Cancel culture is littering the landscape with the tattered careers of insufficiently woke journalists, entertainers, academics and corporate executives.
But the editors of the Wall Street Journal’s right-leaning Opinion section want their readers to know that they are not yet ready to succumb to the mob mentality.
On July 21, some 280 members of the Journal’s news staff complained in a letter to new publisher Almar Latour that errors in opinion articles were boomeranging onto them. They provided a handful of examples.
The unnamed signers argued that, whether or not readers were cognizant of the divide between news reporting and editorial commentary, readers and sources were refusing to talk to them because “they don’t trust that the WSJ is independent of the editorial page.”
In what may be a first for a contemporary U.S. newspaper, the Journal’s news staff said the “bias” of the conservatively oriented editorial page was adversely affecting their relationship with newsmakers and news consumers.
Additionally, the critics also maintained that at least one Journal op-ed had “endangered newsroom safety,” while another had caused “pain” to minority reporters who were already dealing with working in an “overwhelmingly white” newsroom.
Their proposed solutions included drawing a brighter, clearer line between commentary and news, and, in an audacious push to be able to push back, a pledge from Latour to not punish news staffers who criticize the editorial page.
To its credit, the Journal did not hide the gripes of the disgruntled. It published an article about the letter the same day it surfaced, then two days later the Opinion editors replied in an editorial.
The commentary staff expressed gratitude for the “outpouring” of support after the letter became public. “But,” they added, “the support has often been mixed with concern that perhaps the letter will cause us to change our principles and content. On that point, reassurance is in order.”
“It was probably inevitable that the wave of progressive cancel culture would arrive at the Journal, as it has at nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution,” the editorial continued. “But we are not the New York Times. Most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle, and our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.”
“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,” the Opinion section’s defense concluded. “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.”