Wall Street Journal Reporter's Possible Conflict of Interest with Neighborhood Mosque
Paul Overberg, reporter for the Wall Street Journal and president of his community association in Fairfax County, is involved in a perceived or real conflict of interest regarding his complaints about a local mosque, the McLean Islamic Center. Through his role in the community association, Overberg made complaints about the mosque’s recent expansion, which simply allowed the morning prayer service to include more than ten people. He complained on the grounds that this expansion would cause more noise in early morning hours, and as a result, the McLean Islamic Center has had to spend thousands of dollars on traffic and noise-mitigation studies and lawyer’s fees. Many news organizations highly discourage their employees from getting involved in public or political issues because it could come into conflict with the journalistic norms of objectivity and neutrality. Although Overberg is not in direct opposition to the Journal’s rules, many respected journalists think he would be smart to step back from this issue, as it could be perceived as Islamophobic. Edward Wasserman, dean of the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said “The Wall Street Journal should be worried that his involvement, even in a neighborhood squabble, will be viewed as religious intolerance”. This conflict of interest, or perceived conflict of interest, is in contention with many common values in the field of journalism, such as independence and loyalty. Should Overberg be free to participate in controversial projects, or should he remain loyal to a journalist’s obligation of objectivity in the public eye? This question and topic of research will be presented in a poster at the Stander Symposium and in a two to four page case study.
Chad E Painter
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium poster
"Wall Street Journal Reporter's Possible Conflict of Interest with Neighborhood Mosque" (2019). Stander Symposium Posters. 1580.