On May 11, WND published an article by Bob Unruh repeating allegations made by attorney Larry Klayman against a manager at Persian News Network, a division of Voice of America. Klayman is representing someone who has filed a lawsuit against VOA claiming that she suffered "harassment after she expressed her pro-Iranian- freedom perspective." Unruh uncritically repeated Klayman's claims, including an assertion that the manager "has close ties to the Islamic regime; in fact his father is a mullah in Iran." Unruh adds that "Contacted by WND, [VOA attorney Paul] Kollmer-Dorsey declined to respond to any questions about the dispute, referring WND to a media contact at the organization. That office did not respond to requests for comment."
A VOA official Danforth W. Austin fired back in a letter to WND, which WND published May 19:
The Voice of America strongly rejects the allegations in Mr. Bob Unruh's May 12 article: "Lawyer accuses VOA manager of pro-Iranian bias." The Voice of America has a firm commitment to its congressionally approved charter that requires its programming to be accurate, objective and comprehensive. Thus, we reject the article's claim that one of the editors in VOA's Persian News Network (PNN) is biased in favor of the government of The Islamic Republic of Iran. The claim is not only unsubstantiated, it is false. How is it false? To begin with, the PNN program Mr. Unruh's article cites, "Parazit," is a popular satirical show. During the segment in question, the show poked fun at the absurdity of PNN's alleged bias toward Iran. At no time did the program side with the "mullahs in Iran." It is also untrue that the PNN editor's father is a "mullah in Iran" who sides with the current leadership. His father is a retired professor of Islamic Studies; he was never a practicing clergyman. In fact, he was forced to retire after the 1979 Islamic revolution. We ask that you set the record straight.
WND appended an editor's note to the letter:
Editor's note: During the preparation of the story, WND tried repeatedly to obtain a comment from VOA, including leaving a message on an answering machine at the organization. WND also talked directly to Paul Kollmer-Dorsey, but he declined to respond to any questions. The allegations in the report are from the lawsuit and a letter by Larry Klayman, the plaintiff's lawyer, to VOA.
Thus far, Unruh's article has not been corrected or updated, nor has a separate update article been published. Further, WND deletes its letters to the editor from its website after a week, so Austin's letter will be purged on May 26.That means unless Unruh's article is updated or a separate update is published, the other side of the story will disppear -- presumably, the way WND likes it.
Whether or not VOA responded to Unruh's supposed requests for comment is irrelevant to the fact that his article contained errors that WND thus far will not formally correct.
This treatment of a request for a correction runs contrary to WND editor Joseph Farah has established as his preferred treatment. As we detailed, Farah complained in a September 2008 column that a Kansas newspaper published a letter to the editor claiming that Rep. Steve King got incorrect numbers about immigration from WND; in fact, WND was attributing the claim to King. We'll let Farah take it from here:
I was hopeful the editor-publisher of the Morning Sun would recognize he had printed a letter that is defamatory, prejudiced, incendiary and just verifiably untruthful and retract it and apologize for it. Having been an editor and publisher of daily newspapers much bigger and more influential than the Pittsburg Morning Sun, I was actually confident of being able to reason with Stephen Wade. I was wrong.
He wrote back to me suggesting I pen a letter to the editor in response. Facts were not important to him. Reality is not important to him. Stephen Wade, like so many other media types in this strange new world, seems to think everything is just a matter of opinion. And that's scary.
So I wrote to Wade's bosses at GateHouse Media in New York demanding a retraction and apology – so far to no avail. Bottom line: I may have to sue these people, costing them and me a lot of money, just to motivate them to do what decent journalistic and business ethics should motivate them to do.
To sum up: In Farah's view letter to the editor in response to a letter to the editor was not sufficient to correct an error. But when WND makes false claims, it will not correct it but merely print the correction in a letter to the editor that's deleted from the website a week later.
Double standard, anyone? Unethical journalism, anyone?
Speaking of unethical journalism, in addition to publishing false claims that it won't correct, Unruh committed another violation of journalistic ethics by not disclosing a serious conflict of interest -- that Klayman is also working for WND.
UPDATE: Farah concluded is rant against the Kansas newspaper: "Nevertheless, because of arrogance or ignorance or stubbornness or pettiness, this little newspaper in this little town refused to do the right thing. That's the sad state of the media – even in small-town America." At WorldNetDaily, too.