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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Farah's Disingenuous Puffery
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Mix a little shameless self-promotion with some misleading information, and what do you get? Joseph Farah's July 17 WorldNetDaily column.

Farah starts off by declaring that a Business Week column speculating on when the first major newspaper will stop publishing a print product and go completely digital is a "timely plug" for his own book, "Stop the Presses!" -- which is actually about using conservative media like WND to attack the "liberal" media (though he uses a couple pages in his book to rehash his bogus argument that WND isn't conservative). Farah then details financial losses by newspapers in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Boston, adding: "By the way, what do each of these candidates for demise have in common? They all face competition from much-smaller, but feisty alternative dailies with a more 'conservative' view."

Farah might have added: "and owned by secretive conservative billionaires with lots of money they can afford to lose in establishing said paper." That is the case with the competition in San Francisco (Philip Anschutz) and Pittsburgh (Richard Mellon Scaife, though his Pittsburgh operation was apparently losing money to the extent that it was downsized and layoffs were made). The competition in Boston also has a history of losses.

Conspicuous by its absence on Farah's list is the Washington Times, which has been supported by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church to the tune of billions of dollars. (Last time we checked, though, WND was singing the Times' tune.) Farah never explains why only the "liberal" papers (he never uses the word, but that's what he means), and not the equally money-losing conservative papers, are "candidates for demise."

Responding to the Business Week columnist's claim that those newspapers have "unassailable market positions, excellent editorial and massive traffic," Farah wrote, "To put this in perspective for those readers already inclined to the digital, all three of these major papers with 'massive' online presence are considerably smaller than the DrudgeReport. One of them, the Post-Gazette, is massively dwarfed online by WND."

To put it in even more perspective, Farah is comparing apples and oranges as far as website traffic is concerned. Regional newspapers (and their websites) cater to different audiences than nationally oriented websites like Drudge and WND. While the Post-Gazette's website may indeed be "massively dwarfed online by WND" in raw numbers, it's virtually certain that the Post-Gazette's website massively dwarfs WND's readership in the Pittsburgh area. Why? Because WND offers next to no news targeted to Pittsburgh, while local news is the Post-Gazette's job. Similarly, the Globe almost assuredly has more readers in Buston than WND does. Farah is being disingenous by omitting these caveats.

Nowhere in his column does Farah offer actual numbers regarding WND's website traffic or its financial situation, which would give his readers some raw data to examine. 

And it wouldn't be a Farah column without a dollop of puffery on his part: "I do believe I alone hold one distinction in this history of the New Media. I think I can safely claim that I am the first daily newspaper editor in chief to launch an independent daily news source on the Internet. I did it 10 years ago – and you are reading it right now."

We'll be giving Farah's book the once-over in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that Farah is as disingenuous in his book as he is in this column.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:16 AM EDT

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