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Alliance Defense Fund replies


Contrary to the "Left Behind: Conweb Edition" section on your website, all the information needed by any person interested in the above referenced case is available on our website.  We have left nothing "behind."  Had you gone to our website, you'd know the full complaint is linked and our attorneys have been available for comment to the many news organization who've shown interest in the case.

Your call for balance is interesting since you must have read the article you reference as "real news." I agree that Jill Tucker's article is real news, as was the Reuter's article by Dan Whitcomb. Both were well-written and factual -- and both say exactly why there was no "balance." The school would not comment. I personally provided both Jill and Dan with every source available and direct contacts to our attorneys and the plaintiff. We were not concerned at all about "balance" because the facts are on our side.  WorldNetDaily also tried to get comment from the luck.

Greg Scott 
Media Relations
Alliance Defense Fund

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Mr. Scott:

Thanks for writing. As you know, the WorldNetDaily article cited in my article is almost exclusively taken nearly verbatim from the Alliance Defense Fund press release. As Mr. Williams' legal representative, no one expects you to provide a balanced representation of what the Cupertino school district, your opponent, has to say regarding this case. But WND claims to be a news organization, which brings a certain responsibility to present facts in a manner that is accurate and fair.

Because the WND story is taken exclusively from information provided by the Alliance Defense Fund -- which cannot be trusted to accurately depict the school district's view of the case since the school district is not the ADF's client -- it is not a fair news story. If WND did attempt to contact the school district for comment, as you state (and why is WND relying on your organization to provide contact information for your opponent? Is it not able to find that on its own?), it did not note that in its story. A responsible news organization would have tried to obtain comment, noting that your press release was issued two days before Thanksgiving, when schools are shutting down for a holiday weekend and spokespeople to issue a public response to a legal matter are difficult to find. If it failed to contact a spokesperson, and the story is deemed of sufficient importance that telling it cannot wait until the other side has been contacted (I'm not sure this story was that important that it could not wait for a response from the school district), it is printed with the note that attempts were made to contact the other side. This is typically followed at the earliest available opportunity with a follow-up story featuring the case as presented by the other side, giving it roughly the same amount of time or space that was given to your side. My experience monitoring WorldNetDaily tells me that it will not devote the same kind of attention to the school district's side as it did to yours.

My definition of "real news" in this case is going beyond the contents of your press release. WND clearly did not. I cited the San Mateo paper as "real news" because the reporter disclosed her attempt to contact the school district, as well as adding specific details from the lawsuit, such as excerpts from the documents Mr. Williams is accused of distributing.

I am a journalist by training, and my first instinct is to be skeptical when anyone tells me they have all the information I need, as you have. I would be just as skeptical if it was the school district telling me that all the information I need about this case should come from them. As a organization that claims to be about journalism, WorldNetDaily had a responsibility to get the school district's response. It did not; therefore, it failed as journalism. Statements from the press release and reproduced by WND, such as the one made by Mr. McCaleb that "The district is simply attempting to cleanse all references to the Christian religion from our nation's history, and they are singling out Mr. Williams for discriminatory treatment," are not "factual," as you claim -- it is an opinion. Your organization may believe they are "factual," but that does not necessarily make them so to an impartial observer (namely, the general public), especially given the lack of any counterbalance from the other side or, more importantly, a court of law.

The ADF's job is to represent its client, and it can be expected to make Mr. Williams look as good as possible and the school district as bad as possible. I don't begrudge it that, though I will note, where WND refuses to, that the ADF has a particular agenda it is pursing through cases such as these. A journalist's job is to get the story correct and complete, and by uncritically regurgitating the Alliance Defense Fund press release, WorldNetDaily did not serve any purpose except to gain wider distribution for your press release. I'm sure your organization enjoys that kind of uncritical attention, but don't confuse it with real journalism.


Terry Krepel
editor, ConWebWatch

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Posted 12/2/2004

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