Up­hold­ing a me­dia stan­dard

The Wall Street Jour­nal strikes a blow for restor­ing public trust

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

News­pa­per re­porters aren’t ex­pected to be purer than Cae­sar’s wife (not even the wife of a Julius Cae­sar pass­ing as Don­ald Trump), but a re­porter who doesn’t mea­sure up to his news­pa­per’s es­tab­lished eth­i­cal stan­dards can ex­pect to pay for it.

Jay Solomon, a highly re­garded for­eign-af­fairs correspondent, and The Wall Street Jour­nal, also highly re­garded in the trade, learned that the hard way this week. He was fired for vi­o­lat­ing the news­pa­per’s rule against hav­ing the wrong kind of deal­ings with a source. If this kind of ethics code is catch­ing, it might clear out a lot of cer­tain news­rooms.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports that Mr. Solomon was let go af­ter his em­ploy­ers dis­cov­ered that he was of­fered a 10 per­cent stake in Denx LLC, a com­pany owned by Farhad Az­ima, an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who was born in Iran. Denx LLC has trans­ported weapons for the CIA to trou­ble spots around the world.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Solomon took the 10 per­cent stake or oth­er­wise ben­e­fited from his af­fil­i­a­tion with Mr. Az­ima, but the AP said it had ob­tained emails and text mes­sages in a broader in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­cluded a doc­u­ment that lists such a stake in the com­pany in Mr. Solomon’s name.

Mr. Solomon told the news agency that he “clearly made mis­takes in my re­port­ing and en­tered into a world I didn’t un­der­stand. I never en­tered into any busi­ness with Farhad Az­ima, nor did I ever in­tend to. But I un­der­stand why the emails and con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Az­ima may look like I was in­volved in some se­ri­ously trou­bling ac­tiv­i­ties. I apol­o­gize to my bosses and col­leagues at the Jour­nal, who were noth­ing but great to me.”

The Jour­nal, which as the na­tion’s pre-eminent busi­ness news­pa­per, col­lects vol­umes of use­ful in­for­ma­tion about thou­sands of com­pa­nies, has one of the most rigid em­ployee codes against con­flicts of in­ter­est. Mr. Solomon, who has worked at the Jour­nal for two decades, is au­thor of “The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Bat­tles and Se­cret Deals That Re­shaped the Mid­dle East,” pub­lished by Ran­dom House last year.

Bias of all kinds af­flicts the news trade, and not just in busi­ness jour­nal­ism. The main­stream me­dia has be­come widely mis­trusted not for its cov­er­age of busi­ness mat­ters, but more for its cov­er­age of pol­i­tics and cul­tural af­fairs. It’s not a con­spir­acy; it’s worse than that. It’s a con­sen­sus, that di­verse points of view, such as con­ser­va­tive or skep­ti­cal of con­ven­tional wis­dom, need not be re­spected or ac­com­mo­dated. This un­re­lent­ing con­sen­sus is what has robbed the me­dia of its rep­u­ta­tion as a re­li­able, un­bi­ased watch­dog for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Per­haps the Solomon in­ci­dent, as­ton­ish­ing if not shock­ing in a time when the wishy-washy is good enough for eth­i­cal prin­ci­ple, will change things. Or per­haps not. A cynic once ob­served that look­ing for an ethic in a news­room is like look­ing for a vir­gin in a bor­dello. You might find one, but it’s not the first place to look.

We wish Mr. Solomon well, and The Wall Street Jour­nal, too, for do­ing what it con­cluded was the right thing. Do­ing the right thing is not al­ways easy, but nec­es­sary if the me­dia re­gains the trust of its read­ers and view­ers.

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