Peer-to-peer and conservative news sites offer counterbalance to mainstream media
This column appeared Nov. 21, 2000, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
By J.D. Lasica
With the political crisis over the presidential election heating up, what’s a conservative true believer to do? Turn off the left-wing mainstream media, fire up the PC and head to a news site of the political right.
That, at any rate, is what an increasing number of Americans are doing, as conservatives complain that the traditional media are laying the groundwork for Democrat Al Gore to “steal” the presidency, with the help of the Florida Supreme Court.
Community news sites like FreeRepublic.com and conservative news sites like NewsMax.com and WorldNetDaily.com, which earned their chops during the impeachment imbroglio two years ago, are once again galvanizing the political right in support of George W. Bush’s claim that he won the election.
While mainstream news organizations profess to hew to the ideal of balanced reporting, the conservative sites not only take sides but inject themselves into the political process. FreeRepublic sponsored pro-Bush rallies in San Francisco last weekend and in Florida this week. NewsMax is raising money for an advertising campaign accusing Democrats of election fraud in Florida. Its fund-raising letter, signed by the site’s top editors, accuses the media of “dirty tricks” and says “our country teeters on the edge of a Constitutional crisis the likes of which we have never witnessed.”
Brian Buckley, an attorney in Los Angeles who is counsel and spokesman for FreeRepublic, says, “The general message you take away from the mainstream media is that the Secretary of State of Florida (Katherine Harris) is some kind of witch, and that Al Gore has a legitimate claim to the presidency. What you don’t see is the press vilifying the Gore campaign for all the shenanigans on their part.”