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So Much to Disclose, Too Dishonest to Do It

WorldNetDaily violates journalistic ethics by regularly refusing to disclose its personal and business links to the people and organizations it covers.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/24/2006

WorldNetDaily is becoming less of a news site and more of a public relations vehicle for its book division and speakers bureau, its advertisers, and for the people and organizations whose causes WND bigwigs sympathize with.

And, the vast majority of the time, WND fails to disclose these links to its readers.

Why is such disclosure important? Because readers have the right to know if the news organizations they rely on are colored by the personal and business interests of the writers and owners. The ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists dictates that journalists "disclose unavoidable conflicts" and "deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests."

Additionally, WND itself has previously made an issue of disclosure. In March 2004, a WND article and a WND column by Tom Marzullo pointed out that a segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" featuring a book by Richard Clarke failed to disclose that CBS and the book's publisher have the same corporate parent. And in December 2004, WND stated: "The New York Times neglected to tell its readers that the publishing of a major story today, claiming President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans, coincided with the release of a book by the article's writer."

Yet, despite this awareness of the problem, WND reporters and editors have rarely felt the need to disclose their personal and business interests in the people it writes about. ConWebWatch has previously detailed some of these practices, from repeatedly failing to disclose its business links to Jesse Lee Peterson -- indeed, an April 22 article is the latest not to note that WND published Peterson's book and books his speaking gigs -- to its steering of articles to favorably portray its advertisers to hiding the connection of a pro-Iranian democracy group to WND editor Joseph Farah and WND author and columnist Jerome Corsi to Richard Poe's failure to disclose his business connections to WND, NewsMax and the Richard Mellon Scaife money machine. Additionally, WND has a long history of disguising ads as "news" articles.

WND's sorry record of lack of disclosure has continued in recent months:

  • An April 6 "news" article by David Bradshaw on record high gold prices is, for all practical purposes, an ad for Swiss America Trading Corp. The article quotes Swiss America CEO Craig R. Smith -- actually, he's the only person quoted in the story -- without disclosing that Smith is a WND columnist and that Swiss America is not only a WND advertiser but a partner in WND's BizNetDaily site. The article also links to an "extensive free online library of resources" by Smith and Swiss America. Also undisclosed is the fact that David Bradshaw, the article's author, is the editor of Real Money Perspectives, a publication of -- that's right -- Swiss America Trading Corp. and the name under which WND's BizNetDaily is co-branded.
  • An April 14 article by Aaron Klein repeats "popular radio host" Rusty Humphries' views on the planned Israeli withdrawal from much of the West Bank. Nowhere in the article does Klein disclose that he has been a frequent guest on Humphries' show and has conducted joint interviews with him. WND editor Joseph Farah has also served as a guest host of Humphries' show. Additionally, WND has a special relationship with Humphries' syndicator, Talk Radio Network, as ConWebWatch has documented.
  • An April 13 article by Ron Strom featuring investigative journalist Jayna Davis' comments about a proposal for congressional hearings on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing fails to disclose that WND published Davis' book promoting a conspiracy theory in the bombing.
  • WND continues its failure to disclose its business arrangements with Jesse Lee Peterson. A Jan. 11 article regurgitating a press release Jesse Lee Peterson, WorldNetDaily again neglected to that WND published his book and books his speaking engagements.
  • A Jan. 2 article and a Jan. 3 column by Jack Cashill promoting a new book by Joel Miller failed to disclose that Miller is a former WND editor and that Miller's publisher, Thomas Nelson, is a former business partner with WND in its WND Books imprint. As ConWebWatch has detailed, after the WND partnership ended, Thomas Nelson continued the division under the Nelson Current imprint -- of which Miller is currently senior editor.

Additionally, WND has failed to disclose its business relationships with two popular story subjects, Ken Blackwell and Tom Tancredo. WND is publishing books by both Blackwell and Tancredo, but WND has not disclosed that relationship in articles featuring or quoting them.

Let's be charitable and assume that WND has had Blackwell and Tancredo and Blackwell under contract only since the first of the year, even though it is likely they were under contract well before that, given the lead time needed to publish books with the scheduled May publication date that both the Blackwell and Tancredo books share. Since Jan. 1, WND has run six news articles (here, here, here, here, here and here) that mention Blackwell without mentioning his WND book deal. All of the articles are centered around an alleged scandal among candidates for Ohio governor; as ConWebWatch has noted, the articles are designed to benefit Blackwell, a candidate in that race, by explicitly pointing out that Blackwell isn't involved in the scandal. (Meanwhile, WND has yet to report on Blackwell's own ethical faux pas -- owning shares of voting-machine maker Diebold while he, as Ohio secretary of state, was negotiating a state contract with the company, not to mention stock in a slot-machine manufacturer and the maker of the Plan B morning-after pill.)

WND's record on Tancredo -- whom it has touted for president -- is similar in both number and level fawning: eight news articles mentioning or quoting Tancredo (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) since Jan. 1 that fail to mention his WND book deal. Among them is an April 4 article trumpeting that Tancredo "is a Republican favorite for president for the second year in a row in a non-scientific poll modeled after the NCCA [sic] basketball tournament." Additionally, two of those WND articles -- as well as seven others in November and December 2005 (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) -- were written by Jon Dougherty, the coauthor of Tancredo's book, a fact that also went undisclosed. Dougherty also wrote a Nov. 18, 2005, column that began, "I wonder if Tom Tancredo ever gets tired of being right"; no, Dougherty didn't disclose his relationship with Tancredo there, either.

WND has done the same with Paul L. Williams, whose book it published earlier this month. Since November 2005, when Farah had him as a guest on his now-defunct radio show, Williams has been mentioned in or has written nine articles (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and printed in WND's Whistleblower magazine without mention of his book deal. (Two of the articles do state that Williams is a "WND contributor.") And articles on April 18 and April 21 that mention Williams' book don't note that WND published it.

It's not that WND doesn't know how to properly disclose its interests -- an April 15 article quoting Sen. Tom Coburn properly disclosed that WND published Coburn's book, and an April 19 article featuring Craig Smith takes an honest stab at it, disclosing at the outset that Smith is a "WND author and columnist" but failing to note his status as a major WND advertiser. It simply chooses not to.

Heck, even at least pretends toward journalistic ethics in this department, disclosing its links to the Media Research Center most of the time when it does an article on an MRC-related entity.

Joseph Farah claims that WND follows the "highest editorial standards and practices." Its lack of disclosure about its conflicts of interest is yet another reason why that statement is a lie.

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