So Much to Disclose, Too Dishonest to Do It
WorldNetDaily violates journalistic ethics by regularly refusing to disclose its personal and business links to the people and organizations it covers.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily is becoming less of a news site and more of a public relations vehicle for its book division and speakers bureau, its advertisers, and for the people and organizations whose causes WND bigwigs sympathize with.
And, the vast majority of the time, WND fails to disclose these links to its readers.
Why is such disclosure important? Because readers have the right to know if the news organizations they rely on are colored by the personal and business interests of the writers and owners. The ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists dictates that journalists "disclose unavoidable conflicts" and "deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests."
Additionally, WND itself has previously made an issue of disclosure. In March 2004, a WND article and a WND column by Tom Marzullo pointed out that a segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" featuring a book by Richard Clarke failed to disclose that CBS and the book's publisher have the same corporate parent. And in December 2004, WND stated: "The New York Times neglected to tell its readers that the publishing of a major story today, claiming President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans, coincided with the release of a book by the article's writer."
Yet, despite this awareness of the problem, WND reporters and editors have rarely felt the need to disclose their personal and business interests in the people it writes about. ConWebWatch has previously detailed some of these practices, from repeatedly failing to disclose its business links to Jesse Lee Peterson -- indeed, an April 22 article is the latest not to note that WND published Peterson's book and books his speaking gigs -- to its steering of articles to favorably portray its advertisers to hiding the connection of a pro-Iranian democracy group to WND editor Joseph Farah and WND author and columnist Jerome Corsi to Richard Poe's failure to disclose his business connections to WND, NewsMax and the Richard Mellon Scaife money machine. Additionally, WND has a long history of disguising ads as "news" articles.
WND's sorry record of lack of disclosure has continued in recent months:
Additionally, WND has failed to disclose its business relationships with two popular story subjects, Ken Blackwell and Tom Tancredo. WND is publishing books by both Blackwell and Tancredo, but WND has not disclosed that relationship in articles featuring or quoting them.
WND's record on Tancredo -- whom it has touted for president -- is similar in both number and level fawning: eight news articles mentioning or quoting Tancredo (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) since Jan. 1 that fail to mention his WND book deal. Among them is an April 4 article trumpeting that Tancredo "is a Republican favorite for president for the second year in a row in a non-scientific poll modeled after the NCCA [sic] basketball tournament." Additionally, two of those WND articles -- as well as seven others in November and December 2005 (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) -- were written by Jon Dougherty, the coauthor of Tancredo's book, a fact that also went undisclosed. Dougherty also wrote a Nov. 18, 2005, column that began, "I wonder if Tom Tancredo ever gets tired of being right"; no, Dougherty didn't disclose his relationship with Tancredo there, either.
WND has done the same with Paul L. Williams, whose book it published earlier this month. Since November 2005, when Farah had him as a guest on his now-defunct radio show, Williams has been mentioned in or has written nine articles (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and printed in WND's Whistleblower magazine without mention of his book deal. (Two of the articles do state that Williams is a "WND contributor.") And articles on April 18 and April 21 that mention Williams' book don't note that WND published it.
It's not that WND doesn't know how to properly disclose its interests -- an April 15 article quoting Sen. Tom Coburn properly disclosed that WND published Coburn's book, and an April 19 article featuring Craig Smith takes an honest stab at it, disclosing at the outset that Smith is a "WND author and columnist" but failing to note his status as a major WND advertiser. It simply chooses not to.
Heck, even CNSNews.com at least pretends toward journalistic ethics in this department, disclosing its links to the Media Research Center most of the time when it does an article on an MRC-related entity.