WASHINGTON – It was 27 years ago that the editor in chief of the legendary Sacramento Union, then the oldest daily West of the Mississippi, Mark Twain’s old stomping grounds, the launching pad for the careers of Herb Caen and Bret Hart, sat in his office looking over a pile of written requests to subscribe to his paper.
It was encouraging, of course. Except for the fact that they came from all over California and indeed the United States – people from well outside the paper’s circulation area who had heard about the unique news perspective of the Union and who were eager to get it. Yet there was no economical way to deliver the news outside of the Sacramento metro area.
That’s when the lightbulb went on in Joseph Farah’s head.
The time was near, he realized, that electronic delivery of the news would soon overcome challenges like this, leveling the playing field for more media competition across the nation and around the world.
It was only seven years later, on May 4, 1997, when Farah launched WorldNetDaily.com, the first independent online news agency. It is, in 2017, marking its 20th anniversary in an age and venue when online companies appear and disappear within moments.
“I had been frustrated by the fact that we had big demand for the innovative paper we had created in Sacramento from all over Northern California, Southern California and, indeed, across the United States,” he recalled. “But there was no way to get the paper efficiently and cost-effectively to consumers outside our traditional delivery area. At the same time, I had been visiting the Silicon Valley and was becoming aware of the emerging technologies and what they indicated was possible in the near term for disseminating digital information anywhere. That’s when I began planning what I then called ‘an electronic newspaper.’”
The breakthrough of the Internet in the mid-1990s did not come soon enough to save the Sacramento Union from going the way of many other daily newspapers around the country, but WorldNetDaily, now known as WND, quickly established itself as a powerhouse in traffic, rivaling almost every major U.S. newspaper in audience in its first two years and throughout its 20-year history.
Farah says he decided to take the step to launch the site after the DrudgeReport emerged and demonstrated that aggregation of links to other news reports could supplement his tiny team of reporters and contributors, offering a comprehensive news presentation.
“The simple genius of Matt Drudge showed the way,” Farah said. “He showed that good news judgment had been undervalued for too long in the news business. He showed that independent thinking and provocative headlines could serve as a valuable roadmap for people to navigate the news for themselves.”
Farah muses that before launching WorldNetDaily.com, he actually called Matt Drudge and asked him to come to work for him on the new effort. Drudge politely declined Farah’s offer to pay him $50,000 a year to join forces.
The DrudgeReport also marks its 20th anniversary as the top news aggregator in the world, literally viewed by billions, making Drudge one of the most influential media kingpins anywhere.
WND.com remains today one of the top news sites in the world today but with another unintended distinction – it’s the No. 1 Christian website of any kind in the world because of Joseph and Elizabeth Farah’s strong evangelical faith that shapes their worldview and the content of WND.
It began with only a handful of reporters who came from all modes of journalism: radio, television and print.
Its executive news editor, Joe Kovacs, had a long history in broadcast journalism, being a network news anchor on radio and a managing editor for several TV stations when he joined the team in 1999.
“I can’t stress enough what a game-changer WND has been to the news industry,” said Kovacs. “Even while I was running TV newsrooms, I would read and mine WND for story ideas. It was simply amazing to me how one small company could report news better than the big boys. This fledgling company had a much firmer grasp on what real news is when compared to many in the so-called mainstream media. WND changed the national conversation from whatever the New York Times was reporting to accurate coverage of real events, without bowing to any political agenda.”
“Part of the beauty of WND is that it reports what others refuse to,” he added. “Perhaps other news agencies are really not so interested in reporting truth, or the information they withhold from the public does not fit their narrative.”
Over the years, WND has branched out beyond the company’s foundation:
- In 2002, WND Books was launched. It was the first publishing enterprise to be started by an digital company, and, over the years, has distinguished itself with the highest percentage of New York Times best-sellers of any book company in the world.
- In 2012, WND Films was launched with the debut of “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,” the most successful faith film of that year and the following year and perhaps the No. 1 documentary in DVD format.
- WND was also a pioneer among content sites in the area of e-commerce, creating back in 1999 what has become known as the WND Superstore. Begun primarily as a bookstore, it now markets an eclectic collection of thousands of products from books, to movies, to preparedness products, to jewelry and more.
WND has launched a number of once-exclusive columns into national syndication, including a weekly version of this one and only daily column, Bill O’Reilly, David Limbaugh and Chuck Norris.
The legendary martial-arts champion, action star, humanitarian and political commentator said WND is “one of the very few sources I trust for news.”
He explained, “The fact of the matter is that the creation of WorldNetDaily has not only given the world a truthful and an alternative voice to news, but one that I believe is reflective of what our founders said and would want us to hear. WND is not a conservative voice, but the voice of patriots – an influence that is needed in our milquetoast world and constitutionally run amok country and government.
“And at the center of it all are a bounty-hunter veteran news reporter and editor, and his wife, Joseph and Elizabeth Farah. They’re independent. They don’t shy away from controversy. And they’re not afraid to tell the truth, despite the fallout. Since WorldNetDaily’s inception, it has remained a free press for a free people, preserving the truth and freedom found in the 1st Amendment. ”
The legendary author Phylllis Schlafly, who passed away just months ago, had explained that WND was “an efficient route to communicate with millions of Americans.”
And American singer, actor and Christian personality Pat Boone has praised WND and the trailblazing path for truth the company rides on: “Nobody in this country has been as bold as you. I’m proud to stand alongside you in confronting the nightmare foisted on our country, our way of life and an increasingly numbed and dumbed populace. Thanks for undergirding and publishing so many others who are crying out to our people. As God proclaimed through Hosea, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’.”
Nat Hentoff, a progressive champion of the First Amendment and tireless defender of the Bill of Rights, earlier praised WND for the company’s dedication to finding out the truth in the Miriam Carey shooting.
“I always read WND because I get so much real news from you guys,” he says. “The way you handled that story ought to be taught in journalism schools. I have a lot of respect for that publication. I make sure I read it. It’s one of my favorites on the Web because you guys are among the remaining and dwindling number of an independent press. … There are still a few journalism schools I suppose that are taking their work seriously, but this ought to be part of the curriculum. I mean it.”
Ted Kavanau, one of the men responsible for creating the news juggernaut that is CNN, praised WND for being an “indispensable source”: “As the founding senior producer of CNN and founding chief executive of CNN Headline News, I find WND an indispensable source for courageous commentary and investigative journalism, a much needed balance to the regrettably one-sided view so frequently found in the ‘Main Stream Media’.”
“I remember thinking in 1997 that WorldNetDaily would challenge the Big Media and eventually, with other independent efforts like ours, end what had become a virtual monopoly on the news because it was dominated by a single, secular, ‘progressive’ worldview,” said Farah. “It took 20 years, but I think we are seeing the beginning of the end of that monopoly in 2017.”