So what's the problem with failing to let people know when columnists have ties to a political campaign?
"When you know the person you're reading is attached to a candidate, you can take their words with a grain of salt," Levin said. "You expect some sort of campaign type spin to come out of it. Our take has always been 'Why not?' You have a few lines to describe where this person came from. Why not just disclose their ties?"
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The Wall Street Journal's failure to disclose op-ed columnist Karl Rove's ties to political organizations raising hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama and other Democratic candidates is drawing harsh criticism from editorial page editors at America's top newspapers.
Howell Raines, a former editorial page editor and executive editor at The New York Times, says that description is woefully inadequate during the current election season. "His role at American Crossroads is, if anything, more relevant to this campaign than his Bush ties, given the importance of PAC commercials in this campaign," Raines told Media Matters in an email.
According to Raines, who served as the Times' editorial page editor in the mid-1990s, "full disclosure of a contributor's ties and interests is a threshold requirement," and the Journal's description fails to provide the reader with "information relevant to the issue at hand."
Former Times editorial page and executive editor Max Frankel said the paper should "absolutely" disclose Rove's ties, but went further, suggesting that giving Rove a journalistic platform creates ethical problems that proper identification alone would not solve.
"I wouldn't run" Rove's column said Frankel, who preceded Rosenthal as the Times' editorial page editor. "It is not a question of disclosure it is a question of why do you have him there? What is the purpose? Why not have Obama and Romney and their ghost writers put it there?"
WARNING EXPLICIT LANGUAGE BUT SUPER FUNNY
On July 20, 2010, The Daily Caller (DC) published the dialog of the JournoList concerning Jeremiah Wright. The contributors discussed killing the Wright story, as it was reflecting negatively on Barack Obama. In a separate discussion, about an ABC News-sponsored debate between Obama and Hillary Clinton, Michael Tomasky, a writer for The Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of JournoList: “Listen folks – in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people".
James Taranto observed that one JournoList contributor, Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent, stated "If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares – and call them racists".
Ackerman was also quoted as saying, "find a right winger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass _ Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously, I mean this rhetorically." In response, Daily Caller commentator Jim Treacher posted a photo of a building with multiple plate glass-windows destroyed with text over the building reading "Ackerman Wuz Hear" (a LOLCats reference).
The Daily Caller published a story by Jonathan Strong on July 21 about JournoList members wanting the federal government to shut down Fox News. . . . The article also reported that one member of the discussion group, Sarah Spitz, a producer for a public affairs radio program at a National Public Radio affiliate station, wrote that she would laugh if she saw conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh have a heart attack in front of her. "On JournoList," according to the DC article, "where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it [the comment] barely raised an eyebrow". On the day Strong's story was published, Spitz apologized for the comment. The article also quoted Ryan Donmoyer, a reporter for Bloomberg News, comparing members of the Tea Party movement to Nazis. Strong wrote, "In the view of many who’ve posted to the list-serv, conservatives aren’t simply wrong, they are evil".