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The Wall Street Journal: Media Bias And Factual Reporting Analysis

The Wall Street Journal is an American English language newspaper that is known for its coverage of business news from its base in New York City. Published by Dow Jones & Company, The Wall Street Journal is a subsidiary of News Corp. The newspaper has two international editions in Chinese and Japanese languages. All three editions are published six days a week.

In this article, we will analyse the biases shown by The Wall Street Journal in the past and put fact checking measures in place to figure out its political positioning and ideology.

The Wall Street Journal Media Bias Summary

Media Bias Summary: Right Center

The Wall Street Journal is deemed to be a Right-Center publication as its editorial department publishes essays that favour the conservatives. The information published by the newspaper is often loaded with words that aim to influence the readers.

right center

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The Wall Street Journal Factual Reporting Summary

Factual reporting Summary: Highly Reliable

Factually, The Wall Street Journal is up to the mark in most of the cases. However, the newspaper’s anti-climate and anti-science stances make its editorials misleading at times.

highly reliable

*Image for reference only

A. The Wall Street Journal Bias Analysis

Starting with public perception, The Wall Street Journal is considered to be mostly fair. However, it’s hard to ignore the misleading editorials carried by the newspaper along with its anti-science and anti-climate biases. If we correlate the paper’s stance on climate with former US President Donald Trump’s and look into the ownership of The Wall Street Journal, then one can see a right inclination in most of its editorials.

I. Analysis of Headlines Used by The Wall Street Journal

“No Need to Panic About Global Warming”

On January 27, 2012, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece with the above mentioned headline. One can still read the article which is signed by 16 scientists on its website.

On the same day, Peter Gleick, CEO Pacific Institute, MacArthur Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, wrote an opinion piece for Forbes under the title “Remarkable Editorial Bias on Climate Science at the Wall Street Journal”.

“The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has long been understood to be not only antagonistic to the facts of climate science, but hostile,” opines Gleick, adding that the op-ed has fundamental mistake about recent actual temperatures and other glaring errors.

“Ignore the Fake Climate Debate”

On January 23, 2020, Ted Nordhaus wrote an essay published in The Wall Street Journal with the above-mentioned headline. One can read the essay attacking Greta Thunberg and other climate activists here.

On June 11, 2018, Dana Nuccitelli claimed in an opinion piece for The Guardian that “The WSJ disguises climate misinformation as “opinion”.”

“The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Opinion page has long had a conservative skew, and unfortunately that has extended to politicizing climate change with biased and factually inaccurate editorials,” the British paper published.

II. Political Alignment of The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is owned and managed by Roger Ailes, who formerly acted as media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. He was also the adviser to the campaign of Donald Trump. The newspaper is widely criticised for supporting the right-wing ideology of the Republican Party. In 2007, CNN had claimed that The Wall Street Journal’s “newsroom staff has a reputation for non-partisan reporting”.

While the pre-Murdoch phase of The Wall Street Journal is dubbed liberal, its eventual acquisition by News Corp in 2007 made critics assume a rightward bias by the paper. On August 1, 2007 after the purchase, Rupert Murdoch had said that he intends to “maintain the values and integrity of the Journal”.

III. Examples of Political Favouring by The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal was seen acting “timid” during the presidency of Donald Trump. In November 2016, the conservative newspaper published a front-page headline endorsing a false claim made by Trump that “millions of people” had voted illegally in the election. The statement was published by the paper “without corroboration”.

Sydney Ember of The New York Times slammed the then editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal Gerard Baker, saying: “that Americans already distrusted the news media, and that if The Journal covered Mr. Trump in an overly confrontational way, that distrust might increase”.

IV. Analysis of Wordings/Adjectives Used by The Wall Street Journal

In January 2017, a note from Baker to his editors was leaked in which he had directed them to avoid writing “seven majority-Muslim countries” while talking about Trump’s controversial executive order on travel and immigration.

Later defending his move, Baker was quoted as saying by The New York Times that there was ‘no ban’ on the phrase “but that the publication should always be careful that this term is not offered as the only description of the countries covered under the ban”.

V. The Wall Street Journal Readers Analysis

In 2020, Ben Smith of the New York Times claimed that the news reporting of The Wall Street Journal is “small-c [conservative]” and its readership leans further to the right.

In 2014, a survey by Pew Research found that 41 percent of readers of the newspaper were consistently or mostly liberal, 24 percent were of mixed ideology and 35 percent of them were consistently or mostly conservative.

VI. Controversies Related to The Wall Street Journal

On February 19, 2020, China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters for publishing stories criticising China’s efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. In June 2020, during the nationwide protests following the George Floyd killing, the staff of The Wall Street Journal sent a letter to editor-in-chief Matt Murray, demanding changes in stylesheet while mentioning race, policing and finance in its news reports.

The New York Times published the letter, in which the staff stated they “frequently meet resistance when trying to reflect the accounts and voices of workers, residents or customers, with some editors voicing heightened skepticism of those sources’ credibility compared with executives, government officials or other entities”.

VII. Controversial Tweets on The Wall Street Journal

On December 11, 2020, Joseph Epstein wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, asking First Lady Dr Jill Biden to drop “Dr” from her name as it “seems and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic”. Without mentioning the paper in her tweet, Jill hit back at the article that addressed her as “kiddo”, saying: “Together, we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished.”

