News

The WSJ's Glass House

By now, everyone has surely seen the story broken by the Wall Street Journal about the call for resignation of Harvard Business Review Editor Suzy Wetlaufer after her staff revealed an alleged affair she had with Jack Welch. Welch has not commented on the allegations, and Wetlaufer, according to the WSJ, told her staff she had become romantically involved with him while writing an article about him for HBR.

Wetlaufer is unmarried, and also according to the WSJ, “Virtually everyone agrees that Ms. Wetlaufer acted responsibly by coming forward with her recommendation to scrap the interview before publication.” So from one editorial board to another: what the hell were you thinking? What’s the story here? You devoted a front page to an affair between an unmarried woman and a married man? This is a story? Should probably half of corporate executives end up on your front pages?

Oh, of course Welch is one of the most influential businesspeople in the world and Wetlaufer is from the most influential business academy in the world. But that makes their affair news?

Certainly we of all people need not remind the WSJ and its News Editor Paul Steiger that there are world affairs of actual consequence that would be more worthy of their column space. Take, for a nauseating instance, the U.S. war against terrorism in which one of the WSJ’s own most dignified journalists savagely lost his life to terrorist kidnappers just weeks ago.

It’s unfathomable: just as the loss of Daniel Pearl is reminding the world of the honor and bravery of professional journalists who risk their lives for an open and free press so that we can live in an open and free society, the WSJ editors sully his name and profession by printing precisely the kind of salacious material that disgusts so many people.

Suit-and-tie editors perched in plush offices with views of lower Manhattan apparently need to be reminded that “open and free” should not mean “anything goes.” And yes, that’s even if it means passing up a tawdry scandal article that can generate some cheap water cooler office gossip by preying on the world’s foremost businessperson and most well-renowned business academy.

How fun to throw stones at giants, eh, Mr. Steiger?

We’re sure the WSJ, itself a titan of business, wouldn’t appreciate the same treatment in return. We’re sure the WSJ would like other newspapers to exercise the judgment that it didn’t exercise itself, to show the mercy it failed to show and that it certainly won’t get from us.

For example, we’re pretty sure they would like to keep quiet the story of their own recently departed ultra-conservative editorial writer John Fund, who himself left the paper under widely whispered reports of sexual peccadilloes involving a woman 20 years his junior, the daughter of an old flame, who had an abortion as a result of her affair with Fund – who didn’t object. She even recorded a telephone call between the two of them discussing the matter and handed it over to journalists; it’s available on the Internet.

And we’re sure the WSJ wouldn’t appreciate the further spinning of that story because just a couple of weeks ago, after taking his “leave-of-absence-to-write-a-book” from the Journal, Fund was arrested in New York City and charged with assault relating to the same relationship, according to The American Politics Journal.

Fund was a leading critic on the editorial pages of the WSJ during the Clinton presidency and often held himself up as a standard for civic and religious virtues. Indeed.

When The Harbus asked about Fund’s departure during his visit last month, Dow Jones Vice-President and Assistant to the Publisher of the WSJ Dick Tofel responded curtly, “John left on a personal leave of absence to write a book.” When asked of any plans for Fund to return to the paper, Tofel replied, “There may be plans, but I just don’t know of them.” Uh-huh.

Those who live in glass houses…

March 11, 2002
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