Once upon a time, the Wall Street Journal was a respected member of the Fourth Estate. Those days ended when the 123 year old publication was acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Slowly but surely, News Corp’s influence. and its right-wing agenda have transformed the Journal, which has won the Pulitzer Prize thirty-three times, into yet another arm of the Republican talking points machine.
Case in point: Media Matters asks the question: Why Won’t The Wall Street Journal Acknowledge Its Karl Rove Ties? In his blog, Eric Boehlert calls into question the ethics of a news organization that consistently fails to disclose that Karl Rove is an employee of the paper when they are reporting on Rove’s campaign work with American Crossroads, an ultra-conservation organization committed to defeating President Obama as well as down ticket Democrats.
Hired by the Journal to write columns about the races he is working to win for the GOP, Rove is never mentioned as a columnist when stories elsewhere in the paper mention him and his anti-Obama, anti-Democrat political activities.
With all the calls from the right for transparency, where is the hue and cry for transparency here?
It isn’t just Karl Rove, however. Taking a look around the WSJ website, and clicking on related content reveals what can only be termed a poorly done job of subliminal suggestion. WSJ’s Mary Kissel interviewed Rock The Vote’s president Heather Smith about getting out the vote among young people, specifically college students. Throughout the interview, the banner Youth Vote Crushed By Obama? appears beneath Smith, giving the impression that youth feels disenfranchised by the Obama campaign. This in direct contrast to what Smith had to say: “I think you’re seeing the Democratic candidates have done a better job of getting on to campuses, talking to students, addressing those issues…”
Not all of the content on the site is as ham-handed but there is a steady stream throughout that is insidious in its stealth attacks on the truth.
Recently Canada’s Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) reinforced a law on its books that prohibits lying and misdirection in the news media. Here in the United States, our First Amendment Rights, or at least the interpretation of those rights, allows for the deliberate falsification and distortion of the news. Although the FCC has a policy against distorting the news, a state appeals court determined that it does not meet the criteria of a law or regulation.
The Society of Professional Journalists has issued a set of ethical standards but has no mechanism to enforce those standards. Which means that we the people in the United States find ourselves subjected to an onslaught of lies and obfuscation with no way to get at the real truth unless we dig. I am one of those who dig. But there are so many people who don’t have the time or the inclination, instead preferring to adhere to whatever suits their preconceived notions. Sadly those notions are so many times the result of misinformation fed to them by so-called journalists who have no ethics and are wholly and fully owned by the political interests that pay their salaries.
There was a time in this country when the news was ethical, when we could believe what was reported when we tuned in or picked up the paper. That time is fast fading.
Perhaps, in light of the comment by Romney pollster Neil Newhouse “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers” and the non-stop lies that issue daily on FOX News channels and the lighter but still misleading touch of the Journal, we might want to reconsider whether the term Free Speech includes outright lies. After all, isn’t that one of the Ten Commandments that is always being trucked out by the conservatives?
I’m certain that when Thomas Jefferson stated “Democracy demands an educated and informed electorate” he didn’t have Rupert Murdoch and his minions at News Corp. in mind.