Fair and balanced

by Ted on December 4, 2003

Regarding Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, you might be interested in this long, detailed article from the Columbia Journalism Review about the trustworthiness of the Wall Street Journal editorial page under his leadership. It’s well worth reading.

Just one example out of many:

In late 1994 (the WSJ editorial page) targeted Peter Edelman, then counselor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who was being considered for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. The Journal said that when Edelman was director of New York State’s Division for Youth in 1978, he ordered a one-week furlough for a seventeen-year-old who had knifed a girl during a robbery. While on his furlough, the youth was arrested on charges of raping, robbing, and trying to electrocute a sixty-three-year-old woman.

That the Journal’s charge was not true was eventually pointed out in a letter, published about three weeks later, written by J. Thomas Mullen, president of the Catholic Charities Services Corp. in Cleveland, who had worked with Edelman in New York. Under the structure of the agency, Edelman did not order transfers or furloughs, but he could override them, particularly when there was a concern about security, which he did in this case. But by the time he had ordered the boy picked up and returned to the facility, it was too late.

It was also too late for Edelman’s nomination. Under pressure from the right wing’s judicial attack machine, Clinton got cold feet, and Edelman’s name never went to the Senate…

“They were almost indifferent as to whether what they wanted to say comported with dispassionate factual reality,” says Taylor, who is now a senior writer at The American Lawyer.



Ophelia Benson 12.05.03 at 1:39 am

Possibly the most remarkable part of that article is the last paragraph. Not because it’s about Hillary Clinton, but because of the…well, attitude.

“The White House couldn’t get a correction after the Journal wrote that Hillary Clint on had intervened to suppress allegations of sexual harassment at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a charge the Journal had picked up fromThe Sunday Times of London. The White House had denied the allegation before the Journal published its editorial. Bartley told Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz that the Journal was aware that the First Lady had denied the charge. “We meant to include that,” he told Kurtz. But “if you’ve got 600 words, something has to give.””

Oh, something has to give, to wit, the fact that your story isn’t true. Interesting journalistic approach.


HW 12.05.03 at 1:49 am

Yes, yes, yes — and this characteristic dishonesty isn’t just the product of Bartley but a regular feature of the WSJ’s editorial page. Most recently an editorial writer doctored an interview with Warren Buffet to make it appear that Buffet, then an advisor to Schwarzenegger, had called for higher taxes in California, when he really was criticizing the state’s inequitable post-Proposition 13 tax scheme. My problem? The rest of the WSJ is a superb newspaper, the best there is for financial and business news. In my business, to keep up I feel compelled to subscribe. So every six months I write them a check and wince, knowing some small portion of my money goes not to the “journalism” side of the paper but to charlatans like Bartley, who tramples on everything good journalism should be. It’s a disgrace he’s receiving one of the nation’s highest awards.


Jeffrey Kramer 12.05.03 at 1:02 pm

For saying Bush is lying about the budget, Paul Krugman is made exhibit A of the depths to which man may sink under the malignant influence of ad hominem politics. For writing ream after ream of ‘speculation’ about Clinton’s role in running drugs through Mena and murdering Vince Foster, Bartlett gets the nation’s highest civilian honor. Civility’s in its heaven, all’s right with the world.


Jeffrey Kramer 12.05.03 at 1:09 pm

That’s “Bartley.” Use Preview next time, genius.


Ophelia Benson 12.05.03 at 5:54 pm

Now now. Be civil – even when talking to yourself.


Matt Weiner 12.05.03 at 10:12 pm

PRESIDENTIAL FUCKING MEDAL OF FREEDOM? For ROBERT FUCKING BARTLEY? Your reaction is too temperate, Ted, and so is Greg Greene’s. This is a declaration of war, by our own government, against the forces of decency and civility in the United States.

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