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August 19, 2022

James Varney: "Journalists" Claim to Be Politically Neutral. If That's So, Why Is Their Union Unabashedly Leftwing and Rabidly Partisan?

I'm just going to throw this out there -- a union is made up of its component members.

So there might be some kind of connection between the views of the members and the views of the union that speaks for them.

At Real Clear Investigations:

The text bulletin the Communication Workers of America sent its members on Aug. 3 urged them to take action on a hot-button issue -- a mammoth Democrat-sponsored tax-and-spend package: "The Inflation Reduction Act tackles rising prices & creates good jobs. Tell your Senators: Vote YES!"

Among the union members urged to support the legislation, passed by a party-line vote, were thousands of journalists whose outlets were covering the contentious issue, including the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Washington Post as well as many major television networks and affiliates.

The CWA -- to which an estimated 16,000 editors and reporters belong through its NewsGuild component -- is not only one of the nation's largest unions, with about 700,000 members, but one of the most politically active and partisan.

Nearly 99% of the $14.9 million the CWA has funneled to politicians since 2020 has supported Democrats, according to figures at OpenSecrets.com. While the upcoming midterm elections are also expected to reveal a sharply divided America, there is no division within the CWA. Its website lists endorsements for 87 congressional candidates in 22 states -- 86 of them are Democrats. Every CWA gubernatorial endorsement is for a Democrat.

While journalists comprise a small percentage of the CWA membership -- an array of workers from telephone company employees to flight attendants -- even the NewsGuild leadership, which works most directly with journalists, takes strong positions on controversial issues.

Union leadership denounced the "radical" Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case striking down Roe v. Wade as a national standard on abortion. On June 24, the NewsGuild "vowed to continue [the] fight for access to abortion." NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss, a Los Angeles Times data journalist elected in 2019, sounded a call to action: "We are encouraging our members to respond to this assault on their personal freedom and essential health care by doing what we do best: organizing to protect our rights in the workplace."


The connection between journalists and unions is rarely if ever disclosed in coverage of labor issues, including articles about efforts to organize unions at Amazon, Starbucks, Chipotle, and other major employers. Nor do reporters whose paychecks help fund their union's advocacy for political candidates and policy proposals tell their readers about these ties, including journalists serving in guild posts, even though the time-honored values of journalism call for not only neutral coverage but robust efforts to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest.

In reality, coverage of union organizing efforts can assume at times an almost celebratory air that doesn't quite square with labor's mixed fortunes in recent years. In a July 28 article on a successful union vote at a Trader Joe's, the Washington Post reported:

The union's victory in western Massachusetts follows a wave of successful union drives this year at high profile employers that have long evaded unionization, such as Starbucks, Amazon, Apple and REI. Union victories can produce a ripple effect across employers and industries, emboldening new workers to organize.

In such stories, the Post duly notes that its owner, Jeff Bezos, is also the owner of Amazon. But there is no mention of the Post reporters' Guild.

Varney reached out to newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, and asked if they had mandatory disclosure requirements directing reporters to inform readers if they were themselves union members when reporting on a union story.

They refused to answer.

In fact, just about every media company he asked refused any comment whatsoever.

One guy who does respond is a former reporter named Chris Roberts who now teaches at the University of Alabama.

He understands why "journalists" refuse to disclose their bias.

Because... people might get the idea that they are liberal, and slanting the story, and ask questions about their bias that "journalists" do not want the reader asking.

But what would acknowledging that in a story to do to alleviate concerns about a real or perceived conflict in his reporting on the mill, Roberts wondered? It might raise issues in readers' minds that weren't there before. A story's credibility can be marred by any number of things, and a note that a reporter is a union member could raise flags better left unfurled, Roberts said.

"Is it the ethical thing to do? Sort of," he said. "But it's not fair to think a guy is a flaming liberal simply because he's in a union."

In other words, he doesn't think "journalists" should make basic conflict-of-interest disclosures because of the very reason that conflict-of-interest disclosures exist: To raise the possibility in the reader's mind of possible bias and selective reportage, and to promote a critical reading of the piece.

And "journalists" do not want that.

No matter what their bias, and no matter how propagandistic their writing, and no matter how political their intent, they want to be believed uncritically.

They hate critical reading.

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