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Update: A Small Victory

NewsMax is putting the proper credit on its Judicial Watch news releases. Sure, we'll take credit for it.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/26/2000

There are times that we have assumed the contrary, but it seems the folks ConWebWatch is watching may be watching ConWebWatch after all.

A June 18 ConWebWatch article explaining a few journalism basics to NewsMax regarding their recycling of Judicial Watch press releases as NewsMax "news" stories (not to mention two other ConWebWatch articles on the subject) seems to have had an incremental effect.

The day after the latest article appeared on ConWebWatch, NewsMax posted a story that certainly reads like a Judicial Watch press release (though no release like it is posted on the Judicial Watch website). The difference: Instead of a NewsMax byline, the story carries a Judicial Watch byline.

Then, five days later on June 24, NewsMax posted another Judicial Watch press release (which does exist at the Judicial Watch site). Again, the byline read Judicial Watch, not NewsMax.

While we can't offer any hard, conclusive proof of any correlation, we're willing to assume that ConWebWatch played a role in this tiny change in policy.

This doesn't mean, however, that NewsMax has suddenly become an ethical journalistic organization.

First, these press releases-cum-news stories now carry a link at the bottom of the page to Judicial Watch's tax-deductible "Elian Justice Fund." (Judicial Watch must have blown its monthly stipend from Richard Mellon Scaife.) Strangely, the photo of Elian on the fund's web page is distored, making the poor kid look a bit like the Bat Boy depicted in the tabloid Weekly World News.

Second, if you're merely going to regurgitate someone else's press releases and not question or expand on the claims they make, why go through the effort of minor cleanup and reposting? Why not just link to the original releases on Judicial Watch?

And the claims they make do indeed deserve scrutiny. Both stories, which relate to the Elian Gonzalez saga, make copious mention of documents Judicial Watch has uncovered that allegedly prove the U.S. and Cuban governments, according to one story, "had predetermined Elian's fate without regard for the rule of law." Judicial Watch has posted four of these documents on its site (available here and here), and it's unclear from a cursory reading how exactly the documents support the above conclusion. (The link Judicial Watch provides to a Washington Times story on the issue no longer works.)

NewsMax doesn't add anything further in its own story about it. Why? Surprise! It's a Judicial Watch press release with a NewsMax byline, which brings the total to at least five. Such laziness — allowing a ouside group like Judicial Watch with an obvious bias to dictate coverage and to allow its assertions to go unchallenged — on the part of NewsMax is shocking, though not surprising given its history.

No, it's still not journalism. But it has inched closer.

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