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Slanted and Enchanted

Who's putting the anti-liberal bias in UPI news stories that appear on NewsMax?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/9/2001

Wire service stories that appear on NewsMax, particularly those from UPI, have a indisputable pro-conservative, anti-liberal slant. The question is who's doing it.

We know NewsMax does tamper with others' stories. Most recently, NewsMax reproduced a Jan. 29 story on Hillary Clinton planning to vote against Ashcroft's nomination, but the NewsMax version contains a line that CNS didn't have: "A Fox News Channel anchorman Monday retorted, 'Who is she to describe what the mainstream is?'" Aside from demonstrating once again NewsMax's obsession with all things Hillary, the line puts further into doubt the alleged objectivity of Fox News that conservatives like NewsMax tout.

But UPI is suspect as well. The once-highly regarded wire service was purchased last year by an affiliate of the Rev. Sun Muyng Moon's Unification Church, the same group that owns the Washington Times. NewsMax is perhaps UPI's highest-profile client, and UPI editor Arnaud de Borchgrave (former editor in chief of the Washington Times) sits on NewsMax's board of directors.

Here are several recent examples of anti-liberal slant in UPI stories on NewsMax:

-- A Jan. 25 story that refers, without attribution or explanation, to opponents of John Ashcroft's nomination as attorney general as "leftist special-interest groups" and "the anti-religious left." A source in the story is disparagingly described as working "for the left-wing group that calls itself People for the American Way."

-- A Jan. 26 story describes two groups opposed to Ashcroft's nomination as a "left-wing special-interest group" and a "pro-abortion special-interest group" respectively, while groups supporting Ashcroft's nomination are described only as "conservative."

-- A Jan. 30 story again describes those opposed to Ashcroft's nomination as "leftist special-interest groups" without attribution or explanation.

-- A Feb. 1 story described without attribution "a long and vicious campaign waged by left-wing groups" and, later in the story, describes without attribution opponents as "architects of the smear campaign." The final paragraph of the story states that "Bill Clinton's attorney general, widely considered one of the most ineffective and incompetent in history, cleared the Senate without opposition"; the claim lacks attribution or substantiation.

-- A Feb. 1 story on a study regarding campaign finance reform contains only one source, the author of the study -- a no-no among real journalists -- and fails to describe the political leanings of the group that sponsored the study, the conservative-libertarian Cato Institute.

An e-mail to UPI with questions about the issue was not answered; at least, the e-mail wasn't returned. Other e-mails sent to addresses on the UPI web site that would theoretically have been the most appropriate places for such a query -- feedback and corporate communications -- were returned as undeliverable.

Since UPI has so few clients and UPI makes no archive of its stories publicly available, it's next to impossible to find an original story to compare with the NewsMax version. Compounded by the fact that UPI has made itself difficult to contact on its own web site, NewsMax serves as UPI's ambassador of sorts to potential new clients to UPI services.

But is UPI happy with the way its stories are presented on NewsMax? Does it care if NewsMax injects political bias into its reporting (if, indeed it is)? Is such tampering allowed under the agreement between NewsMax and UPI?

Such presentation certainly can't be helping UPI attract new clients outside the circle of those attracted by its current ownership; most organizations want any news they present to be generally free of bias, at least the kind exhibited above. A news service that provides unbalanced, conservative-slanted stories is not only self-limiting in the number of clients, but there's also a surprising amount of competition. In addition to, the American Family Association has started its own news wire, Agape Press.

By affiliating itself with places like NewsMax that have no interest in presenting a completely factual account of the day's events, UPI's current management only further sullies the name of a once-proud news-gathering organization.

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