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Why You Can't Trust NewsMax

A NewsMax columnist sets standards that his own employer can't live up to.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/6/2001

John L. Perry certainly makes a valiant effort at media criticism in his Aug. 30 NewsMax column, titled "Why You Can't Trust the Media."

He actually starts out rather well, with anecdotes about the Chicago Tribune as run under Col. Robert McCormick. "The Chicago Tribune of more than half a century ago was an unblushing, one-sided conservative window on the narrow-minded world of its frustrated, embittered, anti-liberal, anti-Eastern, anti-British owner," Perry writes, and to his credit, he disapproves: "So blatant was the bias it was laughable."

Unfortunately, Perry abandons the well-researched part of his essay when he tries to turn the tables and paint today's media as liberal, liberal, liberal.

"How the times have changed! Today, the problem is just the reverse, a gunwale-swamping list to port – which means it is, in journalistic principle, still the same, an alarming bias toward one political point of view," he states, not providing one single example. Perhaps it's just a case of Perry writing to appeal to the NewsMax audience, for whom the idea of "liberal media bias" is so conditioned that providing proof is beyond them, not even the out-of-context examples from the Media Research Center.

Then, Perry digs himself in deeper by touting his employer:

Ideally, Americans would be presented a broad rainbow of opinion. The CommentMax section of this Web site is perhaps the best array of varying political opinion to be found in one place in American journalism today. Sad to say, most newspaper readers are surfeited with nothing but leftist bias.

True, NewsMax's CommentMax page lists the latest works of, at last count, 98 writers, the majority of which lean conservative. But newspapers can't afford to pay for 98 different opinion writers -- and neither can NewsMax. The vast majority of CommentMax links go outside NewsMax (everywhere, it appears, except WorldNetDaily), and there certainly wouldn't be 98 writers listed on CommentMax if NewsMax had to pay for listing every single one of them. Perry doesn't mention that. And if "most newspaper readers are surfeited with nothing but leftist bias," why does Cal Thomas appear in more than 500 newspapers, for instance?

Then, after a little more liberal-bashing, Perry starts out one paragraph: "Even so, here in one of the rare precincts of American journalism – – where free expression of honest opinion is not only cherished and protected, but expected ..."

I'll pause for a second while you, kind reader, pick youself up off the floor and stop laughing.

He finishes by announcing that "... it's appropriate to take a deeper look at what's wrong with mainstream American news media and why so many people wouldn't trust them any farther than they could throw them."

Perry accurately notes that "All reporters have some sort of personal political viewpoint. They'd not be worth having if they were intellectual eunuchs. There are indeed personally conservative and personally liberal journalists who can, and actually do, report honestly and perceptively." And he makes good points about "newspapers that forsake news and spewed out cotton-candy features and how-to-cope stories" and "editors enamored by the fallacies of focus groups."

Then he goes into his list of problems with the media. Waddaya say we apply a few of those to NewsMax and see how it stacks up?

Point one: "... the arrogance, the unspeakably overweening arrogance, the condescension, the holier-than thou, smarter-than-thou smugness they can scarcely contain."

Arrogance, thy name is NewsMax. From bashing Dan Rather for alleged slurs they refuse to call their own on, to ignoring bad news about conservatives to refusing to apologize for a false story about the Clintons, NewsMax operates with a smugness more legitimate news organizations can only dream of.

Point two: "And there's sloth."

Remember the Judicial Watch press releases reposted as NewsMax stories? And the rewriting of wire copy to put a more conservative slant to it? Sloppy and lazy, not to mention more biased than any "liberal" news organization Perry cites.

Point three: "And there's the herd instinct."

Even among conservative news organizations, NewsMax is the herd. It had a hard time generating original copy about the Florida recount, even though it's headquartered in Palm Beach County, one of the epicenters of controversy there. Much of its original copy is gossip-oriented, concurrent with its emulation of supermarket tabloids. The rest is mostly opinion pieces by people like Perry, none of whom are anything less than conservative.

"Millions now tap into, where only a couple of years ago there were only several thousand," Perry gushes. He makes the mistake of confusing NewsMax with journalism; NewsMax has merely joined the Drudge Report in tapping a market for conservative gossip, where "free expression of honest opinion" is not cherished, where non-conservative opinion is permitted only if it can be balanced by a conservative point of view. And if that non-conforming opinion or person can be ridiculed (witness NewsMax's embrace of anyone who has anything negative to say about the Clintons), all the better.

Perry concludes: "The good news is that 'news you can trust' – as distinguished from 'news you can use' – is finally on the way back in." So where does that leave NewsMax, which manages to be neither trustworthy nor useful?

Actually, NewsMax does serve a purpose -- as an example of what real journalism should not be. But of course, Perry will never say that about his employer though it so abysmally fails his own standards.

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