Guilt by Association Watch Topic: Accuracy in Media
A May 9 Accuracy in Media article by Jennifer Verner keeps up AIM's attack on Washington Post reporter Dana Priest over her Pulitzer-winning series exposing the CIA's secret prisons. This time around, Verner plays the guilt-by-association card by attacking Priest's husband, William Goodfellow, "a far-left political activist and current executive director of the Center for International Policy (CIP), who has been at the vanguard of many of the most rabid attacks on Bush Administration policy." But Verner engages in some wobbly research to back up her claims.
According to Verner:
In 1974, he [Goodfellow] wrote a widely circulated op-ed for the New York Times that served to excuse the genocidal Pol Pot's forced evacuation of the Cambodian people from the cities. The piece was so influential that it is still quoted by Noam Chomsky and his followers to this day.
Verner gets the date wrong; Goodfellow's op-ed actually appeared July 14, 1975. As to Verner's suggestion that the op-ed was "widely circulated" beyond its Times appearance, searches on Google and Nexis failed to turn up a complete copy of it. Nexis contains an abstract summary, while two paragraphs of it appear (and have been repeated) on the Internet.
Verner also offers no evidence to support her claim that the op-ed is "quoted by Noam Chomsky and his followers to this day." A search of the archive of Chomsky's Z Magazine turned up only one reference to Goodfellow's op-ed: a June 1977 article co-written by Chomsky citing Goodfellow's claim regarding "the testimony of U.S. AID officials that Phnom Penh had only a six-day supply of rice."
Verner also attacks Joseph Wilson, who was a speaker at a CIP conference, claiming that his "statements about what he found in Africa and his wife's role in his mission have been completely undermined by a Senate Intelligence Committee report." In fact, much of the Senate Intelligence Committee report's "undermining" of Wilson appears not in the body of the report but, rather, in a partisan addendum written by Republicans.
These are just two paragraphs out of Verner's commentary; this provides a good reason to assume that the rest of it is similarly loosely researched.
WND's News Priorities Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily won't write about Republican corruption, but it will spend its precious resources to compile an article about a newspaper publisher arrested for DUI.
The presumed purpose of the WND article was to demonstrate the purported arrogance of the "mainstream media," but it notes that the paper immeidately ran an article on the publisher's arrest and quotes a newsroom employee saying, "The attitude here is great transparency and I appreciate that." Ironically, that's a transparency that doesn't exist at WND; witness its refusal to disclose its business and personal interests in the subjects it covers and unwillingness to fully disclose the financial details of its legal defense fund.
Tell It To Who? Topic: Media Research Center
Brent Bozell's May 9 column, in taking glee in promoting recent indiscretions by Democratic politicians, complained that no TV network has reported that a business associate of Democratic Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson "pled guilty of bribery." Bozell then added: "Tell that to Duke Cunningham."
MRC readers may wonder what Bozell is talking about. A search of MRC's archives reveals that not only is this the first time Bozell has mentioned Cunningham's name in reference to his long trail of bribery and corruption -- and it is only a mention, since Bozell writes only that and doesn't go into the details of Cunningham's corruption -- it the first mention of Cunningham in relation to his corruption anywhere on the MRC website.
MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, hasn't done much more. Its first news article related to the Cunningham case appeared in February -- nearly three months after Cunningham resigned his congressional seat. (He was mentioned in three commentary items at CNS prior to that.)
CNS' News Priorities Topic: CNSNews.com
Interesting that CNSNews.com has the time to compile some snarky-but-lame comments by the head of a gun-rights group about the Patrick Kennedy case -- "I'd rather go quail hunting with Dick Cheney than get in a car being driven by a Kennedy" -- despite the extremely tenuous link between gun rights and driving under the influence. Then again, it is just a recycled press release that didn't require any actual reporting.
Meanwhile, CNS has yet to report on the hookers-and-limos scandal that has touched the Porter Goss resignation story, even though there's plenty out there to report upon.
'Censored Again'? Nope Topic: WorldNetDaily
The headline of a May 9 WorldNetDaily column by Scott Savage -- the Ohio librarian at the center of a controversy sparked by his recommendation of a book by WND managing editor David Kupelian -- reads, "Persecuted librarian censored again." An editor's note states that the column was originally written for the magazine of the American Library Association. It claims that the ALA "said the piece was 'timely and well-written' and publishable 'at its current length'" but that it "abruptly changed its mind and informed Savage he had to cut the column in half or not see it published."
WND makes no case that Savage was "censored," as the appearance of this column at WND demonstrates. Requesting that the column be edited is not prima facie evidence of "censorship." Certainly WND has edited or requested edits to items it has published. That's not censorship; that's part of the publication process. Additionally, WND offers no independent confirmation of the ALA's action, nor does it offer a chance for the ALA to respond to Savage's claims.
Moreover, given that WND has served as the public-relations division of the Alliance Defense Fund by promoting Savage's plight unsullied by any attempt to contact anyone at the Ohio university where Savage works for a response, it's difficult to argue that Savage was "censored" in the first place.
Will Savage figure out that he is, at least in part, just being used by WND to pump sales of Kupelian's book?
