper as editor in chief just months ago.

  • Howard Kurtz incorrectly corrects reader

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Howard Kurtz, the nation's most prominent media critic, rebukes a reader for being "a little outdated" in mentioning the Washington Times' tendency to use scare-quotes when writing about gay marriage:

    re: "The Times says it will still do straight journalism": Does the Washington Times still put quotes around the word "marriage" when referring to legally binding marriages between members of the same sex? Because, if so, it never practiced "straight journalism."

    Howard Kurtz: You're a little outdated. When John Solomon was editor, he banned some of those loaded phrases, such as homosexual marriage instead of gay marriage. Of course, he quit during the big management shakeup six weeks ago, and no replacement has been named. The managing editors, including Jeff Birnbaum, who like Solomon came from The Post, have also stepped down. So it remains to be seen who will be leading the paper.

    But Howard Kurtz, the nation's most prominent media critic, is the one who is a little out-dated. Despite Solomon's edict, the Times has continued to use scare quotes, as Media Matters has documented.

  • So, I guess TheProgressives.com isn't going to happen?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    TPM reported a few days ago that the Washington Times has pulled the plug on TheConservatives.com, the right-wing paper's laughably redundant effort to highlight conservative opinion:

    Brian Faughnan, editor of the site, tells us the Times has officially canceled the project.

    The site, rolled out in September, is no longer loading. Its Facebook page stopped updating the morning of Dec 23, as did the site's Twitter feed ("House Blue Dog: We'll Cave on Health Care, Too #tcot #right").

    Amid the disintegration of the conservative daily paper, Times management said in a Dec. 2 press release that TheConservatives.com would actually be an area of focus and growth as part of a new online strategy. But the site was conspicuously absent from a news release yesterday on the latest staff departures and the Times' future.

    When the Times launched TheConservatives.com back in September, it seemed to undermine claims -- by Howard Kurtz, among others -- that the paper had become more "balanced" since John Solomon took over. For his part, Solomon insisted that the Times was considering following up with a similar site for progressives.

    I didn't buy it:

    Oh, they're being "considered"? That's just super.

    If I was trying overcome my newspaper's well-established history of acting as little more than a mouthpiece for the conservative movement, I probably wouldn't start by launching a web site called TheConservatives.com and promising that later, some day, if there's time, we'll think about adding a site for progressives.

    Neither did Eric Boehlert:

    Just give the WashTimes a few more weeks and they'll launch its new hub of the progressive movement, TheLiberals.com. And no doubt it will be a joint venture with Center for American Progress, right? It will be the awesome-est tool ever to reinvent the left, right?

    Well, actually that kind of site is merely being considered, if you want to get technical about it. But no doubt the Rev. Moon, the self-proclaimed sun of God and WashTimes owner, wants badly to become a major player in the progressive world.

    Right?

    Still, a month later, Solomon insisted that launch of TheProgressives.com was imminent, though the paper apparently didn't own the domain name:

    "There'll be a site called www.TheProgressives.com as well," said Solomon. "We'll have it up and running in 2-3 weeks."

    According to the domain registration directory WhoIs.com, the domain name was purchased by Domain Asset Holdings of Maryland on January 25, and it is up for sale. TheConservatives.com is owned by The Washington Times. Solomon did not answer a follow-up e-mail about the new site.

    But TheProgressives.com never did launch, shocking exactly nobody.

    The lesson in all of this is not a new one, but it is worth repeating: When right-wing news organizations like The Washington Times insist that they care about balance, they're lying.

  • TPM: Washington Times editor-in-chief Solomon resigns

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From a November 12 TPM Media post:

    Here's the one-line statement that Don Meyer, a spokesman for the Washington Times and a partner at Rubin Meyer Communications, emailed TPM moments ago.

    Effective November 6, 2009, John Solomon has resigned his position as the Executive Editor of The Washington Times.

    When the PR firm issued the release, TPM phoned top newsroom staffers -- who weren't aware of the resignation.

  • Thank goodness Howard Kurtz is on the job

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, Monday:

    Howard Kurtz: The Washington Times is far more balanced since John Solomon took over last year. (Solomon came from The Post, as did its new White House correspondent, Matthew Mosk, and a top editor, Jeff Birnbaum.) In its previous two decades, the Times front-page often resembled a right-wing bulletin board, and its previous editor told me he regarded it as a conservative newspaper.

    The Washington Times, today:

    The Washington Times has launched TheConservatives.com, a Web site with technology that allows activists to talk up to ideological and party leaders and interact in innovative ways.

    TheConservatives.com - a joint online media venture from The Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation - is a tool to "reinvent the right" and help move the public discourse.

    "TheConservatives.com creates a cutting-edge new marriage between the social publishing world of bloggers and the social networking world of Twitter, YouTube and the like," said John Solomon, executive editor and vice president for content of The Times. "Most opinion sites today enable thought-leaders to talk down to the masses, but TheConservatives.com empowers users to change the direction of that dialogue, allowing the Joe the Plumbers of the world to speak up to major thinkers, like Newt Gingrich."

    UPDATE: I should have included this, from the Washington Times article: "Mr. Solomon said similar Web sites that would appeal to progressive and moderate online readers are being considered."

    Oh, they're being "considered"? That's just super.

    If I was trying overcome my newspaper's well-established history of acting as little more than a mouthpiece for the conservative movement, I probably wouldn't start by launching a web site called TheConservatives.com and promising that later, some day, if there's time, we'll think about adding a site for progressives.

  • Well, we know where the Washington Times stands on Sotomayor

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Look what just arrived in my email inbox (click to enlarge):

    And down at the bottom:

    So much for John Solomon's promise that the Washington Times would not waver from a "neutral, civil voice":

    That means producing original reporting on government and political accountability, national security, politics, culture, faith, technology, family, international affairs and other issues of keen interest to our readership without wavering from a neutral, civil voice. All of our journalism will seek to be fair, balanced, accurate and precise.

  • Wash. Post's Solomon ignored Planned Parenthood support for Obama's abortion votes

    ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    In an article on "what you might not know about" Sen. Barack Obama, The Washington Post's John Solomon wrote that, as a state senator, Obama "declined to take a position" on parental notification legislation, "voting 'present' instead of 'yes' or 'no.' " Solomon continued: "But five years earlier, he had filled out an issues questionnaire ... opposing such notifications." But Obama's "present" votes were reportedly part of a strategy he had worked out with the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, which opposed the measures.

  • Wash. Post's Solomon ignored facts in reporting distribution of Obama's Hopefund contributions

    ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    In claiming that Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign "helped recommend several of the donations his political action committee made in recent months to politicians in key primary states," The Washington Post's John Solomon wrote that "nearly three-quarters of the money the PAC has given out since this summer" was given to candidates in "states with primary dates through mid-February." Solomon failed to note that most states -- 31 of 50 -- plus the District of Columbia will hold their Democratic presidential primaries or caucuses on or before February 12. Further, the former Federal Election Commission chief counsel whom Solomon depicted as questioning the legality of Obama's PAC contributions has since said his quote was taken "out of context."

  • Wash. Post's Solomon blamed editor for deletion about GOP fundraiser

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    During a washingtonpost.com discussion, when John Solomon was asked why a recent article he co-wrote on fundraisers did not mention Alan B. Fabian -- Mitt Romney's recently indicted former national finance co-chairman -- he did not mention Fabian but claimed that the article included a passage on Robert Lichfield, another Romney fundraiser facing several lawsuits, but that "it was edited out," adding that this "sometimes happens ... to make room for late-breaking news."