Update: NewsMax High School
Are corrupt journalistic values being passed to a new generation? Plus: Lowlights of ConWeb election coverage, more ConWeb tabloidization, and a double standard on lumping.
By Terry Krepel
If the content of NewsMax seems more than ever to have been written by high school students, that's because it is.
No, we're not talking about the juvenile rantings that pass for most content there. Perhaps taking a cue from WorldNetDaily and its 13-year-old columnist, Kyle Williams, NewsMax has teamed up with St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Staten Island, N.Y., to allow its students to provide content. Why? Perhaps someone at NewsMax is a graduate of the school. Also, high schoolers work cheap, a consideration given NewsMax's finances. It does seem an odd choice given that NewsMax is headquartered many hundreds of miles away in Florida.
Amazingly, the school is proud of this association. This "exclusive media internship" is touted in a school flyer that describes the program: "Students work directly with Inside Cover Editor Carl Limbacher in researching breaking news stories. Several Sea students have already been published on Newsmax.com, the tenth rated news site in the country."
Indeed they have. A group of students wrote an election preview Nov. 5 that was fairly straightforward, and an Oct. 17 story by student Jackie Hickman does a balanced job of reporting on an obscenity uttered during a TV interview by Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Steve Largent. Other articles, however, show that the students are picking up NewsMax bad, biased habits. An Oct. 18 article by student Mark Magro on an abortion-related court ruling descends into slant, with Magro writing that the ruling is "sure to prompt hissy fits from the pro-choice crowd." (Magro wrote a Sept. 21 story that was better balanced.) Another Oct. 18 story by student John Rosiello does the usual report-the-good-polls-about-Republican-candidates spin.
The intent here isn't to make fun of these students nor to denigrate their school, or even to criticize the value of a good internship program. NewsMax may offer a lot of things, but genuine journalism isn't one of them. The school and its internship participants should be under no illusion that the kind of biased, conspiracy-mongering work NewsMax tolerates and encourages is acceptable in the rest of the journalism world.
So students, go ahead and learn what you can from the "tenth rated news site in the country" (any proof of that, folks?), but don't overestimate the value of the word "NewsMax" on a resumé.
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Speaking of NewsMax's biased writing that you wouldn't find anywhere else in journalism:
"Rather: The Democrats Must Have Minnesota!" screams a Nov. 6 headline on a story about allegedly news coverage of the election. "Millionaire leftist CBS news reader Dan Rather" gets his usual bashing because he allegedly "urged" this statement. NewsMax's snappy retort: "Note to Dan: No, they must not! And they do not!"
ell, that's quite a loaded line "Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff" pulled out there, and it sounds for all the world like there is some context missing. Rather almost certainly didn't plead this line apropos of nothing as the story indicates.
I sent the following e-mail to Limbacher:
Re: your Nov. 6 story, "Rather: The Democrats Must Have Minnesota!"
So far, no response beyond an auto-respond message stating "we do appreciate your thoughts, and all emails are read and considered."
More lowlights of election coverage on the ConWeb:
-- In the stop-me-if-you've-heard-this-before department: NewsMax's Christopher Ruddy trots out his stock answer for everything else as to why the Democrats did so badly: It's Clinton's fault!
-- The good news: CNSNews.com finally got around to doing a story on the abysmally run campaign of Republican Bill Simon for governor of California. The bad news: It appeared Nov. 5, the day of the election, when the threat of scaring off conservative voters by reporting the truth was at an absolute minimum. That's a selective laziness, though; CNS was much more prompt in reporting about Democrat Gray Davis' alleged campaign scandal.
-- Does reporting the truth mean you're liberally biased? That seems to be what the Media Research Center thinks. In its Nov. 6 post-mortem of network election coverage, Brent Baker describes certain "themes" that, presumably by the fact of his bringing them up, are examples of how the networks are biased. But many of them are simply things any smart reporter would want to know, even the way Baker wrote them: "Baffled by why the poor economy didn't help Democrats more and hurt Republicans more"; "Blaming Democratic Losses on Not Being Liberal Enough"; "Warning Bush to Not Pursue Conservative Agenda."
Why would it be biased to make observations like these? Oh yeah -- MRC thinks network reporters and commentators are all a bunch of commie liberals who would make those kinds of observations. Which explains respectful quoting of anti-Democrat cmments by Rush Limbaugh, who appeared as part of NBC's coverage.
-- More faux outrage from MRC over descriptive terms: A Nov. 7 CyberAlert complains that an ABC reporter used the words "strongly conservative" and "deeply conservative" to describe the kind of judges President Bush wants to appoint (again, not exactly a falsehood) as well as another report that descibed congressman Martin Frost, who is competing for the House minority speaker post being vacated by Dick Gephardt, as a "moderate."
Hop over to MRC subsidiary CNSNews.com, however, and you'll find the way it wants the world to see Democrats. A slanted Nov. 7 story uses the word "ultra-liberal" to describe both Frost and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, his competition for the speaker post. (Pelosi gets the "ultra-liberal" moniker twice, while Frost is alternately described as "slightly more moderate" than Pelosi.) The story is supposedly about the different directions each candidate could take House Democrats, but writer Jeff Johnson interviews only one person, a Republican who unsurprisingly thinks both Pelosi and Frost are "extreme left" and adds that they are "so liberal they make Larry Flynt look like Charlton Heston." So much for reasoned analysis.
-- WorldNetDaily's contributions to Katherine Harris' congressional campaign -- uh, we mean promotion of her new book continued apace through Election Day. As part of its new news-sharing agreement with Insight magazine, WND on Nov. 3 ran a softball interview with Harris. (In a mid-October e-mail touting Insight subscriptions, Farah claims that "Insight, like WorldNetDaily, operates on a shoestring." That's questionable, since Insight is owned by the Unification Church-controlled News World Communications, which owns the Washington Times and the UPI wire service.) And on Nov. 4, WND sent to its e-mail list yet another plug for Joseph Farah's taped interview with Harris that comes free with a purchase of her book from the WND store. The e-mail claims that "Farah asks the questions other interviewers fail to ask," but we suspect they're just as softball as the Insight interview.
Unsurprisingly, WND ran a story touting Harris' win, but it's only half the story. The story itself is fairly straightforward, but the above-the-nameplate headline on the WND home page and the slug of the e-mail version of the story it sent out say what WND really thinks: "Sweet revenge for GOP's Katherine Harris."
Also continuing apace is the tabloidization of the ConWeb, particularly WorldNetDaily.
Unlike the vast majority of Americans, Farah has found the supermarket tabloids to be a legitimate source of hard news. How else to explain a WND story based on a report in the National Enquirer that sniper suspects John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo had a homosexual relationship.
WND has tried to position itself as "better" than NewsMax, so why is it now acting like NewsMax?
CNSNews.com has a double standard on lumping.
A Nov. 8 story by Michael L. Betsch features complaints that the Anti-Defamation League is lumping the right-wing with "hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Low Riders" and goes to great lengths to explain why a "Home-Land Security Expo" is not an "extremist" event.
But a story a day earlier, also by Betsch, features an interview with an author whose new book claims that "the left" hates America. Aside from one reference to "the militant left," no effort is made to define what "left" means, leaving the impression that if you aren't a conservative, you must part of the America-hating "left." Also, no effort is made to obtain a view from "the left" about the book.
So it's bad to lump all conservatives together, but perfectly fine to lump non-conservatives into a single hateful pile. For CNSNews.com, word precision depends on the subject.