The Wall Street Journal's Disclosure Problems In 2012

In 2012 The Wall Street Journal regularly failed to disclose the election-related conflicts of interest of its op-ed writers. The paper's editorial page published op-eds from 12 writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It also didn't regularly disclose columnist Karl Rove's close ties to the super PAC American Crossroads and the affiliated political organization American Crossroads GPS, two groups which spent a massive sum of money attempting to aid Mitt Romney and various Republican congressional candidates in November's elections. 

According to a Media Matters review, the Journal published 2012 pieces from the following Romney advisers without disclosing their campaign ties: John BoltonMax BootLee A. CaseySeth CropseyPaula DobrianskyMary Ann GlendonKevin HassettMichael MukaseyPaul E. PetersonDavid B. Rivkin Jr.John Taylor; and Martin West.

An October 2 study by Media Matters found that in 70 percent of op-eds written by Mitt Romney advisers, the Journal failed to disclose the writer's connections to the Romney campaign. In several instances, the paper failed to disclose an op-ed writer's connection despite its own news section reporting that the writer is advising Romney.

For months, the News Corp.-owned publication also failed to disclose that Rove is the co-founder and adviser for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, even though Rove's columns were regularly about the political races that Crossroads was spending money on. Rove's columns contained optimistic forecasts for Romney and falsehoods against President Obama.

The paper's failure on both fronts drew criticism from veteran editorial page editors at some of the nation's top newspapers. Editors told Media Matters that providing adequate disclosure is “essential” when publishing op-eds. Media Matters also launched a petition urging the Journal to disclose the conflicts.

Following criticism, the Journal eventually disclosed Rove's super PAC connection in late September, and noted the Romney affiliations of a writer in at least two subsequent op-eds (while backsliding on others).

Los Angeles Times editor Nicholas Goldberg told Media Matters, “when a writer does have a particular relationship to his subject that is not immediately apparent to the reader, it is important to disclose that so that the reader can evaluate the argument intelligently.”

Unfortunately for Journal readers, that information wasn't available in more than twenty op-ed pieces and dozens of Rove columns in 2012.