The Wall Street Journal's failure to disclose that 10 of its op-ed writers are Mitt Romney advisers has drawn criticism from veteran editorial page editors at some of the nation's top newspapers.
In a total of 23 pieces, the op-ed writers attacked President Obama or praised Romney without the paper acknowledging their Romney connections.
Media Matters reached out to several veteran opinion editors who either criticized the Journal directly or noted that their papers handle such disclosures more openly.
"Not disclosing is inexcusable," declared Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press since 2009. "If you don't know, that is one thing, but if you are hiding it or purposely not disclosing it I am not sure what the rationale would be. We are pretty careful here to disclose any affiliation. There are times we have declined pieces because someone is too close to it. I am pretty shocked by that."
He added that it's the newspaper's responsibility to discover and report conflicts: "The Journal is publishing this stuff, so the responsibility falls on them. I expect my op ed editor to ask anyone who is writing about a campaign or a ballot issue, 'are you involved with the campaign? Are you being paid by someone to write this?' That is our job."
Nicholas Goldberg, Los Angeles Times editorial page editor since 2009, said that providing transparency for the relationships of op-ed writers is "absolutely essential."
"Op-ed writers aren't supposed to be objective or to have no stake in the subjects they're writing about," he explained. "But when a writer does have a particular relationship to his subject that is not immediately apparent to the reader, it is important to disclose that so that the reader can evaluate the argument intelligently."
But such information is not always provided to readers of the Journal.
This is not the first time the Journal's editorial page has come under fire for lack of transparency. Several of the editorial page editors who spoke with Media Matters had previously criticized the Journal for failing to disclose that weekly columnist Karl Rove is the co-founder of a super PAC, American Crossroads, which raises funds to oppose Democrats. The Journal apparently changed that practice, disclosing Rove's super PAC connection in his latest column published Thursday.
Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot and a Journal spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the paper's failure to disclose the op-ed writers' Romney ties. Media Matters sought comment both before and after the Journal's apparent change in policy to disclose Rove's role with Crossroads.
In 89 segments between September 10 and 16, Fox News reported on the Chicago Teachers Union's strike without disclosing its financial ties to the educational technology company administering the standardized tests with which the union takes issue.
Fox News parent company News Corp. acquired a 90-percent stake in Wireless Generation in 2010. Last May, the company agreed to provide Early Mathematics Assessment Services and Early Literacy Assessment Services to Chicago Public Schools. These contracts total $4.7 million. A central reason the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike is their objection to the school district's call for heavily weighing such standardized testing to ultimately determine teacher pay and layoffs.
But Fox News anchors and reporters never once disclosed its parent company's ties to Wireless Generation even as the network routinely criticized the strike and the Chicago Teachers Union.
The programs that covered the story most often:Fox & Friends (including the First, Saturday, and Sunday editions) with 31 segments over the entire week; America's News Headquarters aired 12 segments this last weekend alone; America Live was next with 7 segments; and Fox Report with Shepard Smith and Special Report followed with 6 segments each. Not one segment disclosed News Corp.'s business relationship with Wireless Generation despite repeated mentions and discussions of the teacher evaluations at the heart of the strike.
During Monday's Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Steve Brown reported of the strike: "At issue, says the union president, is trust." Indeed. It's also an issue for Fox News. How can Fox's viewers trust that the network has provided a "fair and balanced" overview of events unfolding in Chicago when it won't disclose its financial interests?
Politico reported that the wife of Washington Post columnist George Will has taken a job with the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, a fact Will reportedly plans to disclose on Sunday on ABC News and in future columns.
As noted* by Politico's Dylan Byers, the ties between the Perry camp and Will's wife, Mari Maseng, developed in recent weeks as Will was discussing Perry's opponents in Washington Post columns and during appearances on ABC News.
Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt, however, dismissed concerns about Will's past columns:
"There was no relationship between his wife and any campaign the last time he wrote a column on the campaign, or any aspect of the campaign," Hiatt said. "This developed after the last column that was two weeks ago. He has never written a column while there was a relationship between his wife and the campaign."
Will has however had multiple columns within the last two weeks. His most recent column for the Post was published online November 9 and in print November 10. A column about the GOP debates was published online November 4 (in print November 6), and a column that disparaged Romney as "the pretzel candidate" was published online October 28 (in print October 30).
And there is some confusion over Maseng's status: Both Hiatt and Washington Post Writer Group editor Alan Scherer say that when Will informed them of Maseng's role, he said it was unpaid. However, Miner told us that this was a paid position. Will did not return more than half-a-dozen calls.
Maseng's job may also pose a problem for Will's relationship with ABC News. On November 6, two days before the debate and after Maseng started her work for the campaign, Will appeared on ABC's "This Week" and faulted Perry's GOP challengers, including Romney.
*Updated to reflect changes in the Politico article.
