Kurtz Back In Action

Howard Kurtz is back and he hit the ground running today with both a print piece regarding the dangers foreign correspondents are facing, and a WaPo.com chat. After some ribbing about his extended vacation, Kurtz addressed the separation of news and editorial, and the role of Dana Milbank.

    Columbia, Md.: Howie, You and other Washington Post reporters are fond of claiming that there is this “wall” between the news department and “editorial” department. If so, then why does Dana Milbank get to appear on the editorial page on a regular basis, as he did this weekend, while also writing news column during the week. It would seem to me the “wall” has a pretty big hole in it to allow Milbank to pass back and forth…. Shouldn’t Milbank have to choose one side or the other?

    HK: It is my sad duty to inform you that you are wrong. Dana Milbank’s “Zeitgiest” column appears not on the editorial page but in the Sunday Outlook section, which is run by a completely separate staff and frequently includes contributions from reporters. Listen, the wall doesn’t mean that on rare occasions a reporter can’t write an op-ed piece. It means that editors and reporters in the newsroom have no idea what the editorial page is going to say, are not influenced by what the editorial page says, and that Len Downie has no control over anything the editorial page does.

    Re: Milbank: But Mr. Kurtz, to the reader, it doesn’t matter whether Downie is in charge of the section or not. What matters is that Milbank dances all over the fine line between reporting and editorializing, suggesting there is no “wall” between news and opinion.

    HK: But that’s a different argument. You said he was on the editorial page; he wasn’t. Plus, he is a news columnist now, which means he has more leeway in writing than when he was a White House beat reporter, but is not dishing outright opinions the way an op-ed columnist would.