I've been looking at ProCon.org as a site to recommend to students for research. I know that some librarians think that it's biased. Kevin Arthur, on his blog, Question Technology, has a post that sums up Rory Litwin's Library Juice posting about ProCon.org, as well as a response from one of the ProCon.org editors. My thoughts?
For those of us who don't have access (read "money") to paid viewpoint databases, like Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center or CQ Researcher, ProCon.org is a worthwhile free alternative. Is it perfect? No, but not mainly, in my opinion, because of bias. I think the charges of bias come about because ProCon.org isn't very standardized or clear in its approach to issues. For instance, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict section has many resources, and is well-organized on its homepage. While I haven't read every document in this section, those that I have read seem unbiased. But the main problem with this section is that the conflict itself -- why these two countries are fighting -- is not explained from the beginning. The reader has to dig around and glean this information from various pages within the section. Those unfamiliar with the history of this conflict, i.e., most undergraduates, won't take away much from this section, because they won't understand why there is a conflict to begin with. That said, this section is a treasure-trove of resources and original documents, and as such can be highly recommended for that if nothing else.
The Abortion section is well done, and fairly free from bias, but it's skimpy compared to the above-mentioned section, and there are some things I don't care for. It's never a good idea to put groups' names in quotes, because seeing "pro-choice" and "pro-life" throughout the section implies a strange bias against calling these groups those names. If your site is unbiased, presenting each side's viewpoint (which is done quite well here), and if those are the names the groups use for themselves, why the quotes? The videos at the bottom are interesting, but putting them there makes them seem more important than they are. Only one, of "The Silent Scream," has major historical significance in the abortion debate. Like the section on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the Abortion section doesn't present the topic itself very clearly from the beginning. This section could use more information and more organization. Abortion should have been defined, the various types of abortions and the legal restrictions on them presented, religious views on abortion presented more clearly, names of major pro-choice and pro-life organizations given, along with links to their sites, and so on, in an organized manner.
And that's my main gripe with the site: its format. Many of the charges of bias could be dismissed if the site had each issue organized in the same way, something that paid databases (see above) are careful to do. Rory Litkin is right that "Is the ACLU Good for America?" can be a loaded question, but any question framed for debate is, and I am hesitant to accuse ProCon.org of intentional bias. Resources like CQ Researcher use very similar questions; see here for their issue on Internet Accuracy, which poses the question "Is information on the Web reliable?" The reason that CQ Researcher is so good is that it is thoroughly researched and well-written, and that its articles follow the same format, forcing the authors and editors to standardize their approach to topics and avoid appearance of bias. In fact, I'm putting the Internet Accuracy report on my acquisitions list for the new year, and hope to use it in information literacy instruction, but in the meantime, I'll recommend ProCon.org, with caveats, as a site for research.
UPDATE: Kamy Akhavan, President and Managing Editor of ProCon.org, sent me an email today, commenting on my post above, and I'm printing here with his permission: