ComStar News Bureau
Following Primus of ComStar Conrad Toyama's Purification, many in the greater Inner Sphere were increasingly wary about the new ComStar Order, with public opinion ranging between it being a quasi-religious corporation at best, to a lunatic filled cult at worst. Despite the horrors of the ongoing First Succession War, because of these perceptions many were unwilling to make a lifelong commitment to the ComStar Order and applications to join the organization dropped to a virtual trickle. Even on Terra, where ComStar had effectively controlled the system's government since 2788, the ranks diminished after Toyama's rise to power.
Precentor Barnard and member of the First Circuit Judy Cheny came to realize that the mass media of the Inner Sphere and their demonization of the Order contributed to the decline. To combat this, In 2825 she proposed to the First Circuit that rather than suffering at the mercy of the media organizations operating in the Great Houses, ComStar should develop its own newsgathering and dissemination service to supplement its cornerstone Communications Branch, ensuring the Order could provide its own point of view and sway public opinion in its favor. Primus Toyama proved very receptive to Cheny's suggestion, backing the creation of the ComStar News Bureau in 2826 and naming her as its first head.
The ComStar News Bureau would quickly establish itself as a valued source of supposedly unbiased news, available throughout the Inner Sphere and beyond. Much like ComStar's public pronouncements of neutrality, the CNB was often considered a neutral counterbalance to the blatant propaganda of the House media organizations. Though many within its competitors would decry the CNB of also peddling propaganda and "fake news", the ComStar News Bureau would quickly attract a commanding market share. The Draconis Combine and Capellan Confederation, the Great Houses with the most restrictive media services, both attempted to censor ComStar News Bureau broadcasts shortly after its formation, but ran afoul of the First Circuit which cited that as with any part of ComStar, any interference with the CNB would be regarded as a violation of the Communications Protocol of 2787. With the Interdiction of Tharkad fresh in their minds, all the Great Houses quickly ceased any efforts to restrict CNB's broadcasts or reporters, at least openly.
In truth, the accusations of bias on the part of the ComStar News Bureau were not baseless. While agreeing with its role in enhancing the public image of the Order to aid in recruitment, Toyama's support of the branch specifically stemmed from how the CNB could shape and manipulate public opinion of the entire Inner Sphere to ensure the Succession Wars continued, battering down humanity to the point ComStar would be accepted as its savior. Though rarely falsifying stories outright, stories were frequently edited by CNB depending on their market, even tailored to an individual world if needed to bring about a specific course of action.
Among the earliest examples in the lead-up to the Second Succession War was Toyama's mandate to sensationalize the impact and effects of Coordinator Jinjiro Kurita's Chain Gang Missions. While the majority of the raids caused little real damage, a small number of the attacks proved devastating to the Lyran Commonwealth's reconstruction efforts and allowed the ComStar News Bureau to play up the raids, thus heightening fear along the Lyran-Combine border and the demand for a Lyran response. As Jinjiro later prepared the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery to launch the opening shots of the Second Succession War, in 2827 the CNB would aggrandize the raids and tensions along the Commonwealth-Free Worlds League border as well.
Behind the scenes, the ComStar News Bureau worked hand-in-hand with ROM, the investigative and intelligence gathering efforts of both branches complementing the other. Additionally, CNB provided ROM a covert means of communicating with and disseminating information to local agents without them setting foot in an HPG compound. Examples of the combined efforts of ROM and CNB in the Second Succession War era include revealing details of Internal Security Force and Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery operations to the Lyran Commonwealth's Loki branch, as well leaking the unusual predilections of certain members of the Capellans' House of Scions to the MIIO, allowing them in turn to blackmail these government officials.
During the Third Succession War the ComStar News Bureau would serve as Primus Allen Rusenstein's primary tool in boosting recruitment efforts in the Periphery in 3000, touting that the Order was pouring billions of C-bills into the expansion of the hyperpulse generator network, enhancing trade and bringing the outlying worlds of the Periphery into closer communications with the Inner Sphere. In truth this was the complete opposite of what was occurring, Rusenstein deflecting all funding for such an expansion and maintaining their isolation to make joining ComStar an enticing means of escaping the backwater of the Periphery.
During the War of 3039, as per the direction of then-Primus Myndo Waterly, the reporters of the ComStar News Bureau largely focused their efforts on the newsworthy actions of the Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces and Armed Forces of the Federated Suns, while devoting little coverage to the actions of DCMS or the minor actions of the Free Worlds League and Capellan Confederation. By this stage both members of the future Federated Commonwealth knew ComStar's vaunted neutrality was a lie, but unwilling to impede CNB broadcasts without risking interdictions largely settled for lodging ignored complaints of biased reporting. For their part, the ISF, DCMS and even Kanrei Theodore Kurita reportedly monitored CNB broadcasts closely to aid their efforts against the Allied invasion.
Like all aspects of the organization, the ComStar News Bureau was hit hard by Operation SCORPION and the ComStar Schism. Its public reputation and history questioned, CNB would continue its broadcasts but publicly claimed to no longer indulge in self-serving manipulation. In the wake of the Battle of Tukayyid, CNB's stories would adopt a more realistic tone, and would even frequently run commentaries and editorials by reports and other members questioning ComStar's internal politics. Despite this, a number of CNB's key reporters would defect to the Word of Blake to help form its own news organization.
Despite the claims of truly becoming neutral and unbiased, during the FedCom Civil War, then Precentor Tharkad Gavin Dow kept tight control of the ComStar News Bureau and ensured a number of stories that would cast Archon Katherine Steiner-Davion in a bad light were quashed. In the wake of that conflict, which tainted the Secular ComStar's professed neutrality even more, the organization set about creating something entirely new and truly neutral - the Interstellar News Network. Unlike the ComStar News Bureau's in-house funding and operating model, the Interstellar News Network was intended to be supported financially solely through advertising and relying heavily upon the services of local freelance reporters.
The ComStar News Bureau would still exist during the Word of Blake Jihad, but was largely overshadowed by the success of INN with most viewing CNB as little better than the mouthpiece of then-Primus Gavin Dow.
- ComStar, pp. 21–23: "History of ComStar - A New Order - The Word of Blake"
- Second Succession War, p. 14: "Crucible - Apocalypse - The Rise of the ComStar News Bureau"
- Masters and Minions: The StarCorps Dossiers, p. 210: "ComStar - Corporations of ComStar - ComStar News Bureau"
- Second Succession War, p. 20: "The Second Succession War (2825-2863) - War Renewed (2825-2830) - The Commonwealth-Combine Front"
- ComStar, p. 48: "History of ComStar - Calm Before the Storm - The Tripitz Affair"
- War of 3039, p. 68: "Shadow Wars - The Irregular War - The Media Conflict"
- ComStar, p. 80: "New Orders - Organization - News Bureau"
- ComStar, p. 94: "New Orders - Word of Blake - Organization - The News Bureau"
- Field Manual: Updates, p. 81: "ComStar - Interstellar News Network"
- Masters and Minions: The StarCorps Dossiers, p. 210: "ComStar - Corporations of ComStar - Interstellar News Network"