WND Finally Gets Serious About Saving Itself
It's taken nearly two years of begging for money and giving away scammy cybercurrency, but WorldNetDaily has at last done a couple things to try and secure its future. But its business model of publishing fake news and conspiracy theories remains unchanged.
By Terry Krepel
Back in March 2018 -- near the start of its ongoing financial crisis -- WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah sent a letter to its mailing list touting that WND had met its $200,000 fundraising goal by that day's deadline, adding, "You have provided the cushion we needed to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps so we could fight another day." Farah also shared "some exciting plans for the future even if I can’t provide the details today." One of those plans was this:
We are working with a non-profit foundation through which we can more efficiently produce the kind of content that makes WND unique as an independent media pioneer and a Christian one at that. Once we’ve got everything set up and we hope that is soon we’ll have a way for future contributions to supplement WND’s content to be tax-deductible.
Going nonprofit will bring WND back to its roots; it was founded as a division of the Farah-founded nonprofit Western Journalism Center before being spun off a couple years later as a for-profit operation. It would also open WND up to doing something like the Daily Caller does in having its reporters actually employed by a nonprofit while the ostensibly for-profit WND benefits from all their work.
Rather than doing any conspicuous work on that, Farah and WND embraced get-rich-quick schemes like giving away to donors a dubious cybercurrency that was so scammy, its promoters have since been indicted on charges of fraud and money laundering. (No, WND hasn't told its readers about that.)
It wasn't until the end of a February 2019 column -- yet another screed blaming Google and Facebook for WND's financial woes instead of WND's history of fake news and conspiracy theories, unironically headlined "The catastrophe of fake news" -- that Farah quietly announced the creation of the "WND News Center," calling it a place to make "a tax-deductible donation to support the cause of independent investigative journalism," adding, "We need to raise at least $1 million this year to survive."
The original ad copy at the donation portal, which Farah introduced in a later column, sounds more than a bit like WND is trying to emulate the Daily Caller News Foundation:
Would you like to help WND’s style of independent, credible and fearless journalism?
The donation page offers an mail address for donations, which appears to be an accountant's office in Hawthorne, Nevada -- odd since WND has no offices in the state. Farah's column lists a Washington, D.C., address for mailed donations.
The ad copy, though, might be getting WND in trouble by so explicitly tying the nonprofit to WND itself. The Daily Caller setup is in a bit of a gray area -- while the Daily Caller publishes everything its News Foundation generates, that copy is also available to others for free (WND has previously published News Foundation articles), and it's been criticized as a bit of a scam to offload expenses from the Caller itself and then not have to pay taxes on the money raised.
Plus, there's the question of financing. Farah is asking for $1 million, though it's not clear if he means for the main WND operation or the News Center. The Daily Caller News Foundation raised $3 million in 2015 alone, though it's not clear who the donors are (though the usual conservative suspects like the Koch Brothers and Donors Trust have given small donations in the past).
And then, for nearly two years, there was mostly silence from WND on the News Center; what talk there was was mostly limited to begging for money for something that didn't appear to exist. The silence was presumably due to Farah's health issues, which put him out of commission for much of that time.
Finally, Farah announced it in his Dec. 22 column -- but not, of course, establishing a sob story behind its creation in which he played victim and served up a little of his health history over the past couple of years:
I've been more or less absent from the scene for a little over 18 months. Some of you know what happened to me. I was working really hard trying to save this journalistic experiment from the plague of the Tech Giants. They destroyed our advertising revenues through underhanded, dishonest and monopolistic means we've been documenting for years, which caused our annual revenues to plunge from $15 million to $1 million. Staff had to be cut to a bare minimum. We had to stop publishing books and producing movies two of our big successes for years.
Needless to say, Farah is not going to tell the full truth -- that its business model of publishing falsehoods and conspiracy theories failed and, given that little has changed about WND's editorial operation since then, raises questions about whether WND even deserves to live.
(Also: if the book and movie operations were "big successes," there was no reason to shut them down, since "success" typically equates with generating profits. The fact they were shut down tells us they weren't moneymakers.)
From there, it was time to self-promote (and, of course, beg for money):
Allow me to introduce you to the WND News Center the reader-supported, tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit that is giving birth to an optimistic, credible, fearless and uncompromisingly truth-oriented news entity in a sea of fake news, propaganda and disinformation.
While the WND News Center is finally off the ground, it's not offering too much so far -- as the website shows, the available content is just article rewrites by the few remaining WND writers like Bob Unruh and Art Moore, as well as WND-exclusive columnists. Those articles on the WND website proper now have tags stating that "Content created by the WND News Center is available for re-publication without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience."
Farah might want to watch himself, though. The Daily Caller model he's clearly following -- ironically, WND publishes a lot of Daily Caller News Foundation content -- has brought complaints that the nonprofit is improperly funding the for-profit operation and have engaged in political activity that clashes with the foundation's nonprofit status. Right-wing financier Charles Koch is a major bankroller of the DCNF.
Whether or not Farah's health issues caused it, WND has been very slow on the uptake in doing basic things to shore up its fragile finances, after wasting precious time on things like giving away sketchy cybercurrency. WND's management has not changed in the interim -- meaning that the way WND is run and the policies it follows are not changing in any significant way -- and it's to the point where all of this last-minute fixing being done here may be too little, too late.
But how much money will donors ultimately kick in? This is content by the same people whose work has already been discredited and rejected by the public. Why would anyone outside WND want to pay for the privilege of generating it when there's no return on it?
Subscription option at last
The News Center wasn't the only thing WND took too long to do to help itself during its ongoing financial crisis. It also has finally -- finally -- created a formal subscription option for readers.
As described in a Nov. 18 article, the "WND Insider" program offers ad-free content for a minimum of $50 a year, with higher subscription levels offering things like discounts at its online store and subscriptions to its sparsely read Whistleblower magazine. Of course, in making that announcement, WND made sure to portray itself as a victim of "Big Tech":
WND is currently under greater attack than ever by Big Tech, which wants to destroy the internet’s oldest independent news website.
WND is deliberately vague about exactly why it faces such issues -- because it publishes fake news, which ConWebWatch points out every time WND insists that it doesn't. But it's still trying to gaslight its readers by insisting that it's the non-right-wing media that's the real "fake news" and that WND is the "desperately needed counterbalance":
For those who may be somewhat new to WorldNetDaily (WND): Since 1997, before almost all other online news sites even existed, WND has provided a desperately needed counterbalance to the one-sided, dishonest and ever more unhinged fake news media. WND is staffed by veteran professional journalists who, unlike most of today’s media, are unapologetically Christian, pro-American and pro-Constitution. In the last two decades, we have broken many huge stories, defended the Constitution, championed Americans’ God-given rights, boldly upheld the sanctity of life, exposed corruption and abuse, and endeavored to fulfill the Founding Fathers’ notion of a truly free press.
The Founding Fathers probably didn't support a "free press" that is as blatantly biased and has published as many falsehoods as WND.