In Thursday's Wall Street Journal news section, Rupert Murdoch's national newspaper reported American Crossroads, the mega, GOP-friendly super PAC, was coming to the aid of Mitt Romney and had purchased nearly $9 million in campaign ads designed to answer attacks about Romney's career at Bain Capital.
The ad buy was newsworthy because it was the first time commercials from American Crossroads had explicitly defended Romney by name (rather than only attack Obama), and they signaled a deepening, hands-on commitment from the group to elect the Republican's presumptive candidate.
In the ninth paragraph, the Journal article noted the super PAC "was founded with the help of Bush White House aide, Karl Rove."
What was missing from the Journal article? The fact that, like the WSJ reporters who wrote the story, Rove also collects a Journal paycheck from Rupert Murdoch. That's because the Wall Street Journal employs a dedicated Republican fundraiser as one of its chief political columnists. I'm pretty sure we've never seen anything like this at a major American newspaper before. (A partisan, multi-million dollar fundraiser as an opinion writer??) And no, you don't have to be the Dean at the Columbia School of Journalism to see the obvious conflicts in play.
Indeed, eleven pages away from the American Crossroads story in the Journal's Thursday print edition was Karl Rove latest column. And like so many Rove columns the Journal has published since he joined the team, it focused on the supposed chronic failures of the Obama administration and/or the president's re-election campaign.
So on A4, the Journal reported about Rove's eight-figure effort to try to debunk Obama campaign attacks about Romney's Bain tenure, and on A15 the Journal published Rove's column, which tried to debunk Obama campaign attacks about Romney 's Bain tenure. And no, the Journal news article never mentioned that moneyman Karl Rove is on the Journal payroll as a columnist.
This is just abysmal journalism in terms of transparency and full disclosure. It's true that Fox News plays dumb about Fox contributor Rove's dual role all the time. But you'd hope the once-mighty Journal wouldn't play by Fox's loose (non-existent?) ethical standards.
Unfortunately, the fiasco represents the predictable, unsightly outcome when Rupert Murdoch buys a newspaper and starts molding it in his image. It's also the predictably messy outcome when a newspaper makes the inexplicable decision to hire a political fundraiser as a columnist, and then fails to acknowledge that to readers.