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Kick-Ass Reporting? Not Here

NewsMax is caught flat-footed as the what could be the story of the century breaks in its own back yard.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/9/2000

With the fate of the free world hanging on a recount in Florida, the presidential election threatens to turn into one giant Carl Hiaasen novel -- and NewsMax is there.

Literally. NewsMax is headquarted in West Palm Beach, Fla., located in the county where the biggest problems with the Florida vote are turning up.

However, NewsMax has been a little slow on the uptake thus far.

Take, for instance, the revelation that more than 19,000 ballots for president were tossed out in Palm Beach County because the ballots were punched twice, which when coupled with allegations that the ballot was confusing to some people, causing some to vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore, may end up being what the election hinges on. It took NewsMax more than four hours after the story moved on national news wires to acknowledge it on their site. Then, it took another hour to post a bare-bones story about it. This on a story that is unfolding right in front of them.

Perhaps its professional opposition-trashers had already gone to bed for the night, tired from cranking out two stories on Wednesday trying to debunk the reported problems in Palm Beach County. First, it quotes a writer as essentially saying voters have only themselves to blame if they punched the wrong place on the ballot and calling the congressman originally advancing the charges a liar; then, it comes up with the explanation that Palm Beach County has a lot of members of something called the Independent Party, and that Buchanan's numbers are not out of line with other Florida counties with significant numbers of Independent Party members.

This explanation might make a little more sense if NewsMax had bothered to tell readers anything at all about the Independent Party and why its members would be more likely to vote for Buchanan. They don't, so the story is worthless to anyone who knows nothing about Florida politics, which would include just about everybody who doesn't live in Florida. Another fine piece of sloppy journalism from the folks at NewsMax. Look for more today.

Otherwise, it's been business as usual for NewsMax. Which includes, of course, a hefty dose of Gore- and Hillary-bashing (trashing her decisive win in the New York Senate race as the establishment of the Clinton administration in exile) and even letting Jack Thompson out of the attic for a while to smear Janet Reno once more.

And all news copy was shoved down Wednesday so that NewsMax could plug its new book.

The most interesting insight into why Christopher Ruddy and NewsMax operates the way it does comes not from NewsMax but from Ruddy's old boss, Richard Mellon Scaife.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, on orders from Scaife himself, pulled all photographs of Gore from the paper the weekend before the election and also reworked an Associated Press story to play down any mention of the vice president.

The article continues: "Scaife instructed top editors to make certain that no photographs or prominent mention of Gore appeared on the front pages, resulting in a Sunday front page that included Bush in all campaign-related headlines and photos. While a Tribune reporter was assigned to cover a rally by Gore (in Pittsburgh) Saturday night, the story, originally slated to accompany a Bush piece, was moved from the front page to the inside."

Deliberately slanting the news to make it conform to your own political views? Ruddy learned well.

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