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Update: Heads Up!

CNS lets its agenda slip via headlines. Plus: Another case of Otto-itis, biased talking-head-show hosts, more Brock borking and judging one by what one says.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/17/2002

Any good journalism school teaches students how to write accurate, effective headlines. The editors at CNS must not have gone to one of those schools.

As much as CNS boss Brent Bozell rails against media bias, his CNS puts its bias on parade over and over again, and one of the places that occurs is in the headlines of its articles.

For instance, take this June 3 story, headlined "'Clinton Era Boondoggle' Would Get $229 Million Increase Under New Bill." Now, the "Clinton-era boondoggle" phrase doesn't show up until paragraph 18 of the 19-paragraph article, so that's a sign the writer didn't feel it was that important -- and also a sign the editor who wrote the headline had enough of an agenda to push that he would make something so derogatory and so far down in the story a part of the headline. (Of course, we all know CNS has an agenda, and putting together words like "Clinton" and "boondoggle" is just part of it.)

Further, the headline does not accurately convey the essence of the story, which makes it a failure as a headline. The story is mainly about how a former critic of Americorps (the alleged "boondoggle") became a sponsor of a bill to increase its funding after President Bush became a champion of the program. The "boondoggle" quote comes from a representative of the conservative Capital Research Center (which CNS doesn't bother to describe as conservative), who offers no evidence of his claim.

A better, more accurate headline would be something like, "Former Americorps Critic Sponsors Bill to Increase Funding."

And here's another misleading CNS headline, from June 12: "Kennedy Invokes War on Terror to Promote Homosexuality." (There's another part of the CNS agenda: associating the words "Kennedy" and "homosexuality.") A read of the story indicates Sen. Ted Kennedy is not "promoting homosexuality" at all; he is promoting a bill he has sponsored to permit federal prosecution of a hate crime involving sexual orientation, which has nothing to do with "promoting homosexuality," whatever that means. (The ConWeb has a problem separating the two.)

Given this kind of problem at CNS -- and it is a recurring problem -- ConWebWatch offers a link to a guide to writing headlines from the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to the improvement of journalism. CNS should pay special attention to Rule No. 2: "Make sure the big type does not contradict the little type."

* * *

WorldNetDaily seems to have caught the same case of Otto-itis that CNS has.

CNS, if you'll remember, has a bad habit of not telling the truth about the full nature of opposition to Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs appointed to the job as a Bush administration "recess appointment."

An April 19 WND article reporting on statements by Cuban leader Fidel Castro blaming Reich for the failed coup attempt in Venezuela in April pulls some generic resume info to describe the man: "Reich has extensive experience in Latin American affairs, including the posts of assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, ambassador to Venezuela and special adviser to the Secretary of State."

Not a word about Reich's pro-Contra propaganda operation during the 1980s with the American public being the target of said propaganda -- an operation one government investigation termed "prohibited." (Fairness and Accuracy in Media's Jeff Cohen provides the details on this operation.) Also, while he was ambassador to Venezuela, Reich reportedly supported (or at least didn't strongly oppose) the entry of alleged terrorist Orlando Bosch into the United States. Bosch had been serving time in a Venezuelan prison for blowing up a Cuban airliner.

C'mon, WND, where's that vaunted "independence" you keep talking about? Surely you're independent enough to tell both sides of a story, right? Well, maybe not.

* * *

The Media Research Center got all worked up over the announcement that George Stephanoloulos will be taking over as host of ABC's "This Week." A June 12 "Media Reality Check" claims Stephanoloulos can't be an objective host because, among other things, he worked in the Clinton White House.

Funny, we don't recall MRC being bothered by the fact that Tony Snow, host of competing talking-head show "Fox News Sunday," was formerly employed by the White House of the first President Bush. And MRC was completely silent when Snow gave a speech from the podium of the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Sometimes, the hypocrisy is just too easy to catch...

* * *

Quick: Where is the most unlikely place to find this quotation:

People judge us by what we say. But it is equally logical to judge us by what we don't say. What we choose to omit is as revealing as what we select to include. It tells a great deal about us and about our values.

If the dog fails to bark, intruders can enter. If educators, journalists and media moguls tamper with the facts, fraud and bias can creep in.

The author is David C. Stolinsky. It was written June 10 for -- surprise! -- NewsMax.

Mr. Stolinsky must not be very careful about the places his articles appear. Otherwise he'd know, as ConWebWatch readers do, how guilty NewsMax is of omitting facts and letting "fraud and bias creep in."

* * *

Speaking of sins of omission, the Richard Mellon Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review commits a slew of 'em in a May 23 article repeating a Drudge Report rumor that David Brock was "institutionalized" during the writing of his book "Blinded By the Right."

Not only does the unbylined article -- according to writer Chris Potter in the June 6 Pittsburgh City Paper, "a missing byline is often a clue that a reporter has been dragooned by editors into writing an article serving Scaife's personal or political agenda" -- allege without any evidence whatsover that "the accuracy of Brock's book ... has been challenged by many of the people named in it," it quotes representatives of Accuracy in Media and the Media Research Center, two recipients of money from Scaife-controlled foundations (a combined $700,000 in 2000 alone, according to Potter), a fact also mentioned nowhere in the article.

Potter also reports that no Tribune-Review article has ever detailed the allegations Brock makes in his book against Scaife.

The MRC representative quoted, tasteless-Clinton-humor maven Brent Baker, echoes the article's earlier unsupported statement by saying, "Everyone who was quoted in it says Brock was wrong...." So, where is "everyone"? When are people like Baker (and Scaife and Gary Aldrich and Brent Bozell and...) going to stop launching personal attacks and provide some actual evidence that any major fact of substance is incorrect, as they repeatedly claim?

The answer, which becomes more and more obvious every day conservatives stay silent about the substance of Brock's book, is that they can't. So keep that in mind: Brock's book has been on the market for a few months as of this writing. If there was a major factual blunder to be found in it, wouldn't you have heard about it by now? Wouldn't conservatives have been shouting from the rooftops instead of the wall of silence that emanates from them now?

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