UPDATE: Politico is now reporting that Will's wife also sought work with the Romney campaign:
In addition to her current work for the Perry campaign and her earlier work for the Bachmann campaign, a source knowledgeable of the situation tells us that Maseng sought out a role with the Romney campaign in June.
On June 28, Maseng went to Boston and met with multiple, "high-level officials" in the Romney campaign about joining on as an adviser. No formal offer was ever made, according to the source.
CNN contributor and Andrew Breitbart editor in chief Dana Loesch has taken the editorial position that it is "laughable" for CNN to claim it is "the most trusted name in news."
CNN is even worse than PolitiFact, because they're the ones using them. Obviously, CNN doesn't want to damage their laughable reputation as the "most trusted name in news," but they do want to help Barack Obama get reelected. Therefore, they hire outside mercenaries like PolitiFact to come on the air disguised as objective do-gooders.
Note the awkward banner atop Nolte's post blasting CNN:
Loesch joined "the most trusted name in news" in February.
(h/t St. Louis Activist Hub)
A November 9 Wall Street Journal article sheds more light on the ongoing ethics problem involving Fox News personalities, who have relentlessly endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations.
The Journal reports that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity -- along with Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin -- "are being paid to use their voices and faces to promote politically motivated groups." The Journal also reported Fox News' response to Beck's actions:
"Because Glenn Beck's Mercury Radio Arts agreement predates his agreement with Fox News, Glenn has certain radio obligations with which he needs to comply," said Dianne Brandi, Fox News executive vice president for legal and business affairs.
From the Journal article:
Cable-news network MSNBC briefly suspended liberal host Keith Olbermann last week for crossing a line between the media and politics when it learned he donated $2,400 each to three Democratic Party candidates. But that line is increasingly porous--especially in the rough-and-tumble world of talk radio.
In radio, a lot of money is already flowing in the other direction. A handful of the top talk-radio hosts in the U.S.--including Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity--are being paid to use their voices and faces to promote politically motivated groups. Messrs. Beck and Hannity also have highly rated television programs on Fox News.
Mr. Beck, whose radio program averages 10 million weekly listeners, has given paid endorsements on the show since May for FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian advocacy group that worked closely with tea party groups to support dozens of conservative candidates in last Tuesday's election. As part of what are called "live-read" advertisements, Mr. Beck has urged listeners to join FreedomWorks--a group he also had expressed support for prior to the commercial advertising arrangement.
Mr. Beck declined to comment directly, but Christopher Balfe, president and chief operating officer of Mr. Beck's production company, said in a statement the spots are no different than any other advertising and Mr. Beck won't endorse any service or product he doesn't believe in. Mr. Beck previously has also dropped at least one advertiser after he no longer supported the company, the spokesman said.
TV news networks generally do not allow live-read sponsorships like those in the radio world--though there are sometimes exceptions for hosts who also have radio shows.
"Because Glenn Beck's Mercury Radio Arts agreement predates his agreement with Fox News, Glenn has certain radio obligations with which he needs to comply," said Dianne Brandi, Fox News executive vice president for legal and business affairs. (Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are owned by News Corp.)
From the October 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the March 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the October 22 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham presented clips of Al Gore's recent congressional testimony that had been edited to remove his statements that he donates the money he makes from his climate-related work to a non-profit organization.
Politico quoted Newt Gingrich's criticisms of including a public health insurance plan option in a health care reform proposal without noting his financial ties to several major health insurance companies.
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Since President Obama's election, several conservative media figures have warned their audiences that Obama is planning to, in the words of Glenn Beck, "slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun" or have suggested that a government effort to ban guns is likely. Worse still, they've often floated crazy conspiracy theories about the government's intention to do some pretty whacky things.
We've got a great new video out today hammering home some of the recent work we've been posting. Check it out:
Bill O'Reilly's ambush tactics reached new lows when Jesse Watters, King of the Ambushing Producers chased down blogger Amanda Terkel at Think Progress while she was on vacation. What makes these tactics even more despicable is the fact that Bill O'Reilly is sending his minions to his victims' homes, vacation spots, parking lots -- you name it -- just to fulfill the odious mission of being smear mercenaries.
And his motives are all too clear: REVENGE. He even violates his own 'ambush policy' regarding these intimidation practices.
Of course, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has provided a hands on training for dealing with an ambush from O'Reilly should you ever face one yourself.
And don't forget Jon Stewart's recent take on O'Reilly's ambushiness from Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
On MSNBC Live, Barry R. McCaffrey discussed "build[ing] Afghan security forces," but at no point during the discussion did either McCaffrey or anchor Andrea Mitchell disclose McCaffrey's ties to DynCorp International -- a company under contract to train part of the Afghan National Security Force.
Joe Scarborough promoted General Electric stock on MSNBC's Morning Joe without noting that GE is the parent company of NBC Universal, the owner of MSNBC.