Wall Street Journal staff hit out at their own opinion pages

Hundreds of journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal have mounted an attack on their own newspaper’s opinion pages, accusing editors and contributors of undermining readers’ trust with misinformation and basic errors on topics including coronavirus and racism.

In what will be viewed as the latest escalation of the so-called culture wars engulfing American institutions, about 300 reporters, editors, video journalists and newsroom technical staff have signed a letter to managers at the Journal’s parent company Dow Jones to demand change.

In a copy of the letter seen by The Telegraph, they accuse the Journal’s opinion pages of a “lack of fact-checking and transparency” and a “disregard for evidence”.

The letter, due to be sent to Dow Jones chief executive Almar Latour on Tuesday, said: “Many readers already cannot tell the difference between reporting and opinion. And from those who know of the divide, reporters nonetheless face questions about the Journal’s accuracy and fairness because of errors published in opinion.”

The signatories singled out a recent article by US Vice-President Mike Pence, headlined “There isn’t a coronavirus ‘second wave’”, which they said was contradicted by prior reporting in the Journal’s own news pages. The article included figures that would have been exposed as flawed by “no more than a Google search”, the letter to Mr Latour said.

A widely read article headlined “The myth of systemic police racism” published in early June, a week after George Floyd was killed and as Black Lives Matter protests gathered momentum, “propelled misinformation”, the letter added.

The Journal‘s “employees of colour spoke out about the pain this opinion piece caused them” after it “selectively presented facts and drew erroneous conclusions from the underlying data”, Mr Latour was told.

The Harvard researcher behind some of the data the article was based on complained in his own opinion article three weeks later that his work was “widely misrepresented and misused” and “wrongly cited as evidence that there is no racism in policing”.

The complaints also cover articles about tax, the Obamacare healthcare funding scheme and allegations that a white nationalist had written for the opinion pages. A Journal reporter in the Middle East was endangered by a false claim in a tweet by an opinion contributor that she had friends in the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation, the letter further alleged.

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