Press-Release Journalism Topic: Newsmax
NewsMax overplayed the value of comments by an evangelical minister who took offense that Rev. Billy Graham said something nice about the Clintons.
The June 27 article played up comments by National Clergy Council president Rev. Rob Schenck, who "walked out on Rev. Billy Graham during the second night of his Queens, New York crusade" after Graham "yielded the stage to Bill Clinton and suggested his wife Hillary should be president." NewsMax noted that Schenck "told the Christian Wire Service" his comments.
But the Christian Wire Service is not a "news" service like the Associated Press; it is a distributor of press releases for conservative groups, as its client list attests. Its front page notes: "$65 is what we charge to transmit your 400-words-or-less press release." Schenck's comments originated here in a press release.
It is part of the Christian Communication Service, founded by Gary McCullough, who has worked with Operation Rescue and was a spokesman for the Schindler family and a media adviser to another Schindler family spokesman, fellow Operation Rescue operative Randall Terry, during the Terri Schiavo crisis. A statement on the website describes its mission:
Since 1989, Gary McCullough has worked full-time to see that pro-life and pro-family organizations and individuals are afforded the opportunity for their messages to reach more people through mass media.
NewsMax didn't report comments told to a news organization; it rewrote a press release.
WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, ran an op-ed by Schenck on Graham on July 1, claiming it was an "Exclusive WorldNetDaily Commentary," without noting that it too originated as a press release.
O'Connor Roundup Topic: The ConWeb
How did the ConWeb initially cover Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement?
WorldNetDaily: Its initial story puts ConWeb balance into play; its look at "activists gearing up for a fierce confirmation battle" quoted four conservatives and one ACLU representative who focused on "individual liberties," not exactly a liberal position.
CNSNews.com: Pounded out eight stories. The stories that focused on liberals' views tended to promote more alarmist statements (featuring "ominous vacancy" in a headline, another headline misleadingly claiming that Sen. Ted Kennedy "Threatens to Oppose Supreme Court Nominee" when that statement is qualified in the story's lead) than those that focused on conservatives' views.
Another story engages in some subtle bias by portraying conservatives as concerned about "sanctity of life, the family and the Ten Commandments" and "the rule of law and the Constitution." Writer Susan Jones then adds "Likewise, liberal groups want a nominee who will protect their interests" and lists comments regarding abortion, gay rights and the environment. A man-on-the-street piece, surprisingly, was not only not conservatively slanted but actually leaned liberal; five people expressing support for a liberal nominee were quoted, compared to three expressing support for a conservative nominee.
NewsMax: Almost all Associated Press wire copy, except for a press release from the Republican National Committee. And, of course, renewed sales plugs for the issue of its magazine on the Supreme Court (one topic: "Why a top constitutional scholar is arguing that Bush should “pack” the Supreme Court").
Story Count Topic: WorldNetDaily
Number of original WorldNetDaily articles noting California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's opposition to the removal of a large cross on Mount Soledad, near San Diego: 4 (here, here, here and here)
Number of original WorldNetDaily articles noting Cunningham's involvement in which a defense contractor paid an inflated price for Cunningham's house (which the lobbyist later sold at a loss), or that Cunningham's Washington residence is on a yacht owned by the contractor, or that Cunningham improperly sold $595 knives with the congressional seal on them: 0
So much for WND's claim of being "a watchdog exposing government waste, fraud, corruption and abuse of power."
Wall? What Wall? (Part 2) Topic: WorldNetDaily
Consider the wall between news and advertising at WorldNetDaily, noted as crumbling a few months back, completely obliterated.
A June 30 article headlined "Next big home-based biz opportunity?" is everything that it sounds like it will be -- a plug for "a few good partner-distributors" to operate vending machines. It's presented as any other "news" story, lacking any disclaimer of being an ad it clearly is; in fact, the top of the story calls it a "WorldNetDaily Exclusive," like its other original "news" stories do.
If WND has so few journalistic ethics as to dress up such an obvious ad in the guise of a news story, why should anyone trust anything else that passes for "news" coverage at WND as not being bought and paid for? Are conservative legal groups like Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law and Justice paying for the fawning recycled-press-release coverage WND gives them? How about Move America Forward? Or Voice of the Martyrs?
If WND is at all interested in salvaging what little journalistic reputation it has left, it must clearly explain to its readers where the line is between news and advertising -- if, indeed, there is one at all.
Another Thing You Won't Read at WND Topic: WorldNetDaily
From Max Blumenthal's account of the College Republican National Convention:
On June 24 conventiongoers were treated to speeches from conservative stars like House majority leader Tom DeLay; antitax zealot Grover Norquist, who called Senator John McCain a "nut job" for compromising on Bush's judge picks; and black right-winger Jesse Lee Peterson, who announced that "most black people--not all, but most--can't think for themselves."
