Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat over at post.com, where he covered such topics as the William Arkin controvery, John Edwards’ bloggers and Tim Russert’s testimony. Some excerpts:
Arlington, Va.: What in Heaven’s name was William Arkin thinking? Yikes! If he getting stalked and chased by reporters while he is out with his family (a very scary notion), I hesitate to imagine what some others might be thinking of doing to him. Like it or not (and fair or not), his inflammatory comment (and ineffective apology — both of which I read in his column after a soldier friend vented to me about the initial comment) have colored a lot of people’s perception of the Washington Post, a publication that I often use as an example of a MSM publication that produces terrific pieces on the troops and their challenges and accomplishments. Has this episode changed the editorial practices in any way there at washingtonpost.com? Do you anticipate that it will?
Howard Kurtz: All I can tell you is that the editor of washingtonpost.com says it was unfortunate that “mercenary” slipped through the editing process and has apologized for allowing it on the site. On the one hand, bloggars are hired for their strong opinions, but at a place like post.com, there are editors reviewing whether someone has gone too far. So the Web site, which is a separate operation from the newspaper, with offices on the other side of the Potomac River, does bear some responsibility.
New York,: Admitedly, I was never Tim Russert’s biggest fan, but I now think even less of him. He said that any conversation he has with government officials is automatically off-the-record unless the official explictly states otherwise. In effect he’s ensuring that the only thing that gets broadcast is exactly what the governement official wants broadcast. Does Mr. Russert believe that his first loyalty is to his sources or to his viewers?
Howard Kurtz: That strikes me as unfair. Russert’s not saying he wouldn’t pursue information provided by a source in a conversation he deemed to be off the record. He’s saying he doesn’t think it would be fair to a source who think he’s not speaking for publication to attach his name without asking for permission. Journalists have these conversations every day: Can I use that? Can we put that on the record? Do you know anyone who could help me confirm that? (Sources often pass along titillating but second-hand material.) Remember, Libby called Russert to complain about Chris Matthews, and according to Russert, nothing newsworthy was discussed beyond that.