Howard Kurtz scored a coup on his CNN show “Reliable Sources” two Sundays ago when White House communications director Anita Dunn came on to knuckle-rap Fox News, saying that the network
often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party….That’s fine, but let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.
Those remarks quickly ricocheted around the blogosphere, talk radio, and cable news.
Her claims would have seemed a perfect subject for one of Kurtz’s Washington Post columns. Were they accurate? Two days later, Kurtz did take up Dunn’s remarks, but not to assess their accuracy. Instead, he focused on the political angle:
Leaving aside the distinction between Fox reporters and the likes of O’Reilly, Hannity and Beck—Dunn admitted that Major Garrett is a fair journalist—does this sort of frontal attack make political sense? Could Obama score points with Fox’s audience by engaging, as he did by going on the “Factor” during the campaign? Or does the cable channel provide useful foil for a Democratic administration?
Plus, if you look at MSNBC’s lineup after 6 p.m., Fox isn’t the only network that goes heavy on opinionated hosts.
Kurtz went on to offer a grab-bag of comments on the issue from publications like The Nation and the Baltimore Sun. And that was it. This is increasingly what Kurtz does in his “Media Notes” columns, offering a roundup of media quotes spliced together with his own clever comments, with virtually no reporting or sustained analysis of his own.
In a column the previous week, in fact, Kurtz breezily dismissed the idea of analyzing the claims made by people like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh:
My view is that they control no votes, no factions, no military units, but they do have powerful microphones. Whatever influence wielded by Beck and Hannity or Limbaugh (or by commentators on the other side) stems from their ideas and their talents as infotainers. If they peddle misinformation and exaggerations, that can be neutralized by others in the media marketplace. Nearly everyone dismissed Beck’s charge that the president is a racist, but the ACORN videos he and Hannity trumpeted on Fox proved to be a legitimate story.
Gee, Howard, I would have thought that the main job of a media reporter would be to expose the misinformation and exaggerations peddled by news organizations. Why cede the job to the “media marketplace” (whatever that is)? I would expect The Washington Post to be one place we could look to for a thoughtful, well-researched analysis of the performance of a network like Fox.