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Why do I pick on WorldNetDaily?

The following is taken from an e-mail conversation I had been having with a WorldNetDaily columnist (who at this point shall remain nameless) whom I had singled out in a recent article. What led up to this response was that he seemed to be missing the point of ConWebWatch, that I was criticizing him for expressing his opinion. Here is what I wrote back to him:

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I have never criticized anything that appeared the WND commentary page simply for the expression an opinion. (Duh -- that's what a commentary page is, and I know the difference.) The only things I've targeted on the WND commentary page are some of the more, um, non-mainstream opinions (like when Joseph Farah suggests that adulterers should be killed) or apparent double standards (like yourself). You are more than free to have all the opinions you want, be a proud Christian libertarian or whatever -- just keep 'em confined to the opinion page.

What I'm talking about -- what I have criticized most on ConWebWatch -- is what appears on the WND news page. When, say, Jon Dougherty is putting his byline on rewritten news releases that make no attempt to portray the other side of the issue at hand, that is bias. When WND runs a seven-part series purporting to document the innocence of a man in the killing of an abortion provider, then write no original stories on the man's guilty plea for said offense, that is bias. And because all of these stories appeared on the WND news page -- where there is an expectation of basic journalistic standards like fairness -- WND is an appropriate target for criticism. When WND continually harps about the "liberal bias" of other news organizations, I think that also makes WND an appropriate target for criticism on the bias of its own news coverage.

WND has never publicly declared its bias in news coverage, simply hidden behind the "fiercely independent" slogan and its claims to be a government watchdog (though I have yet to see an original WND news story on the Valerie Plame outing scandal, and the White House's apparent outing of a CIA agent would seem to be an appropriate subject for a news organization that claims to be a government watchdog). I'm also aware that WND tends to skew libertarian in its content, and I pretty much know the difference between them. I'm also aware that the bias of WND is not slavishly conservative but mostly reflective of Joseph Farah's worldview, which is part conservative, part libertarian. Still, Farah's trotting WND out as a news site, so its coverage must adhere to certain standards. And that includes, besides fairness, declaring one's financial interest in a subject or source, which WND does not always do. (And isn't it funny that we haven't seen many news stories on WND lately by Paul Sperry that criticize Bush on war-related subjects now that the publicity window for Sperry's WND-published book has passed?) ...

I don't think I'm doing anything all that different than Brent Bozell does, except I'm not so slavishly partisan and I don't have that multimillion-dollar fund-raising machine. I don't criticize the mainstream media because Mr. Bozell is already doing that (and getting paid handsomely to do so). I do what I do out of my own (meager) pocket because I am a career journalist and I believe in certain things about journalism and practice them every day as a part of my day job. When I see organizations like WND presents bias as news -- remember, I'm talking about what appears on the WND news page -- I get incensed. Other people agree; I'm closing in on 700,000 page views since ConWebWatch began, not bad for a no-budget one-man show.

Neither Farah nor any other WND employee, by the way, has never offered any specific criticism of anything I've written, publicly or otherwise; given that WND commentary relating to "liberals" tends to gravitate toward the more extreme examples of liberalism (count how many times Robert Scheer columns are linked on the WND commentary page, f'ristance), I'll take that as a sign that I'm not easily rebuked and have some substance instead of a sign that I'm a whackjob. I'll also take the virtual disappearance of Jon Dougherty's byline from the WND news page as another sign that I may have made somebody a little guilty.

As I said, feel free to express all the opinions you want. Just don't call it news.

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Posted 10/29/2003

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