Wall Street Journal reporters finally call out its op-ed page's 'disregard for evidence' — citing a Mike Pence piece

Wall Street Journal reporters finally call out its op-ed page's 'disregard for evidence' — citing a Mike Pence piece
Vice President Mike Pence, along with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, addresses his remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Like many other daily newspapers, the Wall Street Journal has a hard news division and an opinion section — and a group of journalists who write for the WSJ and other Dow Jones & Company publications have signed a letter asking WSJ publisher and Dow Jones CEO Almar Latour to make a clear distinction between the two.

More than 280 people, according to WSJ reporter Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, signed the letter and told Latour, “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.”

In the letter, the journalists complain that the Journal recently published an op-ed on coronavirus infections by Vice President Mike Pence “without checking government figures.” The piece had to be corrected after publication for a factual error.

According to Trachtenberg, “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 had some recommendations for the Journal’s digital operations — for example, it proposed that on the publication’s website and mobile apps, opinion pieces would be clearly labeled as such and would be accompanied by a disclaimer saying, “The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion pages are independent of its newsroom.” And the letter also proposed removing opinion pieces from the “Most Popular Articles” and “Recommended Videos” lists on the Journal’s website and creating a separate “Most Popular in Opinion” list.

“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 letter recommended.

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