Why I Criticize Joseph Farah and WorldNetDaily
The WND editor attacks ConWebWatch over a Huffington Post article; we respond.
By Terry Krepel
Editor's note: On Sept. 22, Huffington Post published an article by ConWebWatch founder and editor Terry Krepel that served up a history of WorldNetDaily. WND editor Joseph Farah responded in a Sept. 26 column attacking the article and calling Krepel a "professional WND-hater" and a "talent-challenged slug," among other things. This response was originally published by WorldNetDaily on Sept. 27.
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"Talent-challenged slug"? "Professional WND-hater"? "[L]ying trash talk"? Who is this horrible person Joseph Farah writes about in his Sept. 26 column?
Oh -- it's me.
Yes, Farah has taken me to task for writing an article at the Huffington Post detailing a history of WorldNetDaily that Farah would likely prefer his readers didn't know about, asserting that I have "impugn[ed]" his "journalistic credentials and ethics." Such a charge might have some weight if he hadn't disregarded a couple of those journalistic principles in the process of attacking me.
Let's start with the one and only claim I made in that column that Farah actually challenges -- that "17 years ago under someone's management (in this case, mine) the Sacramento Union lost 30 percent of its circulation." Farah adds: "I would feel the necessity of citing some source or evidence for that information. Krepel and the Huffington Puffington Post do not. Why? One reason could be there is none -- because the Sacramento Union actually gained circulation under my watch."
Fair enough; here's my source. From an Oct. 17, 1991, Los Angeles Times article on Farah's resignation from the Union (accessed via Nexis): "The paper, which reported a circulation of 72,000 before [Farah's] appointment as editor in July, 1990, reported a circulation of 52,000 last week." (Actually, that drop is 27.8 percent; I plead guilty to rounding up the number.) If Farah has any figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the official auditor of newspaper circulation numbers, proving that circulation went up during his time at the Union, I would accept those as contrary evidence.
Farah then claims that I tried to "tie" him to Richard Mellon Scaife: "Is that the 'conservative moneybags' who endorsed Hillary Clinton, is working with Bill Clinton on his so-called 'Global Initiative' and who owns a news site launched specifically to compete with WND? No, that must be some other Richard Mellon Scaife." That's all fine, but Farah studiously avoids addressing how I "tie[d]" him to Scaife: I accurately pointed out that Scaife owned the Union prior to Farah joining it and that a Scaife-controlled foundation gave $330,000 to Farah's Western Journalism Center at a time when Scaife was doing quite the opposite of working with Bill Clinton or endorsing Hillary.
Yes, Scaife does fund that rival Brand X website whose name Farah will not let cross his lips (hint: it begins with "News" and ends in "max") -- in fact, I was the first to report the details of Scaife's involvement.
Farah also challenges me to detail my work history so we can see who "has a more impressive reporting and editing background." If Farah wants to play this little manhood-measuring game, what the heck, I'll play along.
I hold a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in multimedia journalism. I worked for 17 years in newsrooms in Nebraska, Illinois, Louisiana and Arkansas as a newspaper reporter, editor and designer before joining Media Matters in 2004. I am intimately versed in the grunt work it takes to put out a newspaper every day. I have received several awards for my work.
Farah doesn't detail exactly how much journalism experience one must have before being permitted to criticize him, but I'm pretty sure my background qualifies -- not to mention that it undercuts Farah's assertion that no one at Media Matters has ever been "an actual lifelong, working journalist." Indeed, numerous Media Matters employees have backgrounds in journalism.
As a result of my experience, I am also quite familiar with the journalistic principles of fairness and accuracy to which one must adhere to in order for a media outlet to be credible and trustworthy to its audience. A journalist following such principles, for example, presumably would refrain from making broad accusations he couldn't support. Farah fails miserably on that count.
For instance, Farah calls me "a professional (read George Soros-funded) WND hater" because I work for "Soros' Media Matters." There are three things wrong with that claim.
First, the website where I make my criticisms of WND (and even that Brand X news site), ConWebWatch, is not operated by Media Matters -- in fact, I founded it four years before Media Matters came into existence. It's a project completely separate from my work at Media Matters and funded entirely out of my own pocket. (Does this mean that before I joined Media Matters, I was an "amateur WND hater"?)
Second, Soros does not fund Media Matters.
Third, I do not "hate" WorldNetDaily or Farah, nor do I have, as Farah further asserts, "an almost demonic, spiteful, hateful jealousy" toward them. WND is a corporate entity, an inanimate object; further, I have never met Farah and, thus, cannot pass judgment on him personally. I will even concede the possibility that Farah is a nice, personable guy -- since he's a newspaper guy like me, it would likely be interesting to have a beer with him.
I hate Farah's disingenuous insistence that he's not a "conservative" or "right-winger" when the vast majority of political views he has expressed on his website reside on the right side of the spectrum. He claims that my calling him a "right-wing journalist" is "invective"; rather, it's merely the truth.
I hate that Farah accused me of "lying trash talk" but offered no evidence whatsoever of any "lie" I supposedly told. And that Farah claimed I penned "screeds" against his family, again without evidence. Wait -- wasn't he just bashing me for not citing "some source or evidence" for a claim I made?
I hate that Farah claims that he claims to support "None of the Above" for president -- meaning neither Barack Obama nor John McCain -- when his website's news section contains dozens upon dozens of articles attacking Obama and a mere handful attacking McCain, thus making WND a de facto McCain campaign outlet. WND managing editor David Kupelian's endorsement of McCain hardly dispels that impression.
One example of how this anti-Obama, pro-McCain slant works: Over the past week, WND reporter Jerome Corsi -- contrary to Farah's claim, I did link to examples of errors and false claims in Corsi's book" The Obama Nation"; indeed, Corsi himself has admitted them and stated he is making "corrections" to the next printing -- wrote three articles detailing the Obama campaign's alleged connections to troubled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with special emphasis on former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, whom Corsi claims to be an Obama "adviser."
In none of those articles did Corsi note that the McCain campaign also has numerous connections to Fannie and Freddie -- specifically, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' position as a head of an advocacy group, funded by Fannie and Freddie, that aimed to head off regulation of the entities, or that the lobbying firm Davis founded and where he is still an officer was paid $15,000 a month by Freddie Mac up until August of this year. Nor has Corsi reported that both Raines and the Obama campaign have denied that Raines is an adviser to the campaign.
In the news business, that's called bias by omission. As a man who proclaims himself to be "an actual lifelong, working journalist," Farah knows better. He knows this is biased and unfair. But he has shown no indication of doing anything about it.
That's what I hate. That's why I do what I do -- because I care about journalism and the truth.
So, Mr. Farah: Do something about the kind of slant and questionable reporting your website serves up on a daily basis, and you and WorldNetDaily will be on the road to gaining my respect.
Then maybe we can have a beer and talk about newspaper stuff sometime.