News Corp. Civil War? Wall Street Journal Veterans Blast Beck Egypt Coverage
Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP
Glenn Beck's month-long effort to portray the protests in the Middle East as a conspiracy between Islamic radicals and leftists pursuing a "New World Order" has drawn criticism from veterans of his News Corp. sister outlet, The Wall Street Journal.
Current and former Journal reporters contacted by Media Matters criticized Beck, with at least one warning that the host's strange theories could hurt reporting efforts by other News Corp. reporters.
"The guy either has several screws loose or he is intentionally manipulating the worst fears of his audience in a cartoonish way. For a 'news organization' to give some lunatic that kind of platform that he has tells you all you need to know about Murdoch and Fox News," said Ryan Chittum, who served as a Journal reporter from 2002 to 2007 and now writes for Columbia Journalism Review.
He said that when Fox News gives Beck a show, it gives him undeserved credibility.
"It lends credibility to it and Lord knows what is going to happen. Nothing good is going to come of it. Nothing is getting fact-checked. I know people who are influenced by that. It is the height of irresponsibility to let someone go like this."
Chittum also said he was among several Journal staffers who were concerned when Murdoch took over Dow Jones, the Journal parent company, in 2007: "We didn't like his journalism and what he stood for. One thing we did know was that the credibility of the paper, which was high, is tarnished by its association with Murdoch and Fox News and all that. There is no way around it."
At issue are Beck's shows about the Middle East protests and his claims that the demonstrations are the result of an alliance between radical Muslims and communists, leftists, and labor unions aimed at creating global chaos. Beck has gone so far as to suggest that the U.S. State Department is aiding violent Islamic extremists who are attempting to re-create a "caliphate."
"Am I shocked about some of the stuff Glenn Beck is saying here? Yeah, I find it appalling sometimes," said Joshua Prager, a Journal reporter from 1996 to 2009. "Glenn Beck is ridiculously popular. I find it sort of sad that he commands the sort of audience he does."
Asked about Beck's Egypt comments, One current Journal reporter who requested anonymity said: "We try to ignore the connection to Fox. I don't think the Journal or Journal reporters should be connected to Fox News or Glenn Beck. But people make the connection."
Several sources requested anonymity, saying they feared retaliation.
Among them, a former Journal reporter who says he is glad not to be linked to News Corp. anymore given Beck's recent Egypt tirades.
"I would feel completely outraged if I was still at the Journal. I am happy not to be at the Journal," the source said, noting some current Journal staffers are also frustrated by it. "What Beck says is absurd and they are frustrated about it. I keep in touch with a lot of people."
He also added, "The Journal's coverage itself has been affected by right-wing viewpoints that seem to channel the business line and the right's line on fiscal issues and political issues. But I don't think they are as loony as Beck."
Added another former Journal scribe: "It is not the same company that it was when I worked there."
One ex-Journal writer who had covered the Middle East for the News Corp. paper called Beck's Egypt comments "a stupid thing to say."
"If it's portrayed or presented as news or fact by the network, that would be very serious," the journalist said of Beck's views. "Do I think he has a positive effect on the debate? No. You don't need me to tell you it is a stupid thing to say. There are a lot of irresponsible opinions expressed by him and others. It is important to keep hammering home the facts. I know people who think what he says is true and it is sad."
A former Journal reporter and editor warned that Beck's misinformation could hurt other News Corp. journalists' efforts to get information from sources.
"I think Glenn Beck is a purveyor of opinion and not fact. It is crazy. He is so unique in his take on things, he is seen as an outlier by most serious people," the source said. "But, then again, for those people who are out there talking to politically-attuned sources who don't share the views of Glenn Beck, I don't think they are happy. That is the kind of area where you could see news gathering being affected."