Media Reporter Erik Wemple Questions The Wash. Times' Relationship With The NRA

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple is raising questions about the Washington Times' relationship with the National Rifle Association after the paper ran a “Special Report” sponsored by the gun group featuring several articles from the Times' news coverage.

Wemple highlighted an August 27 “special pullout section” in the Times that was clearly “sponsored by the NRA” and featured disclaimers on each page explaining the pullout was "A Special Report Prepared by The Washington Times Advertising Department." Instead of being filled only with advertisements, the section featured past gun-related news stories from Times reporters Kelly Riddell, David Sherfinski, and Jessica Chasmar, which Wemple cites as evidence that the paper's news coverage “pleases the mighty gun lobby.”

But when Wemple asked Times editor John Solomon whether the presence of news stories in “a special advertising section cross[es] some sacred journalistic trench,” Solomon defended the paper by arguing that the articles had all “already been written.”

Solomon also defended the paper from Wemple's suggestion that there might be a “risk” in the Times' behavior, since reporters may “be inclined to tilt their stories” to appease pro-gun advertisers:

Though Solomon says the stories piled up in the Washington Times archive in the course of normal journalistic business, isn't there a risk here? Once reporters see how the paper monetizes their work via pro-gun advertisers, won't they be inclined to tilt their stories in that direction? No again, says Solomon: “Writers never know, and it's no different thantomorrow waking up and seeing a Boeing ad in The Washington Post and having a defense story in the newspaper.”

The Washington Times has long had a cozy relationship with the NRA. David Keene, who edits the paper's aggressively pro-NRA opinion page, is a former NRA president. In a move that sparked concern from journalism experts, Keene has continued to operate as a spokesman for the gun group and sit on its board while also serving as the Times opinion editor. Solomon told Media Matters this year that Keene's dual role avoids conflict since he “recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA.” 

The Times has previously partnered with anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage for a June 2014 event. The paper's “Advocacy Department” put together a "Special Report" supplement for the event with articles from its news and opinion sections. The Times has long been a platform for virulent homophobia.