B. The Wall Street Journal Factual Reporting Analysis

In this section of the article, we will present and discuss the instances where The Wall Street Journal either published fake news or faced allegations of fake news. The internal divide is also visible in one of the cases when the two departments of the newspaper came to be at loggerheads.

I. Police Complaints Against The Wall Street Journal

In India, the New York-based newspaper was mentioned in an FIR over its coverage of Delhi riots in February 2020. In the report jointly published by Krishna Pokharel, Vibhuti Agarwal and Rajesh Roy under the title of “India’s Ruling Party, Government Slammed Over Delhi Violence”, The Wall Street Journal claimed that IB officer Ankit Sharma was killed by “group of rioters”. The report had quoted Ankit’s brother, Ankur Sharma, as saying: “They came armed with stones, rods, knives and even swords; they shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’…”

However, Ankur told national broadcaster Prasar Bharati that he “never gave such a statement to Wall Street Journal” and called this a “ploy to defame my brother and my family”.

II. Major Allegations on The Wall Street Journal

On February 2, 2020, Bridgewater CEO Ray Dalio published a blog on LinkedIn, claiming that The Wall Street Journal published an article with “intentional factual errors” to malign the image of his company. Attacking the writers of the article — Rob Copeland and Rachael Levy — Dalio said: “They had a goal and story in mind long before there were any facts. They are investigative journalists that The Wall Street Journal hires to dig up dirt on successful people and companies and to write negative articles about them”.

“This lack of an objective quality control process is the main problem in “journalism” today. To make matters worse, those who know the true facts are reluctant to speak up because they are afraid to fight the media,” Dalio added.

III. Internal Conflict on Factual Reporting

In July 2020, the staff members of The Wall Street Journal’s news section wrote a letter to publisher Almar Latour, complaining about the opinion desk’s “lack of fact-checking and transparency”. The document mentioned several examples of essays that were published as opinion pieces, separately from the news articles. While the open letter came out eventually in public, the newspaper’s editorial board responded to the news staff in a rather direct address to the public — in an essay titled “A Note to Readers”.

“As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse. And these columns will continue to promote the principles of free people and free markets, which are more important than ever in what is a culture of growing progressive conformity and intolerance,” the Editorial Board stated.

C. The Wall Street Journal Bias Reliability Ratings by Fact-Checking Organizations

In this section of the article, we are going to summarise what highly credible fact-checking websites say about The Wall Street Journal.

I. Media Bias Fact Check

Media Bias Fact Check claims in its “factual search” report that “The Wall Street Journal has never failed a fact check regarding news reporting”. The agency was quick to add, which other experts would agree to, that the editorial department of The Wall Street Journal reported inaccuracies in many of its articles, especially the ones on climate and health.

Media Bias Fact Check calls The Wall Street Journal “Right-Center” biased because of its low biased news reporting that comes with a “strong right biased editorial stance”.

II. Investopedia

Mara Lesemann writes for Investopedia: “The Wall Street Journal has been classified by media bias centers as right-center, meaning its bias is moderately conservative”.

III. All Slides

All Slides maintains two different bias ratings for The Wall Street Journal — one for its news section and other for its editorial/opinion section. While the bias rating of The Wall Street Journal’s news section is Center, the Opinion/Editorial section “has a Lean Right media bias”.

D. The Wall Street Journal Background Analysis

Let’s have a look at the background of The Wall Street Journal including its establishment, history, funding and current ownership that could possibly influence its ideology.

I. The Wall Street Journal History

The Wall Street Journal was established in 1889 as an international business newspaper in New York City by journalists Charles Dow, Edward Jones and Charles Bergstresser. The trio formed Dow Jones & Company and invented something called the “Dow theory” of market analysis.

After Dow died on December 4, 1902, Clarence Barron, a Boston-based correspondent of The Wall Street Journal bought its operations. After the death of Barron in 1928, his stepdaughters, Jane and Martha, took over the business. Jane’s husband Hugh Bancroft looked after the business before he committed suicide and since then no member of the Bancroft family had an active role in the management of the newspaper.

II. Key People And Their Background

Robert Thomson is the chief executive of News Corp, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal (2021). ‎Matt Murray is the editor-in-chief‎. According to Politico, former editor-in-chief Gerard Baker had to face internal criticism for allowing a Pro-Trump coverage in The Wall Street Journal. ‎Paul A. Gigot is The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor and the company’s Vice President. He occasionally appears on Fox News Channel as a conservative political commentator.

III. Ownership And Funding

The Bancroft family sold The Wall Street Journal for five billion dollars to Rupert Murdoch in 2007. Murdoch also purchased the parent company. So, the Dow Jones & Co. now comes under the control of News Corporation. The Wall Street Journal claims it is funded by subscriptions and advertisements.

E. The Wall Street Journal Media Bias And Factual Reporting Analysis Summary

The news coverage of The Wall Street Journal is quite reliable and fair, but the same cannot be said for its editorial page. The opinion page favours the right-wing ideologies. However, their factual reporting is up to mark and neither of the two departments of The Wall Street Journal make anything up. Talking about the coverage of financial news, which is the base of The Wall Street Journal, experts feel it is not up to the mark and papers like Financial Times are doing much better as of now. One thing to note here is that The Wall Street Journal is now targeting new age readers with stories that are less detailed and simple.

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