Kurtz: War Harder To Cover Than Politicians’ Personal Exploits

Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he covered such topics as the question of discretion in covering the personal lives of politicians, the political leanings of cable news channels, and the Pentagon’s “media strategy.” Some excerpts:

    Raleigh, N.C.: Good afternoon! This may be a hard question to answer, but in your talks with reporters, is it more difficult to cover a quasi-titilatting story like the Saga of Craig, or is it more difficult to cover a story with extremely high passions like the war in Iraq? I see difficulties in both, but I’m wondering which is harder and why.

    Howard Kurtz: Covering the Larry Craig story really isn’t all that difficult except on taste grounds. (How much detail does America really need about his wide stance?) After all, the guy was arrested and pleaded guilty. The more difficult question, as I’ve written, is how you deal with rumors and allegations about sexual misconduct by a politician before there’s any definitive proof, such as a police report. There were rumors about Mark Foley, Jim McGreevey and others before their behavior was exposed, but news organizations generally did not publish them. There is the question of adequate evidence, and the equally thorny question of how relevant someone’s private life is. Overall, I’d say the war, in all its facets, is far more challenging to cover.

    Baltimore: Re: FOX and MSNBC as partisans: The equivalency is absurd. While MSNBC has Olbermann, it also has Joe Scarborough, Dan Abrams, Tucker Carlson and others who are either to the right or in the middle. Fox has O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume (who I know has an illustrious reporting career, but is pretty much in the tank fro the administration).

    Howard Kurtz: What about Alan Colmes???

    Actually, I’d feel better about that if Sean ever let Alan ask Fred Thompson a question.

    Rochester, N.Y.: You write “They’re free to follow whatever they think is the best media strategy.” Perhaps that’s true legally, but doesn’t the press have a duty to call the White House out when is turns the Pentagon into a PR arm of the White House? What did you make, for example, of the news that the Pentagon was handing out opposition research sheets on the lawmakers who visited Iraq? Is this really an acceptable media strategy, even if it is legal (which I don’t think is clear, by the way)?

    Howard Kurtz: The press absolutely has a duty to call the White House on its media strategy. (Remember the uproar when Dick Cheney spoke only to Fox after the hunting accident?) But the secretary of Defense works for the president, so anyone who thinks the Pentagon doesn’t follow White House media strategy doesn’t understand how Washington works.