Kurtz's response to deeply flawed Post editorial: "I don't care what Post editorials say"
Research ››› ››› SIMON MALOY
Responding to readers' comments on The Washington Post's falsehood-laden April 9 editorial on President Bush's authorization of intelligence leaks, Post media writer Howard Kurtz -- instead of reporting on the editorial's numerous falsehoods -- stated: "I don't care what Post editorials say, except as a reader."
Responding to readers' comments on The Washington Post's falsehood-laden April 9 editorial on President Bush's authorization of intelligence leaks, Post media writer Howard Kurtz -- instead of reporting on the editorial's numerous falsehoods -- stated: "I don't care what Post editorials say, except as a reader." As Media Matters for America noted, the April 9 editorial espoused numerous falsehoods that echoed media conservatives, and ignored its own paper's reporting in defending Bush's reported authorization of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to disclose classified portions of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction.
Kurtz was responding to readers' questions during an April 10 "Live Online" discussion on washingtonpost.com. When confronted with comments from readers attacking and defending the editorial, Kurtz wrote: "I couldn't ask for a better case study in how the ideology of some readers affects their perception of what is fair or accurate." But contrary to Kurtz's assertion, the flaws in the Post's April 9 editorial had nothing to do with the "perception of what is fair and accurate," but what is actually accurate.
Rather than reporting on the numerous falsehoods in the editorial, Kurtz, who also hosts CNN's Reliable Sources and is billed by the network as "the nation's premier media critic," said the editorial "underscore[s] the church-and-state division" between the Post's editorial and news divisions, and attacked a reader's suggestion that the editorial would reflect poorly on the paper as a whole, writing: "You obviously disagree strongly with that editorial, but I don't see how that translates into a 'lack of journalistic integrity.' The only people who have integrity are those who agree with your positions?"
From Kurtz's April 10 online discussion:
Fairfax, Va.: You are probably getting a lot of questions about the weird editorial from April 9 in which The Washington Post defended the leaking of (and thoroughly debunked) classified information. What I would like to know is what do journalists in the newsroom do when an editorial is so off-base? Do they just shrug their shoulders and carry on? What is their responsibility to the public? Also, should the editorial board be so disconnected from the news portion of the paper? I think this episode is another in a long line of incidences that highlights the lack of journalistic integrity there is out there today. It tarnishes everyone in the media whether fair or not.
Howard Kurtz: I don't care what Post editorials say, except as a reader. They do opinion, we do news. I agree with some editorials and disagree with others. You obviously disagree strongly with that editorial, but I don't see how that translates into a "lack of journalistic integrity." The only people who have integrity are those who agree with your positions?
Washington, D.C.: Yes, we all know; the news and editorial divisions of The Post are separate. But yesterday's "A Good Leak" editorial, written in blatant disregard of undisputed facts reported in The Post and elsewhere, can't help but damage the whole paper's reputation. What is behind this madness?
Howard Kurtz: Again, I'll let Fred Hiatt and company defend themselves on controversial editorials. But it does underscore the church-and-state division around here, since I don't think anyone would suggest that The Post's news coverage has treated this as a "good leak."
Columbia, Md.: I would take an opposite view from the others who ask the question. Doesn't it make the reporters look foolish when the editorial page is so dead on with their analysis while the reporters are basically carrying the water of those who are against President Bush?
Howard Kurtz: Okay, so now we have the opposite comment from a couple of earlier ones. The Bush critics say the reporters are right on and the editorial writers have no integrity, are mangling the facts, etc. As a Bush supporter, you believe the editorial was brave and bold and the reporters are a bunch of Bush-haters, or at least allies of Bush-haters. I couldn't ask for a better case study in how the ideology of some readers affects their perception of what is fair or accurate.
Similarly, Post staff writer Dan Balz declined to comment on the disconnect between the April 9 editorial and the Post's news coverage of the CIA leak scandal, claiming instead that "[t]he difference between the front page story on Sunday and the editorial underscores the separation of powers here at the Post."
From Balz's April 10 "Post Politics Hour" online discussion on washingtonpost.com:
Rockville, Md.: It would seem that even the Washington Post is confused about the facts in the Libby Leak investigation. Witness the factual discrepancies between yesterday's editorial and front page story. The editorial gave the impression that the leak investigation is not newsworthy, even as the paper was running a page one story on it. What is you opinion on this story? Is it a bombshell or a dud?
Dan Balz: Good morning on another busy Monday here and around the country. We've gotten lots of questions on this issue this morning, so let me start out by addressing this one.
The difference between the front page story on Sunday and the editorial underscores the separation of powers here at the Post. The editorial page is independent from the news staff of the paper, or perhaps I should say the news side is independent from the editorial pages. We do our reporting and the editorial staff does its reporting and interpretation of events. The contrast was striking in this case, but the explanation is fundamental to the way newspapers in this country try to organize themselves.