Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he covered such topics as ABC’s coverage of the Republican debate, coverage of controversies started in the blogosphere, and media coverage of national infrastructure. Some excerpts:
- Avon Park, Fla.: I must say that I was a little upset that George Stephanopolous read the Republican candidates’ poll numbers before their Iowa debate on Sunday. What was the purpose for that? That has never happened before the other debates. I don’t think it’s fair to the lower-tier candidates. Isn’t this an example of the the press putting too much stock in national polls?
Howard Kurtz: I was really struck by that. It just seemed, I don’t know, crass. It kind of diminished those who were at 1 percent and 2 percent as they stood on that stage. Obviously, ABC was trying to promote its Iowa poll, done with The Washington Post, but it might have seemed less jarring if the numbers had been flashed on the screen once the debate was under way.
Rochester, N.Y.: No offense, Howard, but do you ever get tired writing about ginned up “controversies” from the right-wing blogosphere? This one with the New Republic seemed particularly pathetic. What proportion of these turn out be true at all? Has there been a single significant one since 2004 (I’ll grant you the CBS memos one from 2004)? Why do you write about them, given that they will almost certainly turn out be bogus?
Howard Kurtz: When the editor of the New Republic tells me in an interview that he takes the questions that were raised about his Baghdad diarist seriously and has launched his own investigation — that to me is a story. I was the first newspaper reporter to write about TNR’s Stephen Glass, and I also exposed the serial fabricators Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley, so I take this stuff seriously. Just because I report that questions have been raised, though, doesn’t mean that I think a journalistic fraud has been committed.
Conservatives in the blogosphere certainly gang up on liberal targets (Dan Rather and Memogate), and liberals in the blogosphere have been known to do the same thing (Jeff Gannon). Both of these cases, and others, turned out to be important stories. At the same time, I always make clear when ideological motivations are involved.
Louisville, Colo.: Hi Howard,
Amid the calls for increasing taxes after the Minnesota bridge collapse, the media has done almost no presentation of what is actually being spent on infrastructure maintenance and new construction.
Is this because it’s difficult to research or because editors don’t believe that readers are interested in actual numbers?
In general, there is a lot of reporting about new legislation, but very little reporting about how effectively governments actually spend money.
Howard Kurtz: I couldn’t agree more with your last point. I do think in the wake of the Minneapolis collapse that there has been a lot of reporting on how many bridges are deemed structurally deficient and how much money is spent on maintenance, especially in local newspapers and on local stations. But where were these stories before? A few outlets did a good job, but journalists, like politicians, prefer to focus on things that are new: A new project, a new program, a new plan. Maintenance of infrastructure is considered boring — until a bridge collapses and people die. You see the same pattern with other federal agencies: How many pieces were written about the dysfunction at FEMA before Katrina?