Howard Kurtz is leaving The Daily Beast/Newsweek in the wake of his Jason Collins blog-post fiasco.
The presumed impetus for the Washington bureau chief’s dismissal was a Daily Beast post he wrote in response to NBA player Jason Collins’ coming out in Sports Illustrated, titled “Jason Collins' Other Secret.” Kurtz originally claimed in his post that the athlete “didn’t come clean” about the fact that he was once engaged to a woman when, in fact, Collins clearly stated in SI: “When I was younger, I dated women. I even got engaged.”
Less than 24 hours later, the Daily Beast officially retracted Kurtz’s post and apologized to readers. Shortly afterwards, editor in chief Tina Brown tweeted: “@thedailybeast & @HowardKurtz have parted company…we wish him well.”
A NewsBeast source told Adweek that Kurtz’s firing wasn’t a direct reaction to his erroneous Jason Collins piece, adding that there had been “several other instances of poor judgment on Howard’s part that led up to the decision.” Additionally, Kurtz’s involvement with the Daily Download, a news site for which he is a contributor and member of the advisory board, as well as with CNN, where he hosts a weekend media-criticism show, were described as “distracting.”
According to reports, the time Kurtz spent promoting Daily Download had raised eyebrows among NewsBeast colleagues. Kurtz also had been dedicating the bulk of his Twitter feed to the side venture. Last month, he tweeted more than 120 links to Daily Download compared to around 20 links to The Daily Beast and even fewer to his CNN show, reported The Huffington Post.
For his part, Kurtz tweeted, “I've enjoyed my time at the Daily Beast but as we began to move in different directions, both sides agreed it was best to part company. This was in the works for some time, but want to wish all my colleagues continued success with a terrific website. Newsweek and the Beast are great brands, but the time had come for me to move on to other opportunities.”
A NewsBeast source said Kurtz’s departure had not “been in the works for some time” but that he was fired today.
Adweek emailed Kurtz for comment but has yet to hear back.
UPDATE: On this Sunday's edition of Kurtz's CNN show, Reliable Sources, Kurtz sat down with NPR's David Folkenflik and Politico’s Dylan Byers to explain his actions. "I am truly sorry about what happened," he told the reporters. "I believe deeply in good journalism and fair journalism, and I am determined to learn from this episode and minimize the chances of anything like this happening again."
Kurtz, however, argued several times that the "full context of [his] career" outweighed the "small minority of cases" in which he had slipped, saying, "I have worked very hard in the course of three decades to establish credibility, and people are going to have to make their own judgment about weighing occasional mistakes versus what I have done."
He also attributed some of his recent mistakes on the pressures of the news cycle: "Sometimes there is a tendency perhaps in this 24-hour age, and perhaps I have occasionally had lapses along those lines, where you do something quick…and you don’t check as carefully."
As for his involvement with Daily Download, Kurtz said that he was not a founder of the site, has no equity in it and is solely employed on a freelance basis.
"It's hardly unusual for people in the media world to take on multiple responsibilities," he added. Later, he said, "I will be very careful from this point on not to take on too much and to make sure that everything that I say on air or commit to print is double and triple checked."