Howard Kurtz: Not Afraid Of The D.C. Madam

Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he covered such topics as media coverage of presidential primaries, the D.C. Madam, and the media’s responsibility in the lead up to the Iraq war as reported by Bill Moyers. Some excerpts:

    Avon Park, Fla.: I must say that I am disturbed about how the media covers presidential primaries, basing their decisions on whom to cover based on national polls that are really name recognition contests. Those polls determine which candidates get the most money. Why doesn’t the press give all the candidates equal coverage and then see how the polls look after a while? Couldn’t you then scale back coverage of lagging candidates at that point?

    Howard Kurtz: I happen to agree with you, to a point. Every campaign, the media in their infinite wisdom determine who the top-tier candidates are. Everyone else gets short shrift. And every time, someone who we basically blew off surges into serious contention (Howard Dean, Steve Forbes, Paul Tsongas and others) and we belatedly “discover” them. This year it’s even more egregious. There’s the Gang of Six — Hillary, Obama, Edwards, McCain, Rudy and Romney — and everyone else.
    Now obviously we have to make some judgments about money and viability. We can’t accord Mike Gravel the same level of coverage as Hillary Clinton simply because he’s jumped into the race. But there is a circular relationship between money-and-polls and media attention, so the candidates we starve for attention are being starved in more ways than one.

    Somerdale, N.J.: Re: D.C. Madam — Howie, I don’t see any reason not to release all the names of the clients. Every day in local papers people who are busted for soliciting prostitution are listed in the police blotter section. Just because these people are rich powerbrokers in Washington shouldn’t make them immune from the same treatement any of us out here would get — re: our names published in the paper. Also, this is before trial/conviction, so guilt is not a factor.

    Howard Kurtz: But of course, the names would not be published in agate type inside a newspaper. They would be broadcast on national television (and then picked up by everyone on the planet). I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, I’m just trying to examine the journalistic dilemma.

    Wheaton, Md.: Given the colossal magnitude of the errors made by many of the major U.S. media organizations prior to the Iraq War, such as those outlined by Bill Moyers in his terrific special “Buying the War,” why hasn’t there been more examination and corrective action taken? Why are so many of the nonexpert pundits still being given venues to say what they think? One would think that simple self-respect would require many of these people to at least resign and take up a new line of work.

    Howard Kurtz: There was a fair amount of self-examination in 2004, when I wrote a front-page piece about The Post’s performance during the prewar period, the New York Times ran an editor’s note on its shortcomings, the New Republic said it had been wrong to back the war, etc. Whether there has been a more lasting effect on journalism is an interesting question. I certainly saw more skepticism toward, for example, the administration’s repeated claims of progress in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, but I also see unnamed administration officials quoted all the time, and not just about the war.