In an age of instant criticism, any attempt by a mainstream media writer to deal directly with the touchy subject of political bias in the news is bound to stir up strong sentiments from bloggers right and left, who tend to imagine that most folks are as partisan as themselves.


Such was the case with Howard Kurtz’s lengthy profile of Fox News anchor Brit Hume yesterday in the Washington Post. A number of bloggers went after Kurtz for being too soft on Hume, or went after Hume for being too conservative. Yet what is surprising about the blogosphere’s reaction to this story (as measured by a thorough review of the Technorati links it had drawn by 11 a.m.) is that instead of prompting the usual hyperbolic shouting and overbearing cynicism, the piece has mostly drawn out quiet admirers of Brit Hume across the land.


In another surprise, we found ourselves agreeing with Michelle Malkin on this one, who described the article simply as “Howard Kurtz’s very fair, very thorough profile of Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume.”


Of course, there are dissenters — such as the Era, who could not disagree more in a biting, sarcastic post. Pretending to toss around story ideas, the Era suggested a fluffy Hume piece should be given “real appeal, some zing, and some Christian pandering”:


Let’s do it! Brit Hume, Americorp’s #1 TV anchor. We really need a fluff piece to support Faux News. Let’s see, who can we get? The Washington Times? No, no, no, how about The Drudge Report? No … I’ve got it! The Washington Post and Howard Kurtz, thank you sooo much, you really are providing a wonderful service …


Greg’s Opinion looks at a few excerpts discussing the work of the “rightwing apologist extraordinaire” that make him “wonder how on earth the ‘liberal media’ excuses crap for reporting,” while Elephant Lies focuses on two questionable aspects of Hume’s record: his day-in-and-day-out shilling for the Swift Boat veterans in 2004, and his tendency (according to former Bill Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry) to do crossword puzzles while sitting in the front row at press briefings. Says Elephant Lies: “Wow, what a great reporter!”


But many on the right were happy with the piece. “It is typical of Howard’s sense of fairness that he can write a sympathetic profile of Hume, even though Howard himself is a liberal,” Powerline’s John Hinderaker wrote approvingly. “But note the Post’s subheading: ‘Brit Hume’s Path Took Him From Liberal Outsider to The Low-Key Voice of Conservatism on Fox News.’ Imagine what it would take for the Post to acknowledge any of the network anchors as ‘the voice of liberalism.’” Meantime, NewsBusters’ Tim Graham was one of the few conservatives to get agitated over Kurtz’ piece, posting a long entry summed up thus: “It’s obvious from the headline. Once again, Fox is the only ideological news channel. In Kurtz’s stories in the Post, the liberal media is usually treated as the objective media, never as liberal as they believe Fox is conservative.”


But what was truly notable about the ‘sphere’s reaction to Kurtz’s piece was the outpouring of fans who can’t get enough of the newsman with a formal bearing “that transcends his suspenders and American flag lapel pin” and who “speaks deliberately, unhurriedly, making his points with logic rather than passion.”


“Brit Hume’s Special Report is the only show I watch on Fox News and just about the only news show I watch regularly,” said Tinkerty Tonk. “I like the slow, measured tones of Hume — plus his well cut suits and pocket squares.”


Special Report with Brit Hume is the only network news show that I faithfully TiVo every day and watch every evening,” added Rick Moore at HolyCoast.com, while Diane Meyer of respublica gushed, “I confess to finding him not only attractive, but somehow endearing.”


“[A]n eminently fair profile,” said one Mick Stockinger, who “learned a lot I didn’t know.”


“Notably, the personal revelations were very much in sync with who he is on the air — a serious, unpretentious man who fairly demands that you listen closely to pick up on his witticisms,” Stockinger wrote. “Hume is muted, but not bland, and that a real trick — try it sometime.”

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Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.