What is Talon News, and why does it have press credentials?

Talon News, a conservative company whose Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent Jeff Gannon is well-known for asking loaded pro-Republican questions at White House press briefings, appears to be more a political organization than a media outlet.

Media Matters for America recently highlighted three Gannon articles that were little more than reprints of Republican and Bush administration releases; Media Matters has also noted Gannon's role as White House press secretary Scott McClellan's lifeline and Talon editor in chief Bobby Eberle's partisan political activities. A more in-depth look at Talon, Gannon, and Eberle casts additional doubt on Talon's claim to be a media outlet and raises questions about whether Gannon should be a credentialed member of the White House press corps.

Eberle is also, as Media Matters has previously noted, president and CEO of GOPUSA, a “conservative news, information, and design company dedicated to promoting conservative ideals.” Though Eberle has claimed on the September 13, 2004, edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country that GOPUSA and Talon News are separate companies, they overlap heavily.

In addition to Eberle's dual role as the head of both entities, both domain names TalonNews.com and GOPUSA.com are registered to the same address in Pearland, Texas, which appears to be Eberle's personal residence. The TalonNews.com domain name registration lists Eberle's email address as bobby.eberle@gopusa.com. Articles on TalonNews.com consist of brief introductory paragraphs, followed by a link to “Read more”; clicking on that link takes you to a page that announces, “This story can be found on our #1 client -- GOPUSA!” Readers are then redirected to the GOPUSA.com site.

Talon News apparently consists of little more than Eberle, Gannon, and a few volunteers, and is virtually indistinguishable from GOPUSA.com.

Eberle and Gannon both post on the right-wing online forum Free Republic, and Gannon has also hosted a radio show on Radio Free Republic. Eberle's and Gannon's posts on Free Republic suggest that the two have more in common with partisan political activists than with journalists; in some, Eberle and Gannon seem to be trying to organize political events:

  • Eberle: “We're also planning to do more activities with FR [Free Republic] as time goes along. I'm really looking forward to working with all of you!”
  • Gannon (referring to a Bush press conference): “It was very difficult to keep from jumping up and cheering.”
  • Gannon: “Can we get a freep [an action by Free Republic members] going at Kerry HQ? How bout some people throwing their DNC 'medals'? Jane's Fonda Kerry. John Fonda Kerry”
  • Gannon (in response to a post suggesting it appeared McClellan “appreciated” a Gannon question “from the smirk he was trying to hold back”): “It's hard to say with Scott but he usually knows what he's going to get from me.”

Other Talon “staff” (it isn't clear if they get paid; the Talon News site refers to “volunteer reporters”) also seem to be more Republican activists than reporters:

  • Stephen Dewey “is currently a student at Boston Latin School, a public magnet school, and will finally graduate, after six years, in June of 2003. ... Within his school, Stephen serves as the Media Coordinator for the Young Republicans' Club ... Through the YRC, Stephen attended the Massachusetts state GOP convention as a volunteer. ... As a relatively young Republican, Stephen likes to consider himself among the next wave of conservative politicians and political activists.”
  • Lisa Jacobson “is the Webmaster for the Wisconsin Conservative Digest, a web site promoting conservative viewpoints and news for Wisconsin.”
  • Charles Mahaleris “lives in Augusta, Maine where he is currently serving as the Kennebec County GOP Chairman. ... He served as the Campaign Manager for Conservative Steven Joyce's 2002 bid to unseat U.S. Rep Tom Allen garnering 36% of the vote in Maine's 1st District.”
  • Jimmy Moore “has played an active role in Republican politics for more than 15 years, dating back to his teenage years. He is currently serving as an Executive Committeeman for the Spartanburg County Republican Party. He is also a consulting writer for the Spartanburg County Republican Party and for the South Carolina Republican Party. In 2002, he was a key member of the Charlie Condon for Governor campaign serving as a political consultant. In addition, he was integral in the Victory 2002 campaign that helped get Republicans elected to state and national offices. Jimmy is also the South Carolina State Editor for GOPUSA.”
  • Doug Patton “is a freelance writer who has worked as a speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. ... In addition to his articles for Talon News, Doug writes a weekly column that appears in newspapers across the country and on www.GOPUSA.com, where he also serves as the Nebraska Editor.”

GOPUSA's officers and directors show a similar lack of journalism experience, but plenty of experience working for Republican causes:

  • Board member Bill Fairbrother “has been active in politics since 1984 when he joined the Baylor University College Republicans. Since then, he has served as a delegate to four Republican Party of Texas state conventions and an alternate delegate to one convention. At the 2000 Republican Party of Texas Convention, Bill was elected by his fellow county chairs to serve as the Texas Republican County Chairmen's Association's liaison to the State Republican Executive Committee. He was also selected as an alternate delegate to the RNC Convention in Philadelphia. Bill currently serves as Chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party and has previously served as a Precinct Chairman and chairman of the county Technology Committee. He also chaired his senate district convention's Credentials Committee. Bill has chaired or volunteered on many local and state campaigns in recent election cycles. He is the founder and webmaster for the Williamson County Republican Party web page. Bill recently served on the Republican Party of Texas Finance Committee.”
  • Board member Steve Findley “has been active in politics since 1984. He is past president to both the East Texas Baptist University College Republicans and the Marshall Young Republicans. He has also served as chaplain for the Texas Young Republican Federation. Since 1984, Mr. Findley has served as a delegate to numerous county and Republican Party of Texas state conventions. In 2000, he was elected to serve as the national delegate for Senate District #1 to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Mr. Findley currently serves as a member of the Rules Committee for the State Republican Executive Committee and is active in the Harrison County Republican Party.”
  • Board member and vice president of operations Terri Hillhouse “came late to serious political activism. She is very interested in restoring family values and preserving our American system for future generations. She believes that the Internet is the best way to spread the grassroots conservative message. Terri is a member of Colorado Federation of Republican Women, her county Republican organization, The Christian Coalition, and Concerned Women of America.”
  • Board member Kerri Houston “is a public policy analyst and expert in media, marketing and external relations for public policy institutes. Based in Dallas, she is director of American Conservative Network, a state outreach project of The American Conservative Union (ACU). Prior to joining with ACU to start the American Conservative Network project, Ms. Houston was executive director of State Policy Network, a member organization of free market state-based think tanks. In this capacity, she served as facilitator for the 37 state public institutes in assisting them to meet their communications, publications and governmental outreach needs.”
  • Board member Richard Powell “brings a wealth of political and business experience to GOPUSA.com. ... Richard also consults privately for political candidates and policymakers, helping them develop their education message and K-16 education reform policy initiatives. He is a former policy advisor to Texas Governor Rick Perry, and is active in national, state and local political and civic causes.”
  • Treasurer Kathleen Eberle (Bobby Eberle's wife) is “active in grass roots Republican Party politics. In 1996, she was elected to the board of the Houston Young Republicans (HYRs) as the Director of Club Development, -- leading the club to almost double in size in one year. Kathleen served as Vice President of the HYR for the next two years. In 1998, she was appointed as the Texas Young Republican Federation Convention Co-Chairman. She served on several committees within this organization over the years, and chaired the Site Selection Committee in 1999. Kathleen's activities within the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) include serving as an alternate to the Senate District 13 Convention in 1996 and as a delegate in 2000. She also served as a delegate to the RPT State Convention in 2000. Kathleen is a strong believer in the importance of grass roots activism and has volunteered on numerous campaigns over the last eight years ranging from school board and city council elections to campaigns for the U.S. Congress and President of the United States.”