The Houston Chronicle published a quasi-interview with Talon News/GOPUSA founder Robert Eberle yesterday. I say “quasi-interview” because the Chronicle’s Rachel Graves somehow managed to avoid asking many questions that a competent interviewer would have asked. More on that later.
What can be dredged from this article is the fact that, as Markos suggested yesterday, Talon News was little more than a front erected to create one degree of separation between Jim “J.D.” Jeff Gannon” Guckert and GOPUSA.
Eberle said Talon merits White House credentials because of its large number of readers (he claims 500,000 unpaid subscribers), its regular publishing schedule and its differentiation between news and opinion journalism.
Media experts, though, dispute Talon’s credibility and legitimacy.
Kelly McBride, an ethics expert at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school, said the criteria for legitimate news organizations must include attempts to avoid conflicts of interest and biased reporting.
Ideological and opinion journalism could still meet this criteria, she said, but only if they are upfront about their stances.
Talon News, she said, is “using a journalism format, but they’re not employing the practices of journalism.”
Eberle claims that, although GOPUSA is clearly partisan, Talon offers unbiased news “without the liberal filter” that he believes mainstream media contain.
The two sites, though, are inextricably linked. Talon News contains only blurbs of stories. Users who want to read more are directed to GOPUSA.
“Talon News is not designed to be a destination Web site,” Eberle said, explaining that Talon provides content for other Web sites, including GOPUSA. “The GOPUSA site is designed to be a destination site.”
The three stories posted on the Talon site Thursday had no bylines or datelines and seemed to involve no original reporting, taking quotes from televised news conferences and news releases.
Asked if he has any non-Republican activists among his reporters, Eberle said, “I don’t really know. I mean, I don’t think I have any Democrats working for us.”
Eberle, who like “Gannon” has no prior experience as a journalist, may be easily recognized as a party activist by examining his own writing for Talon News.
His opinion pieces include one, written before the United States gave up the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that declared Saddam Hussein’s possession of such weapons a “fundamental truth … as dependable as the sun rising in the East.”
Another of Eberle’s works declared former President Carter, a Democrat, “should stick to picking peanuts.”
Meanwhile, Texas republicans are backing away from Eberle as quickly as possible.
Several local Republican elected officials did not return phone calls regarding Eberle.
“I’m not going to comment because I don’t know him, and nobody here does,” said Sherry Sylvester, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Texas, when asked about Eberle.
Now, to the subject of the Houston Chronicle’s Rachel Graves shortcomings as a journalist. How could anyone interview Eberle without asking any of the following questions:
Why did you hire “Jeff Gannon”?
When did you hire “Jeff Gannon”?
Did you know that “Jeff Gannnon” was a psuedonym?
Did you know that “Jefff Gannon” was a prositute?
Have you ever met George W. Bush, and how would you characterize your relationship with the president?
Have you ever met Ari Fleischer?
Have you ever met Scott McClellan?
Have you ever met Karl Rove?
Why did you remove all of “Jeff Gannon’s” writings from the Talon News website?
Why did you remove all links to the biographical sketches of GOPUSA directors and officers from the GOPUSA website after the Gannon story broke, including the biographical sketch of GOPUSA board member and former policy advisor to Texas Governor Rick Perry (cached here)?
Those are just a few of the questions that leap to my mind when I think of interviewing Eberle. Unfortunately, Rachel Graves failed to ask any of them.