We haven't written much on CNSNews.com's news coverage lately -- that's because CNS seems to be making a concerted effort to offer at least somewhat balanced coverage. This might have to do with the recent promotion of Patrick Goodenough, a former CNS international bureau chief, to managing editor. We don't recall the last time we singled out a Goodenough article for bias or bad reporting, which suggests that he's applying those standards across CNS.
That's not to say CNS doesn't fall back to its old ways on occasion. For instance, a Jan. 4 article by Susan Jones is essentially a Traditional Values Coalition press release that attacks a congressional proposal to add restrictions on lobbying efforts -- or, according to the TVC as reported by Jones, "an aggressive plan to 'muzzle' conservative groups through lobby reform" -- without offering any opposing view, let alone a neutral description of the legislation.
By contrast, a Jan. 16 article by Monisha Bansal on the same subject gave space to a group supporting the bill, though it presented 12 paragraphs of argument against it before getting to the proponents. It's still somewhat slanted -- what we've come to expect from the ConWeb -- but it did present both sides of the story, something that doesn't happen with Jones' press release-based grind-'em-out items.
Jones' Jan. 19 follow-up on the vote on the bill, however, goes back to old patterns by quoting only Republicans and conservative groups.
Telling the whole story, and not regurgitating press releases, is what truly serves readers, whatever their political affiliation. We hope CNS continues to improve on this front until it genuinely lives up to its mission statement to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story."
Update: WND Still Rewriting ADF Press Releases Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily never completely stopped rewriting press releases from the Alliance Defense Fund, even after we detailed WND's symbiotic relationship with the conservative legal group. But WND has upped its efforts of late to serve as ADF's public relations division.
A Jan. 20 WND article closely tracks an ADF press release on a Cleveland purportedly arrested outside an abortion clinic because "someone inside was "annoyed" with the sound of the business owner's voice," and it obtains additional quotes from an ADF attorney. No apparent effort was made to contact the other side in the case.
A Jan. 5 article by Chelsea Schilling featuring several cases the ADF is handling agaisnt school districts made featured comments by ADF officials and stuck with telling the ADF's side of the story. And Schilling even went further in one case; in reciting one press release-derived incident, she writes without citation or challenge that one student "politely" informed a school official "of their First Amendment right to peacefully express their views." Again, no apparent attempt was made to contact those school districts involved for the other side of the story.
Tim Graham isn't the only NewsBusters post that can't get past George Allen's loss of his Virginia Senate seat. Its posters are now taken to spinning an incident during that campaign in order to attack an Allen critic.
Mike Stark is an activist blogger who, a few weeks before the November election, tried to confront Allen over rumors of alleged spousal abuse; in doing so, Allen staffers roughly wrestled Stark to the ground. But NewsBusters posters have taken to telling their own version of the story.
In a Jan. 15 post, Noel Sheppard described Stark as "the blogger that pushed a George Allen supporter at a campaign event in late October ... and ended up getting wrestled to the ground as a result." In support of that, Sheppard linked to a YouTube video of a series of photos purportedly showing Stark "shov[ing] an Allen supporter, then asking at one point, "Is he trying to spit?" Sheppard mentions nothing about the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Slantie winner Dan Riehl takes it even farther in a Jan. 20 post, claiming that Stark "physically assaulted a campaign worker only to ask Allen if he had 'spit on his wife,' " linking again to a series of photos purporting to show the "assault" and not noting the context in which Stark asked his question.
Neither Riehl nor Sheppard offer any evidence beyond those photos -- which prove nothing in and of themselves -- that Stark maliciously did anything physical or was trying to do anything more than get past an Allen campaign worker. Further, the newspaper that shot those photos, the Fredricksburg, Va., Free Lance-Star, reported of particlar segment of the incident that "Stark pushed toward the senator, [and Allen staffer] Dan Allen pushed back." Nobody claimed at the time that Stark "assaulted" anyone.