Coy About Canceled Conservatives Topic: NewsBusters
In a May 8 NewsBusters post on how "liberals are up in arms about their sacred turf of non-FNC television being invaded" due to Glenn Beck's new show on CNN Headline News, Matthew Sheffield wrote that both Fox News and MSNBC "have pulled shows out from underneath other right-of-center hosts Matt Drudge and Michael Savage." While Sheffield ascribed a reason for Drudge's cancellation -- "he dared to show a picture of a prenatal operation" -- he failed to note the reason for Savage's cancellation.
Dubious Claim of the Day Topic: NewsBusters
A May 6 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard makes the following point regarding Valerie Plame's seven-figure book deal:
This makes one wonder if the drive-by media are going to praise the Bush administration for giving Wilson a new, significantly more profitable writing career. After all, she will likely make more money from this book than she made her entire life working for the CIA.
Sheppard writes that he's making this claim "with a tad bit of tongue in cheek", but then adds: "However, the media have made it one of their goals to regularly drive home the point that this affair ruined Wilson’s career." He concludes: "Boy, I sure wish the Administration would ruin my career like this!"
Uh, Noel, for that to happen, you have to have a career that's worth ruining.
(Really Old) Press Release Journalism Watch Topic: Newsmax
A May 7 NewsMax article announcing Glenn Beck's new CNN Headline News program is a reproduction of the press release that announced the show. That press release was issued April 10, nearly a month ago.
Tech Stuff Topic: The ConWeb
We've added a FeedBurner RSS feed (large orange icon at bottom of right column). Through that, you can bookmark links to ConWebBlog items on del.icio.us, for those of you who are into that.
Happy Birthday, WND! Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily marked its ninth anniversary yesterday. Let's count the misleading statements and outright lies made in the article and Joseph Farah column celebrating it, shall we?
"We basically started WorldNetDaily in semi-secret," says Chief Executive Officer and Editor Joseph Farah. "It began as something of a cottage industry – a total experiment, without grand ambitions or lofty business plans."
This conflicts with Farah's statement in his column that "Elizabeth and I had grand aspirations from the start."
"To this day, WND is the No. 1 'conservative website' in the world, according to Alexa.com," he points out. "There's just one problem with that. There's nothing 'conservative' about WND. In fact, it's quite a radical idea. It doesn't promote a political agenda. It seeks the truth. It doesn't adhere to a party line. It reports the news with uncompromising tenacity and fierce independence. In fact, it's radical about independence. Anyone who has ever read WND for more than a week can see that."
As we've documented, WND very much hews to a conservative, anti-Democrat agenda, which is actually far-right enough to be considered Christian reconstructionist.
While there is no "independent news" category, there is Alexa's "News and Media" ranking, where WND gets another No. 1 classification.
We believe we must be credible, relentless and fiercely independent to succeed. And we believe the truth will set all of us free.
WND retracted two articles last year because they contained false claims, apparently based on the partisan and personal beliefs of WND reporters and editors rather than the facts. WND regularly plagiarizes the work of others, and it regularly presents ads as "news" and steers news articles to the benefit of advertisers. It also regularly runs news releases from conservative groups nearly verbatim and with their claims unanswered by the targets of said press releases. And it repeatedly fails to disclose its personal and business links to the people and organizations it covers.
Farah also states: "And, with our 9th anniversary today, we kick off what I see as a 19-month celebration of our first decade on the Net. From now through December 2007, we're planning conferences, parties, galas and other festivities to mark the occasion."
Here's a challenge for WND and Farah: If you really believe that "the truth will set all of us free," how 'bout inviting ConWebWatch to some of those events? What better way to demonstrate your commitment to the truth than by openly dealing with your most knowledgeable observer? C'mon, WND, waddaya say?
Some Scandals Are More Equal Than Others, Part 2 Topic: CNSNews.com
We've previously noted that neither CNSNews.com nor WorldNetDaily had yet, before today, reported on the congressional hookers-and-limos scandal, even though they both quickly jumped on the less important accident woes of Rep. Patrick Kennedy. With developments in both stories occurring today, how did they fare?
CNS made Kennedy its lead story, adding an article on his decision to go into rehab and a commentary by editor in chief David Thibault raised the Chappaquiddick bogeyman -- calling Patrick Kennedy "the Son of Chappaquiddick" and adding, "It's clear the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" -- even though Patrick Kennedy's accident did not resemble that of his father lo those 37 years ago.
On the resignation of Porter Goss -- who has been tied into the burgeoning hookers-and-limos scandal -- as CIA director, CNS had only a seven-paragraph article by Melanie Hunter, far down its front page from the Kennedy stuff, that quoted only Goss, President Bush and House speak Dennis Hastert and did not mention the scandal.
WND also led with the Kennedy story, updating its article from earlier in the day to include the rehab angle. Like CNS, WND also brings up Chappaquiddick, even though it's unrelated. Les Kinsolving also asked about Kennedy during the White House press briefing.
