Journalist Fred Barnes wrote July 22 for the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page slamming liberal colleagues for disregarding the tenets of “traditional journalism” when corresponding on JournoList about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
But, while criticizing the JournoList members for teaming up along party lines, it turns out he himself has violated journalism ethics by not disclosing a financial conflict of interest. Barnes has accepted money from Republican party organizations.
But, as Salon’s Joe Conason has revealed, Barnes has accepted money from the Republican Party to speak at several Republican Party events.
Conason’s July 29 article listed at least three instances where Barnes was paid by local Republican Parties in the past four years.
In 2006, a Republican committee in Oregon paid Barnes $10,000 speakers fee plus travel expenses.
In 2007, a Texan Republican Party paid Barnes’ speakers organization, Premiere Speakers Bureau, $11,823 two months after Barnes spoke at that party’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner.
In 2008, Premiere Speakers Bureau was paid $5,000 by a Florida Republican Party a few weeks before Barnes was a speaker at one of its dinners.
“That alone raises questions about his journalistic independence,” Steele said. “It certainly undermines his credibility as a critic of other journalists.”
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Conason reported Aug. 4 in a follow-up for Salon that Barnes spoke as recently as late Sept. 2009 at the California Republican Party’s state convention. One of the other speakers at that convention was Meg Whitman, a candidate for California governor. Conason reported that it’s unclear if Barnes was paid for that speech.
In May of that year, Conason noted, Barnes favorably profiled Whitman in the Weekly Standard. In that profile, Barnes called Whitman “the most interesting person in American politics.”
Not only are the ethics of a journalist accepting undisclosed money from a political party at question, but also, Barnes’s critique of a liberal team seems hypocritical since he’s been paid by the conservative team.
“I think opinion journalists, bloggers, and editorial writers would be better off not taking money from anyone they are writing about or opining about,” Media Matters reported that Byron Calame, former public editor of The New York Times and a former deputy managing editor at The Wall Street Journal. “I am of the school that you shouldn’t take money from anyone you cover.”
Media Matters reported April 21 a list of at least 20 Fox News personalities who have “endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or causes, or against Democratic candidates or causes.”
Conason noted in his Aug. 4 post that he still hasn’t had any response from Barnes to queries for comment about the undisclosed conflict of interest. Barnes’s Twitter says that he is in Israel.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics advises that journalists
- “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,
- “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility,” and
- “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.”
iMediaEthics is writing The Weekly Standard for comment and will update with any response.