But then, consider the source(s) -- Riehl regularly makes false claims, and Sheppard regularly misrepresents issues (his comment came in a post spinning Melanie Morgan's extremist remarks).
Another Selectively Edited Finkelstein Transcript Topic: NewsBusters
Noel Sheppard apparently hasn't had that talk we recommended he have with Mark Finkelstein -- you know, about selectively editing the transcripts he posts on NewsBusters. Because Finkelstein has done it again.
In a Jan. 19 post, Finkelstein claims that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund "had something of a nuclear showdown" with MSNBC's Chris Matthews:
Said Fund, speaking of the build-up to the Iraq war: "The administration said there were weapons of mass destruction. They never claimed the United States was in imminent danger."
Matthews: "They did make the claim they [Iraq] had a nuclear weapon."
Fund: "No!! They did not claim they had a nuclear weapon! Give me the statement!
Matthews had none. The most he could muster was an Iraqi claim of a delivery system -- not of a weapon itself.
Not quite. Here's the section of "Hardball" transcript that Finkelstein condensed down to what Matthews could purportedly "muster":
MATTHEWS: They explained – the administration – that they had a delivery system, an airplane that would deliver it to North America. That was a big part of the case they made.
FUND: One, if they -- if they developed a nuclear weapon, they said they had a delivery system. They didn’t claim Iraq had a nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: They said don’t wait for the smoking gun because there’ll be a mushroom cloud. They used all the language of fear and imminent danger.
That was a reference to Condoleezza's Rice statement in late 2002 that "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Further (but not noted by either Matthews or Finkelstein) the Bush administration did claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons. Vice President Dick Cheney said the following a few days before the Iraq war started, on the March 16, 2003, edition of NBC's "Meet the Press":
CHENEY: We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
After truncating that section, Finkelstein then resumed his transcript:
Fund: "Chris, do you believe North Korea has a nuclear weapon?"
Matthews, after some serious dead air: "I don't know."
Fund: "You don't?? We know they do! They've announced it!!"
Matthews: "OK. But what's the point? What's the point here?"
Finkelstein abruptly ends his transcript there, adding "Oh, I don't know: perhaps that Chris should get his facts straight before venturing into his next facedown with John Fund!" But the exchange continued, in which Matthews explained his point:
FUND: The point is –
MATTHEWS: OK, we’re not going to war with North Korea, I’ve noticed.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why are we going to war, even thinking about it with Iran, then?
FUND: We’re not thinking about going to war. We are trying to put --
FUND: -- diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran so they don’t even think about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that would be good. But I’m afraid that’s a threat that if it doesn’t work, we could go to war, that’s what I’m afraid of.
So, to sum up: Matthews' question of "What's the point?" applied not to whether North Korea's nuclear weapons actually existed, as Finkelstein implied by his selective editing of the transcript, but to why we're engaging in more aggressive postures toward Iran, which to our knowledge does not have nuclear weapons, than with North Korea, which apparently does. And more selective editing obscured the fact that Matthews did offer evidence (and that other evidence exists) for his claim that the Bush administration did link nuclear weapons to Saddam's Iraq.
Further, Finkelstein lets Fund off the hook for his claim that the Bush administration "never claimed the United States was in imminent danger." That is only true in a very narrow technical sense; in fact, President Bush did call Iraq an "urgent threat"; Vice President Dick Cheney called Iraq a "mortal threat"; and other senior White House officials assented when reporters applied the "imminent threat" characterization.
(And as to Fund's claim that "We’re not thinking about going to war" with Iran, Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily begs to differ.)
Finkelstein seems to be under the impression that he is free to distort with impunity the words of people with whom he doesn't agree (as he has done on previousoccasions). But he also forgets that other people watch the same shows he does and can describe in detail his distortions.