WorldNetDaily, of course, is the inadequately disclosed publisher of Peterson's book and keeper of his speaking engagements.
Massie Falsely Attacks FBI Documents Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily columnist (and Slantie winner) Mychal Massie falsely casted doubt on documents upon which Sen. Richard Durbin based his claim (for which he has since apologized) that U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was akin to Nazis and other brutal dictators.
Ini his June 28 column, Massie claimed Durbin's statement was "based on an unsubstantiated – and as yet unseen – FBI report." He later claimed Durbin cited an "alleged FBI report."
In fact, the documents cited by Durbin -- released by the federal government through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union -- are publicly available. Only Massie has questioned their authenticity.
In his June 21 WND column, Massie discounted the claim Durbin cited of a prisoner who had torn his hair out after suffering alleged abusive treatment: "Prisoners who are freezing or suffering from heat exposure do not pull their hair out, but unstable psychotics do."
Stuff WND Won't Report Topic: WorldNetDaily
Don't look for WorldNetDaily to tell its readers the following anytime soon:
-- Via Josh Marshall, we learn that Florida Rep. Katherine Harris, WND Books' first author and beneficiary of sycophantic WorldNetDaily "news" coverage, may get pulled into a burgeoning scandal involving a defense contractor called MZM, exposed by Marshall as being very, very generous to another congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Not only did Harris receive $32,000 in campaign contributions from the company and its employees, she has a history of receiving tainted contributions.
-- A June 26 column by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dennis Roddy notes that Bijan Sepasy, president of the Iranian Freedom Foundation founded by WND columnist and author Jerome Corsi (WND editor Joseph Farah is a board member), used to be a lobbyist for the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose overthrow Corsi is trying to agitate. WND's only reference to Sepasy ignores his lobbying work and describes him only as "an Iranian-American born in Iran and naturalized as a U.S citizen."
Roddy quotes conservative author Kenneth Timmerman, who questioned the effectiveness of Corsi's group between Sepasy's background and Corsi's intrusion:
"Jerry Corsi is unknown to the Iranian community and the pro-democracy movement in Iran," Timmerman said. "Until he published a book on Iran. That has made some people suspicious of his motives."
Roddy also quotes another Iranian democracy activist (who is not only Iranian and not allied with former employees of the Islamic government, her father is currently imprisoned in Iran) as saying that while Corsi tries to dominate the debate in an already fracuous Iran democracy movement, "none of us ever gets heard. That's what freaks me out. No one's willing to speak to us. But they bring someone like Jerry Corsi? When did Jerry Corsi end up knowing more than I do?"
EDIT: Fixed Cunningham's name; it's Randy, not Randall.
LeBoutillier Lies About Podhoretz Topic: Newsmax
In a June 27 NewsMax column chastising conservatives for not supporting Edward Klein's anti-Hillary book, John LeBoutillier selectively quotes comments by one conservative to advance the false claim that he didn't read Klein's book.
From LeBoutillier's column:
Another GOP strategist, said he "wanted to take a shower" after reading the book. He obviously did not read a page of it because, if anything, the book repeats much of what has previously been published elsewhere.
In fact, this unnamed "GOP strategist" is New York Post columnist John Podhoretz who made it clear in his June 22 column that he did indeed read the book. The full quote:
This is one of the most sordid volumes I've ever waded through. Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. Sixty pages into it, I wanted to be decontaminated. And 200 pages into it, I wanted someone to drive stakes through my eyes so I wouldn't have to suffer through another word.
New Article: Les Loves Lott Topic: WorldNetDaily
The model for Jeff Gannon, WorldNetDaily's Les Kinsolving, uses his White House briefing questions to push a revisionist history of Trent Lott's controversial remarks. Read more.
Keeping Quiet Topic: Newsmax
In neither its June 26 "Insider Report" nor a June 26 story by Carl Limbacher alleging that the alleged cancellations of appearances by Edward Klein on some TV shows "may be an unprecedented act of media censorship" does NewsMax note two important things regarding Klein's book "The Truth About Hillary":
-- The June 24 interview Klein did with Al Franken and Joe Conason in which Klein is cracked open like a soft peanut on said errors.
Limbacher's article also fails to correct an error by Klein collaborator-slash-Hillary-hater John LeBoutiller, who called the claim in the book that Bill Clinton raped Hillary "Hillary's spin, an exaggeration of items of the book to make it look extreme." In fact, it was Matt Drudge, no Hillary lover, who advanced that accusation. (LeBoutillier's role in the book is not disclosed in Limbacher's article, either.)
The Rest of the Story Topic: WorldNetDaily Bartholomew tells what WorldNetDaily doesn't in its June 18 article on an anti-gay-rights rally in Poland. A group called the League of Polish Families led the rally; turns out it has ties to violence against gays and hosted a American who lobbied the Polish parliament for $10 million to "convert" homosexuals to heterosexuality, not to mention an anti-Semite in the family tree.