Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz


I have been a semi-regular viewer of a Sunday morning CNN show called “Reliable Sources.” Its topic is not so much the news itself as the way news is covered. Its participants, led by journalist / moderator Howard Kurtz, discuss tone, and thoroughness of coverage, and whether one story is being overdone while others are being forgotten. The show is generally merciless when it comes to bad journalism; you can argue legitimately over how many minutes to give a news story, but there’s generally no argument that a bad story – unchecked, inaccurate – is bad journalism perpetrated by bad journalists.

I was startled this last Sunday morning to see Howard Kurtz himself sweating under the lights on his own show.

The story goes like this: Kurtz published a story in which he accused Jason Collins (the pro basketball player who just came out as gay) of covering up the fact that he’d been engaged to a woman. This was false; Collins had mentioned the engagement right up front. When Kurtz was called on this, he grudgingly acknowledged his error, but claimed that Collins hadn’t talked about it very much, which was also untrue. End result: Kurtz has now left two of his jobs, at the Daily Beast and at Newsweek.

Where to begin?:

–         Kurtz got the story wrong, and obviously didn’t bother to fact-check himself. The Collins interview wasn’t all that lengthy, so he must have given it the most cursory read possible. He would have crucified any other journalist who did this.

–         He claimed that Collins’s “plotline” had been “muddied” by the fact that he’d had a relationship with a woman. Plotline? Life don’t got no plotline.

–         He seemed startled and outraged that a gay man might be involved with a woman, as if this threw doubt on Collins’s whole story.

–         Apparently he’s made several other slips over the past year or two, mostly involving misattribution of quotations. He attributes all of his slips to working too hard. Also, according to him, everyone knows how much he’s always believed in the ideals of good journalism.

–         He has for the past few years been working for his own news outlet, the Daily Download. His business partner Lauren Ashford has been a guest on “Reliable Sources” on several occasions, but he has never disclosed their business relationship on the show.

Well, he was in full Mea Culpa mode on Sunday. Some of the questions being thrown at him were pretty harsh, but his answers were incredibly ingenuous – as in “working too hard” and “always been devoted to good journalism.”

Ecch.

Mistah Kurtz, he dead.


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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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