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Where Are They Now?

One former reporter just got canned as a congressman's press secretary for plagiarizing columns, while the CNS editor has returned to the RNC. Plus: The one-source wonder wanders again.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/7/2005

We wondered what happened to Jim Burns after he left in 2003. Now, it appears we have the answer -- he continued his mission of bad journalism and, as a result, is looking for a new job.

Burns resigned May 4 as press secretary for Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) after admitting that he copied large parts of a column that ran in the El Defensor Chieftain of Socorro last month from the Web site of the Heritage Foundation. El Defensor Editor Dana Bowley said the newspaper went to the foundation's Web site and found the column copied almost word-for-word from a column by a senior policy analyst for the foundation. The paper then criticized the column in an editorial.

In addition, Burns said there may have been other instances of plagiarism in speeches and columns he has written on Pearce's behalf since taking the job in January.

How do we know it's our man? The AP article cited above states that Burns "a former reporter for United Press International." Burns' old bio at CNS notes that he "comes to from UPI/Washington, where he covered Capitol Hill, the White House and general news for the wire service."

Burns' history at CNS seemed to foreshadow his behavior with Pearce, as ConWebWatch has documented.

Burns left CNS in early 2003, shortly after ConWebWatch detailed his biased reporting on Otto Reich, President Bush's appointment as assistant secretary of state for western hemispheric affairs -- coverage that earned him an honorable mention for a coveted Slantie Award. A series of stories by Burns mischaracterized the opposition to Reich's appointment and obscured the actual objections; he reported only that Democrats opposed "Reich's support for the Cuban economic embargo and the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s," at one point declaring that "it's his anti-Castro, anti-Marxist viewpoint that offends some liberals."

Burns failed to tell readers about Reich's link to Orlando Bosch, a terrorist whose entry into the United States Reich acquiesced, if not actively supported, while he was ambassador to Venezuela. Burns also failed to tell readers (except for one article out of the more than 40 that cite him) that Reich ran a pro-contra propaganda operation during the 1980s with the American public being the target of said propaganda -- an operation one government investigation concluded was "prohibited." And the one time Burns did cite that operation, it was to give Reich a chance to defend himself; he wrote that Reich said "he was neither lying nor trying to manipulate anyone, but merely doing his job and being truthful about it."

Burns' cheerleading for Reich is not the only example of his journalistic bias. In reporting on a multiple killing in Wichita, Kan., Burns played up the angle that it was a reverse hate crime because the killers were black and the victims were white -- as did white supremacist organizations that followed the case -- despite the fact that prosecutors said the killers were motivated by greed, not race. Burns' main piece of evidence that it was a hate crime? A letter to the editor to the local paper claiming so.

While at CNS, Burns also promoted the claim that a National Public Radio story was biased against the conservative Traditional Values Coalition even before the story aired; he also smeared Sen. Ted Kennedy by comparing Kennedy's criticism of Bush's policy on Iraq to his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who was "recommending 'appeasement' in the face of a rapidly growing military power that the United States would eventually have to fight in World War II."

Perhaps Burns figured he could be as biased as he wanted, without having to keep up that annoying pretense of journalistic fairness, by moving from a "news" organization to a politician's office. But if you don't have any integrity in the first place, it comes around to bite you no matter where you are.

* * *

Scott Hogenson appears to have officially flown the CNS coop.

The organization's longtime executive editor, Hogenson spent much of 2004 working as the radio director for the Republican National Committee. He returned to CNS after the campaign ended.

Political activism, preferably of the conservative kind, seems to be a prerequisite for working at CNS, unlike most other news organizations; Hogenson worked at the RNC for six years before joining CNS.

But last month, he left CNS and returned to the RNC as radio director, as evidenced by his name appearing as the contact to obtain an "RNC expert" for your radio show. (Update: Hogenson is now deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.)

David Thibault, who retained his CNS managing editor title through Hogenson's 2004 absence, now has the title of editor-in-chief. (He also used to work for the RNC.)

* * *

Another Slantie winner with a new gig is the one-source wonder himself, Jon Dougherty. He left WorldNetDaily in 2004 to work for NewsMax, where he compiled a record similar to that at WND.

He has left the employ of NewsMax and now appears to be doing a semi-regular column for WND.

Dougherty has also the founder and editor of a new web site, Voices Magazine, which has a focus of "Geopolitics, Security, Intelligence, and Military Affairs." It's mostly outside links at this point, with original copy pretty much limited to Dougherty's columns, which claim such things as "Democrats have the poor record when it comes to effective energy policy" and "President Bush's war against terror is a resounding success." The front page names as "allies" such reactionary sites as Mens News Daily and Sierra Times.

Voices claims to "provide our readers with accurate information about a range of important geopolitical issues, and from various sources, so they can be as informed as possible." But as ConWebWatch has repeatedly demonstrated, making his readers "as informed as possible" is something in which Dougherty has little practical experience.

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