“The Usual Queries about Tactics, Controversies”

How to read Howard Kurtz’s column

It’s far too early in the campaign season to let one little Howard Kurtz piece turn you off campaign coverage, stir up familiar feelings of dread and pessimism about election season reporting. It’s just one columnist. One column.

Pay no mind to Kurtz’s ends-with-question-mark headline (“Mitt Romney: Boring Genius?”), and his lede about Romney “provid[ing] no compelling storyline,” and the next several graphs in which Romney’s “media adviser” then provides Kurtz with a storyline. Don’t read Kurtz’s easy, breezy use of the phrase “the usual queries about tactics and controversies” to mean that Kurtz’s or other reporters’ queries are usually about tactics and controversies.

Yes, Kurtz writes that “many journalists are skeptical of Romney, viewing him as less than authentic in light of his past policy shifts,” and then in the very next ‘graph quotes a journalist lamenting Romney’s policy shifts a GOP strategist lamenting the Romney team’s lack of “insider snipe gossip” and how this makes Romney “just not that much fun to cover.” Doesn’t mean that Kurtz or any other reporter agrees with the sentiment! Doesn’t mean that the having of fun and “insider snipe gossip” will be, more than policy or even policy shifts, a focus of anyone reporting on or about the campaign trail! When the GOP strategist says to Kurtz that such gossip is what “we all live by,” why do you assume that “we” includes reporters? Cynic.

(Interested in coverage of policy and policy shifts? See here).

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.