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Friday, November 23, 2007
CNS' Sham 'Balance'

Recent articles make a mockery of its purported mission to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story" by making only token efforts to obtain the other side of a story, then not bothering to follow up tell the full story.

A Nov. 21 article by Pete Winn on a planned boycott of the upcoming movie "The Golden Compass" reatures two conservative activists who "told Cybercast News Service" their objections to the movie. The other side, meanwhile, was represented by an excerpt from a 2002 interview with the author of the book on which the movie is based and an excerpt from an Australian newspaper interview with one of the actresses in the film. Winn made no apparent effort to contact anyone involved with the film for a specific response to the boycott threat.

A Nov. 20 article by Nathan Burchfiel quoted two "pro-life activists" claiming that  "high abortion rates among black women" are linked to "high levels of 'hopelessness' in African-American communities across the United States." Burchfiel's attempt to "fairly present" the other side was limited to stating that "A spokesman for the Alan Guttmacher Institute did not respond to requests for comment by press time" and pulling statistics off the group's website. Was this story so time-sensitive that it couldn't wait for a live person from the Alan Guttmacher Institute to respond? Hardly.

A Nov. 16 article by Melanie Hunter featured a campaign by "[t]he nation's largest pro-life group" to urge Congress "to stop giving taxpayer dollars to organizations that perform abortions by passing one of two bills designed to ban the funding of abortion." Hunter made no apparent effort to contact an actual "organization that perform abortions" for a response; instead, she copied a statement from the Planned Parenthood website.

A Nov. 14 article by Burchfiel was almost entirely devoted to pushing a report from MRC sister organization Business & Media Institute claiming that "Major news outlets are largely ignoring personal responsibility in their coverage of a recent increase in loan foreclosures." Not until the final paragraph is it noted that "Representatives for the NBC 'Nightly News,' ABC 'World News' and CBS 'Evening News' did not respond to requests for comment by press time Tuesday." Again, this was not a time-sensitive article that needed to be pushed out as quickly as possible. And the absence of a follow-up article suggests that Burchfiel has made no further attempt to give the networks a fair opportunity to respond.

CNS' lack of balance is more evident in a series of articles it published on speakers at a recent gathering of the conservative Federalist Society. But while remarks by unabashedly conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and John Roberts and President Bush weren't countered by any opposing view, the speech by Rudy Giuliani, who has a record of being less than conservative, was. Kevin Mooney wrote that "Some pro-life and Second Amendment advocates in attendance felt Giuliani's address was deliberately crafted to avoid directly addressing some of their central concerns."

By contrast, a July 31 article by Hutner covered a speech by Sen. Chuck Schumer before the American Constitution Society, the Federalist Society's liberal counterpart -- and Hunter contacted the leader of a conservative legal group for a response.

And there are still CNS articles that don't even make the pretense of telling the other side. A Nov. 21 article by Susan Jones on a California law that forbids employers from using state funds to deter union organizing tells only of business interests trying to overturn the law; Jones makes no indication that she even bothered to contact any supporter of the law for a response.

All of this further confirms our suspicions that CNS is pulling further right -- and more biased and unfair -- under new editors Terry Jeffrey and Michael Chapman.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:06 AM EST

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