Howard Kurtz returns to the pages of the Washington Post with a guest column reminding readers that the News of the World hacking scandal is
just an extreme example of a news business that increasingly pushes the ethical envelope — and perhaps of a public that wants the juicy stuff and isn’t too particular about how it gets unearthed.
Just an extreme example. Just, you know, the upper echelons of a news organization being complicit in widespread criminal activity. But hey, nobody’s perfect, Kurtz reminds us all with his laundry list of journalistic sins committed stateside over the years—or, “episodes of reckless American journalism.” (Janet Cooke? Not on the list. Jayson Blair? Check!). And, speaking of checks, what about checkbook journalism? Sure, News of the World spied on unsuspecting citizens by hacking their voicemail, but, Kurtz will have you recall, “in 2008 ABC paid Casey Anthony $200,000 for an exclusive interview under the guise of buying photos and video of her missing 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.” (Related reading: John Cook’s recent essay for CJR arguing the merits of “an open and transparent purchase of newsworthy information.”)
So, all you people out there who keep insisting that American journalism is sleaze-free: you stand, thanks to Kurtz, corrected.
Here’s a theory: Kurtz misses his old WaPo perch (he “turns up his nose at dirt” in his guest Post op-ed while his new “home, The Daily Beast is an all-night buffet of scandal and dirt.”)Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.