WorldNetDaily's Junk Journalism
Its founder and editor is a thief. Its reporters obediently do the bidding of conservative groups. Is this any way to run a news organization?
By Terry Krepel
Lead by example, they say. But does any self-respecting journalist want to follow the example of WorldNetDaily's leader, Joseph Farah?
WND's founder and editor manages to commit not one, not two, but three serious journalistic offenses in an Aug. 30 "news" article with his byline.
The first, and most serious, is plagiarism. More than half of Farah's article is taken nearly word for word from an Aug. 27 Reuters article on the seizure of rare gold coins that the federal government considers stolen property.
(A color-coded guide to Farah's theft is here.)
Having ensconced the stolen Reuters article under his own byline, Farah then takes the article on a tangent that's not germane to the original article he stole -- which takes us to Farah's second and third journalistic offenses, writing news copy for the benefit of an advertiser and not disclosing to his readers his business relationship with said advertiser.
While the original article was about the rightful ownership of property considered by some to be stolen (a less clear-cut issue than Farah's theft of the intellectual property of others), Farah apparently thinks the issue is about the ownership of gold, period, citing the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917. Farah's edit to the Reuters copy to mention Roosevelt "confiscating" gold was a clue to this direction. Farah then cites a precious metals dealer's assertion that "U.S. citizens have a right to own gold" -- an claim that is not in dispute and has no bearing on the seized coins.
Why would Farah take an article so far off-topic? Perhaps because it gives him an opportunity to hyperlink the statement "U.S. citizens have a right to own gold" to one of his advertisers, Swiss America Trading Corp., who, not coincidentally, is a precious metals dealer.
The man whom Farah quotes as saying that "U.S. citizens have a right to own gold" is David Bradshaw, whom Farah describes only as "editor of Real Money Perspectives." That is a newsletter published by Swiss America, a fact Farah doesn't mention. The information Farah uses regarding the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917 comes straight from the Swiss America ad Farah links to in his article.
Swiss America's relationship with WND goes way beyond the normal publisher-advertiser relationship. Swiss America is "chief sponsor" of Farah's radio show, and Swiss America's president, Craig Smith, is not only a WND columnist, he has guest-hosted Farah's radio show. Smith's column bio describes him as "an author, commentator and popular media guest" but says nothing about Swiss America.
If Farah is so willing to steal the work of others and put it under his own name, twist his "news" copy to cater to an advertiser, then hide his business relationship with his "news" sources from his readers, what good is he as a reporter?
Answer: not much. That's also the answer to the question, "What can you expect from a news organization whose leader indulges in such unethical behavior?"
(Update: Farah, by the way, is quite aware of what he doing, and he knows it is unethical. In an Aug. 13, 2003, column, he excoriated the Associated Press for doing the exact same thing he did, complaining that "AP is lifting WorldNetDaily copyright content seemingly at will without attribution or credit" and calling it an "ethical disease." And in an April 2001 column, Farah attacked the New Republic for running an article that he called "little more than a clever, uncredited, plagiaristic rewrite" of an WND article; he added that the New Republic article was a "journalistic drive-by shooting." ConWebWatch previously noted WND's vitrolic attack on the New Republic over this issue.)
If WND employs any of those self-respecting journalists we mentioned earlier, we're not seeing them. Instead, its employment roster has included the likes of Jon Dougherty -- the Slantie-winning one-source wonder -- and Aaron Klein, who is so cozy with a group of extremists that he whitewashes their violent history.
In addition to reporters like Dougherty and Klein, WND has a long history of deceitful journalism; from outright lies to whopping imbalance to false stories to embracing convicted felons, WND has done it all -- it can't even tell the truth about itself. And, following the example its founder has set, WND's news staff regularly steals news copy from others and claims it as its own. It has had to apologize for stealing copy on at least one occasion.
The depth of WND's journalistic malpractice is nicely encapsulated in how willing it is to unquestioningly pass along any claim made by a conservative group, no matter how false. Not giving the person or organization the conservative group is targeting a chance to respond is part of the deal.
ConWebWatch documented last fall several examples of WND regurgitating the press releases of conservative legal groups promoting their causes while, more often than not, denying those targeted a chance to respond.
One of those conservative legal groups, the Alliance Defense Fund, has formed an even tighter bond with WND -- its president, Alan Sears, is now a WND columnist.
Most famously of late, ADF sued a California school district claiming the teacher it represented was banned by school officials from distributing the Declaration of Independence to his students. WND printed every misleading word of the ADF's press release announcing the lawsuit last November and made no effort to contact the school district for a response -- standard operating procedure for most every other journalist not employed by WND.
But in August, when the ADF withdrew the lawsuit without winning a monetary settlement for the teacher or even effecting a change in the school's policies, WND had nothing to say about it. Sears' status as a WND columnist would seem to guarantee that every future ADF accusation gets a megaphone at WND -- and every ADF defeat will be quietly buried.
WND's tradition of promoting the pet causes of its conservative buddies continues with the case of J. Matt Barber, a man who claims he was fired from Allstate Insurance's corporate headquarters for writing a gay-bashing article that was posted on conservative web sites. WND news editor Ron Strom -- also, apparently, not a self-respecting journalist -- has written four articles on the case, a total of 91 paragraphs. Of them, only six present Allstate's side of the story, while the other 85 advance Barber's side.
That, apparently, is what WND is content to be -- a public-relations agency for conservatives with a cause to promote.
Barber's lead attorney, by the way, is David Gibbs III, who you may recall also served as an attorney for the parents of Terri Schiavo. WND, you may also recall, was a major backer of the parents' side of the story, unquestioningly parroting every scurrilous, demonizing accusation it made against Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo.
To capitalize on that case, WND's book division will release a book on the case, written news editor Diana Lynne. A WND promo for the book, cleverly disguised as a news article, insists that it's not a "quickie, exploitation book" but rather the "definitive story" of the case. But Lynne's first attempt at telling the "whole story" of the case was a biased, shoddy piece of work until ConWebWatch sought changes to bring some modicum of fairness to it.
What's to stop Lynne and WND from turning the book into yet another rah-rah piece for Schiavo's parents? Nothing at all, it appears. The promo offers a hint of the book's slant by referring to Terri as "Terri Schindler-Schiavo" -- an insertion of her maiden name insisted upon by her parents as a way to diminish her husband. And a more detailed blurb on the WND Books web site claims the book will answer the question, "What would Terri have told us if she could speak?"
Example after example after example. WorldNetDaily doesn't come anywhere close to living up to the principles in its mission statement: "an exponent of truth and justice, an uncompromising disseminator of news." Instead, it is highly compromised, and it gleefully offers junk -- stolen, borrowed or otherwise lifted from the slush pile of prefab copy from the public-relations directors of anyone with a friendly cause.
We ask again: Is that any way to run a news organization? Joseph Farah needs to explain to his readers why he does run it that way -- not to mention why he feels the need to steal from others.