CNS Still Slanting Abortion Articles Topic: CNSNews.com
Susan Jones and Payton Hoegh were doing so well. In their Jan. 19 CNSNews.com article on the upcoming anniversary of Roe v. Wade, they start out by countering the "pro-life" moniker with "pro-choice," a term CNS has generally steered clear of in the past.
But then, about halfway through the article, Jones and Hoegh abandon "pro-choice" for the inaccurate and loaded "abortion advocates." In fact, pro-choicers advocate the right to abortion, which is not the same thing as advocating abortions themselves.
It's not quite as slanted as CNS' previousefforts in covering the abortion issue, but it's still a slant.
Speaking of Pertinent Information ... Topic: NewsBusters
NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard keeps up his war on Keith Olbermann -- he has previously called Olbermann "a disgrace, and the idea that any major media outlet would give him a daily platform to spew his vitriol from is similarly so" -- in a January 18 post taking Olbermann to task for his criticism of "24." Sheppard suggests that Olbermann is "formulating these opinions without all of the pertinent information available."
Besides accusing Olbermann of suffering from "obvious paranoia" (a slightly less harsh assessement than the "disturbing," "offensive" and "despicable" epithets Sheppard has previously hung on him), Sheppard takes particular offense to Olbermann's singling out of a NewsBusters post recommending that a "24" scene in which terrorists set off a nuclear device in Los Angeles "should be required viewing for all media members who question what's at risk and whether there really is a war on terror":
Yet, when a conservative writer “wonder[ed] how many people in the media understand how possible what was depicted [in Tuesday’s ‘24' episode] is,” and if “they really pondered the unthinkable,” KO suggested such person is addle-minded enough to believe that “somewhere in this country there really is a cheerleader who will never die, there's at least one real-life talking dog, and a mother and a daughter who patter back and forth like the Gilmore Girls.”
But Sheppard leaves out some of that "pertinent information" he speaks so highly of: The "conservative writer" who penned that post is none other than Sheppard himself. Strangely, he doesn't link to it.
The fact that you're defending your own writing is something readers ought to know, doncha think, Noel?
Sadly, No! points out that Thomas D. Kuiper, in a Jan. 18 WorldNetDaily column, claimed that "when President Bush had been in office less than four months, Hillary Clinton was already blaming him for environmental changes" when, in fact, the Clinton statement Kuiper cites doesn't mention Bush.
Kuiper is the author of "I've Always Been A Yankees Fan: Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words," which, as we've noted, is notnecessarily so.
'Terrorist Surveillance Program' Topic: Media Research Center
A Jan. 18 CyberAlert item (and Jan. 17 NewsBusters post) by Brent Baker claimed that referring to what Baker called the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" as "domestic spying" and "domestic eavesdropping" was a "network habit," as well as "loaded and inaccurate."
But "Terrorist Surveillance Program" is at least as loaded and inaccurate. As we've noted, that term is the Bush administration's preferred terminology, something Baker fails to acknowledge. And "domestic eavesdropping" is indeed a component of the program, given that one end of the phone call being tapped is in the United States. Further, the name itself is misleading because the NSA does not know for sure that the subject of surveillance is, in fact, a terrorist when surveillance begins.
New Article: They Attacked (or Ignored) Spocko's Brain Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily -- self-proclaimed champion of "new media" and defender of anonymous sources -- ignores an attempt to shut down a blogger critical of WND columnist Melanie Morgan, leaving it to Morgan herself to misleadingly address it. And a NewsBusters blogger simply regurgitates Morgan's attacks. Read more.
NewsMax reprints Dick Morris' column in The Hill in which he claims that Barack Obama "made his first misstep a few days ago when he joined only a handful of Democrats in opposing a Senate reform banning the increasingly widespread practice of legislators hiring their family members on their campaign or PAC payrolls."
But he didn't. As Media Matters details, Obama actually voted against a measure to table (i.e., postpone and thus effectively kill) the bill, not the bill itself.
That Morris can't get simple facts straight sorta puts into perspective his inability to correctly prognosticate.
