Post ombudsman: Kurtz's CNN work is an “inescapable conflict that is at odds with” paper's rules

From Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander's November 1 column:

The Post's Howard Kurtz, arguably the nation's premier media writer, for many years has hosted the Sunday morning CNN press program “Reliable Sources.” He often is criticized by bloggers and readers because he's paid by CNN, which he also covers.

Kurtz, a workhorse of a reporter, has a sizable following in print, online and on the air. But being paid by CNN presents an inescapable conflict that is at odds with Post rules. They state that a reporter or editor “cannot accept payment from any person, company or organization that he or she covers.” There can be exceptions for some groups, such as broadcast organizations, “unless the reporter or editor is involved in coverage of them.”

Kurtz, the Post media writer since 1990, got approval to appear on “Reliable Sources” about 15 years ago from then-Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.

“My track record makes clear that I've been as aggressive toward CNN -- and The Washington Post, for that matter -- as I would be if I didn't host a weekly program there,” Kurtz said. He discloses his CNN affiliation at the end of his columns and relevant news stories for The Post. And he's identified with The Post on “Reliable Sources.”

Still, would The Post allow a reporter who covers energy to be paid on the side by a big oil company?


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