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WND vs. AP: The Rest of the Story

Joseph Farah and company attack the Associated Press for story-stealing. But wait --doesn't WND make a habit of lifting material from others, too?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/19/2003

What can you expect when you get on WorldNetDaily's bad side? A lot of slanted press and a lot of righteous pontificating against you.

The latest target on WND's hit list is the Associated Press. Why? WND believes the AP "misappropriated" a story WND did first without giving it proper credit. According to an Aug. 12 WND article, "the leading independent newssite" reposted on Aug. 5 a story writer Paul Sperry did in July about a report on a guide issued by the FBI about easily concealed knives and posted a link to the report. The next day, the WND story says, AP writer Curt Anderson had a story on the same subject (though the Fox News link it provides dates the story as Aug. 8).

That's the only evidence WND offers that the story was stolen -- just circumstantial. The story then goes on to recount an incident a year ago in which WND alleges AP did the same thing and instances in which other news organizations such as the New Republic allegedly used WND material without proper credit (though it doesn't note how WND writers whined and name-called like 3-year-olds -- one WND writer called it "one of the brashest journalistic rip-offs in years" -- to cajole an apology out of the New Republic). And back in June, WND reported on a freelance journalist who accused the AP of stealing his story.

WND editor Joseph Farah, needless to say, is "shocked AP is still misappropriating WND's copyright material, particularly after New York Times management was widely criticized for overlooking serial plagiarism by one of its national correspondents," according to the WND article. Never mind that alleged failure to properly credit a source is not the same as plagiarism, and never mind that ConWebWatch has caught WND in the act of using AP information without proper credit.

Farah elaborates further in an Aug. 13 column, calling AP's alleged failure to properly credit AP "another scandal brewing" he puts in the same breath as the Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke plagarism/making things up scandals.

But there's more, Farah says: "While AP is lifting WorldNetDaily copyright content seemingly at will without attribution or credit, the very same news organization has the nerve to threaten WorldNetDaily for using AP information in stories with full credit! AP's legal department threatened a lawsuit against WND for copyright infringement for using fully attributed information in our stories." Farah isn't buying the AP's take on that issue, he says, because "this is what we call in the business 'fair use.'"

Let's take a look at what WND and the AP are talking about.

WND makes a regular habit of rewriting stories from other sources and places them under a WND byline. In the week of Aug. 11-17, for instance, WND ran 20 stories under a nameless WorldNetDaily byline. (WND gathers its stories on a week-in-review page every week.) The links to those stories generally carry only a "WorldNetDaily" slug, while bylined WND stories get a "WorldNetDaily Exclusive" slug. That's not always the case; in this particular week, four bylined stories got a mere "WorldNetDaily" slug, including three by our favorite slanted reporter, Jon Dougherty. (Is that a sign of some kind?) By comparison, there were 14 bylined WND stories in the same time period plus a reprint of a story from another publication.

Listed sources for the unbylined WND stories that week included not only the Associated Press, but CNN, Reuters, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, the Washington Post, the New York Post, the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, WKBW in Niagra Falls, N.Y., the Sacramento Bee (Farah's old nemesis a decade ago when he was editor of the now-defunct Sacramento Union), the London Telegraph, the Portland Press Herald, the Ventura County Star, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

There's no indication WND has paid a fee to belong to the AP, a news cooperative funded by the membership fees of newspapers, broadcast outlets and Web sites that reprint wire stories in exchange for providing their own original material. As a former newspaperman, Farah should know how the AP works and that AP more often than not doesn't acknowledge the original source of a story when sending it out for use by other member newspapers. There's also no indication WND subscribes to any other syndicated news material beyond the columnists that appear on its commentary page.

So WND, a for-profit company, is doing is regularly taking information from organizations that it has not paid for and converting it to its own for-profit use. It may be "fair use" to cite other news organizations' work under one's own byline once in a while, but 20 stories a week? That's abuse of privlege, not "fair use."

Farah concludes his column by declaring: "Is this ethical disease in the journalism world contagious? Is it spreading like an epidemic throughout all the establishment news organizations? Is competition from the Internet driving the Big Media mad? Have these folks learned nothing from the Jayson Blair scandal?"

Instead of complaining about how the big bad AP is leaning on poor little WND (excuse me, "the most successful and largest independent news service on the Internet" as Farah calls it), perhaps Farah should examine his own ethics and explain to his readers why WND feels no obligation to pay to use the same information virtually every other news organization in the world pays for.

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