WND's article on Goss' resignation leads with the White House spin that it was "latest of a series of moves to reinvigorate the Bush administration" even though no reason for his resignation has been made public. But later in the article, WND does mention the hookers-and-limos question, linking to articles from Harper's and Daily Kos. But WND doesn't link to the go-to site for scandal info, TPM Muckraker. Perhaps that's becuase TPMm is actually doing what WND merely claims to do (but doesn't): "exposing corruption, fraud, waste and abuse wherever it is found – no matter who the perpetrator."
Fetus vs. Alien Topic: NewsBusters
A May 5 NewsBusters item by Ken Shepherd accuses the Washington Post of "clinical coldness" for using the term "fetus" rather than "unborn child" in an article. Posters in the item's thread complained that the term "fetus" is dehumanizing.
If dehumanization is such an issue, why do NewsBusters writers refer to illegal immigrants as "aliens"? That term is arguably as dehumanizing as "fetus," if not more so since, unlike "alien," "fetus" is a recognized medical term.
A search of NewsBusters shows 28 items in which the term "illegal aliens" appears. Leading by example is MRC boss Brent Bozell, who most recently used the term in columns on April 19 and May 3.
Some Scandals Are More Equal Than Others Topic: WorldNetDaily
May 5 articles at both WorldNetDaily and CNSNews.com quickly jumped on the news of Rep. Patrick Kennedy's car accident on Capitol Hill. But neither WND nor CNS has run original articles about the latest aspect of the congressional bribery scandal that began with Duke Cunningham, now involving allegations of prostitutes procured for congressmen and links to a top CIA official.
As we've noted, both WND and CNS have a history of disinterest in Republican scandals.
NewsMax, meanwhile, has reported on Hookergate in addition to its Kennedy coverage.
Bono, the lead singer for the band U2, will get to edit the Independent, one of Britain's top newspapers. Will Hillary Clinton edit the New York Times if she decides to run for president?
Sheffield's attempted link makes no logical sense. American newspapers don't do "stunt" editorships. Bono's guest-editing job is being done in the name of charity, not a political party. And why would Hillary's potential presidential candidacy have any relevance to the issue? Couldn't Republicans have, say, John McCain guest-edit the New York Post or program an evening of Fox News?
This is a partisan cheap shot, not media criticism. Then again, partisan attacks presented as media criticism are mostly what the MRC does.
Who's Elitist? Topic: NewsBusters
A May 4 NewsBusters post by Greg Sheffield shows how little he knows about journalism -- and how willing he is to recycle stereotypes.
In critiquing an American Journalism Review column by Rem Rieder suggesting that the White House correspondents' dinner be ended because it makes journalists look like "a wealthy elite, completely out of touch with ordinary Americans," Sheffield pushed the idea that all journalists are elitists. He singled out Reider's claim that the elitist claim is "ridiculous" because "far too many journalists at smaller papers work for hideously low salaries."
Sheffield, by apparently scoffing at that idea, appears to believe that your typical small-town daily and the White House press corps are somehow interchangeable and similarly glitzy and pampered. Sheffield has obviously never worked in journalism. Conservative press-bashers like Sheffield love to tout the high salaries at top papers like the New York Times as being de regieur for journalism -- an April 26 item by Noel Sheppard at the Free Market Project (like NewsBusters, a division of the Media Research Center) highlighted questions about "the pay structure of the Times’ upper management" -- but they don't understand that these are exceptions to the rule. The vast majority of journalists don't make a lot of money; the starting wage for an entry-level reporting position at a small daily newspaper is only slightly above minimum wage. More journalists are having ramen for dinner than are schmoozing at black-tie soirees. (And if they do somehow find themselves at a black-tie soiree, they didn't pay for it out of their own pocket, they rented their tuxes, and they're too busy scarfing down all the free food they can get their hands on to do much quality schmoozing.) Journalism and Washington journalism are two separate things.
Ironically, this stereotyped portrayal comes just a couple days after Sheffield promoted a study that he claimed contradicted the stereotyped "media image" of bloggers.
Sheffield also takes a whack at Rieder for stating that "[t]he WMD fiasco should have been a jolt" to the "smugness" of Washington journalists; he adds, "as if that is what indicates Washington's liberal elite." Sheffield wrote: "The lesson: more attacks on the Bush administration will get rid of that nasty image of being liberal elitists." Sheffield follows another stereotype here in repeating the conservative view that any coverage that reflects negatively on the Bush administration, even if it's true -- which the "WMD fiasco" is -- is an "attack" by "elitist" liberal journalists.
This attitude shows Sheffield's own brand of elitism -- that conservatives in general and President Bush in particular are somehow above criticism, and that any criticism they do encounter can be automatically dismissed as coming from partisan liberal "elitists." We suspect that if a Democrat was president and similar things were going on -- warrantless domestic spying, secret CIA prisons -- Sheffield and the NewsBusters gang would be praising the New York Times and the Washington Post for exposing them rather than attacking the reporters who exposed them. For conservatives, partisanship trumps the truth.
And if attendance at a black-tie soiree is evidence of elitism, what are we to make of the MRC's own annual black-tie soiree? And what did Sheffield wear to it?