A Jan. 16 NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock attacked an ABC "Good Morning America" report on the Scooter Libby trial as skipping "important facts," then counters with his own version of the "facts" that turn out to be, uh, less than factual. Whitlock wrote:
[ABC's Claire] Shipman neglected to cite some extremely salient facts in her report. For starters, there’s no mention of the fact that [Joseph] Wilson’s wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, actually sent Wilson on the trip to Africa.
In fact, according to the Wikipedia entry on Wilson to which Whitlock later links, the farthest the committee went in stating as "established fact" was that "Valerie Plame suggested her husband travel to Niger to look into" claims of attempted purchases of uranium by Iraq. In case Whitlock isn't aware, "suggested" is not the same thing as "sent."
Whitlock linked to Wikipedia in support of his claim that "the Senate Intelligence Committee published a report essentially saying that everything Joseph Wilson said was a lie" (he linked to a Power Line entry as well). But that's not exactly true either. According to Media Matters:
[W]hile the CIA initially interpreted Wilson's findings as confirmation of Iraq's supposed efforts to acquire uranium from Niger, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) interpreted his findings as confirmation that the Niger claim was not credible. As Media Matters further noted, the Senate Intelligence Committee reached no conclusion about the credibility of Wilson's July 6, 2003, New York Timesop-ed describing his fact-finding mission to Niger.
Mychal Massie's Jan. 16 WorldNetDaily column attacking Sen. Barbara Boxer's comments to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was predictably rantlike. Also predictable was Massie's failure to note one important fact: When Boxer noted that Rice had no children and thus would not pay a "personal price" for the Iraq war, she also pointed out that she herself would not pay a personal price because "[m]y kids are too old and my grandchild is too young." Does that excuse Boxer's remark to Rice? Not necessarily; but Massie's failure to report Boxer's full statement makes him an irresponsible columnist.
Similarly irresponsible: Massie, in his laundry list of attacks on Democrats, calls Sen. Robert Byrd an "unrepentant former Ku Klux Klan officer." In fact, as Slate's Timothy Noah points out, Byrd has apologized for his Klan past. Further, Massie glosses over Trent Lott's comments that if Strom Thurmond had been elected president on his 1948 Dixiecrat segregationist ticket, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over these years" as "jocund comments made at a birthday party." (By the way, Noah notes that Thurmond said as late as 1998 that "I don't have anything to apologize for" regarding his racism; asked if he thought the Dixiecrats were right, Thurmond said, "Yes, I do.")
Massie manages to keep his thesarus-plundering to a minimum this time, limiting himself to calling Boxer a "petulant harridan" and a "pettifogger."
NewsBusters Continues to Confuse TV, Reality Topic: NewsBusters
The folks at NewsBusters aren't content with taking their cues on media bias from StephenColbert. Now they want U.S. foreign policy to be based on "24."
A Jan. 16 post by Noel Sheppard notes that at the end of one recent episode, terrorists set off a nuclear device in Los Angeles (actually, he doesn't say that for spoiler reasons, but the accompanying screen capture of a mushrooom cloud pretty much gives it away), an "astounding event" after which he "was left speechless for several minutes." Sheppard then launches into an attack on the media:
Yet, upon reflection, I wonder how many people in the media understand how possible what was depicted last evening is. As folks on the nation’s airwaves continue to downplay the seriousness of terrorism, and undermine virtually all of the current Administration’s efforts to thwart conscienceless aggression against Western civilization, have they really pondered the unthinkable? Or, have they all grown complacent as we move continually further and further away from that fateful day in September 2001?
Regardless, this video should be required viewing for all media members who question what's at risk, and whether there really is a war on terror.
Does Sheppard also think that Jack Bauer should be secretary of state? He doesn't say.
UPDATE: Four hours later after gushing about "24," Sheppard criticizes Time magazine for raising the question of whether "24" is "a conservative show."