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Talon News Site Closes To Re-evaluate Operations


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Feb. 24, 2005, 10:13PM

Talon News site closes to re-evaluate operations

The negative online traffic and publicity made it difficult to work, publicist says


Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The Texas-based online news site at the center of a White House media controversy has temporarily shut down because its founder "can only take so much of a beating" over the page's political slant, the site's publicist said Thursday.

It's the latest step that Talon News owner and Pearland resident Bobby Eberle has taken to distance himself from James Guckert, the former Talon News Washington correspondent accused of being used by the Bush administration to spread conservative propaganda.

Guckert, whose pen name was Jeff Gannon, has since left Talon News, and the Web site address now features a short message explaining that it is undergoing a redesign and will operate again soon.

"In order to better serve those readers across the country who enjoy Talon News content and look forward to receiving it each day, we feel compelled to re-evaluate operations in order to provide the highest quality, most professional product possible," it read.

Negative response

Eberle's phone has been disconnected, but his publicist, Jennifer Ohman, said that the large number of Web visitors attracted by the controversy "were not the kind of hits we were looking for. The attention by and large was negative. If anything, it seemed to fuel the fire."

Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group based in Washington, D.C, unmasked Guckert after he asked President Bush about working with Democrats who were "divorced from reality."

Since then, bloggers have linked Guckert to gay porn Web sites and prostitution.

Naked photos of Guckert have been widely circulated on the Web.

"They probably found it difficult to go on without Jeff Gannon who seemed to be the backbone of their editorial operation," said Media Matters' director David Brock. "To the extent that Talon News was a vehicle for a fair amount of misinformation, it's probably a good development."

Eberle has maintained that Talon News was a "straight news site," despite flashing advertisements for conservative causes and publications that reproduce its content.

It also featured prominent links to GOPUSA.com, a conservative site also run by Eberle.

"By having a separate news company, I take great pains to deliver the facts," Eberle said in a recent interview.

Quick controversy

Ohman said Eberle was unaware of Guckert's background, and did not plan to fire him when the controversy erupted.

"It happened too fast," she said. "It seemed like the story was being perpetuated by the left-wing blogger types at first. We knew about the softball question, but I can't say it got to the point when Bobby wanted to (fire Gannon).

"How could you know? How much research did the New York Times do on their reporters when they ended up with Jason Blair?"

Until the Talon News site reopens, Ohman said she would direct devoted readers seeking dependable information to the Drudge Report.

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Yee Haw for the Chron. I never would have suspected they would run a story on this when every other major news outlet has put the blinders on. I'm in shock.

I'm also in shock to find that the owner of the Talon is a neighbor of mine in Pearland.

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