Kurtz: Fox Was Meanest To Rove

Yesterday, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he covered such topics as Karl Rove’s treatment on Sunday talk shows, appropriate behavior in the press corps, and the professionalism of the Post’s website. Some excerpts:

    Bethesda, Md.: Karl Rove was on several Sunday talk shows. Did you see them? Did you notice anything that would support or refute claims of differential treatment by Fox vs. the other networks?

    Howard Kurtz: I saw two of the three interviews Rove did Sunday. NYT television critic Alessandra Stanley said that Fox’s Chris Wallace actually gave Rove the hardest time, resulting in the testiest interview, compared to David Gregory on Meet the Press and Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. At one point in the discussion of Rove’s cooperation with Capitol Hill inquiries, Rove accused Wallace of acting like an agent of Congress.

    New York: Bill Plante has characterized his own question to President Bush at last Monday’s Rove announcement as “smart-assed” (CBS Public Eye 16 Aug) but then says there is a need to aggressively push the right to ask questions at the White House. I agree with the right to ask questions, but I think his particular “question” had very little value and was more of a personal comment phrased as a question.

    I might add that as far back as 1988, I personally observed Plante on a number of occasions, sitting in a chair in the first row of the traveling press pool about 15 feet in front of President Reagan’s lectern. As the president was giving a speech, Plante would deliberately and conspicuously put his glasses on, cross his legs, fully open up a newspaper, and read. Plante has the right to be a boor, but do you think he is abusing the special access that is afforded to White House reporters?

    Howard Kurtz: In a word, no. Plante’s was a shouted question, after Rove appeared with the president to announce his resignation and neither man took questions. “If he’s so smart, how come you lost Congress?” Plante asked. This is the Sam Donaldson technique of trying to get the president and top aides to say something, anything at a scripted event where they are determined not to respond to reporters. I’m sure some people find the practice rude, and it rarely succeeds, but Plante is hardly a groundbreaker in this regard.

    When Plante has asked questions of presidents and press secretaries at briefings and news conferences, I have found them to be aggressive and substantive, but not overly confrontational.

    Chicago: Howard, I think the Washington Post Web site is making itself seem unserious with the positioning of the big photo story in the upper left corner. This is almost always is a lifestyle story, and not terribly newsworthy. The Washington Post Web site often shortchanges serious or major news stories by not positioning them on page one of the Web site. For example, where is today’s story about Cheney’s office hiding subpoenad wiretapping documents? Not on page one. (In the print edition, it’s on page A2.) Every day I visit The Post Web site, but it troubles me that it’s inferior to the New York Times Web site. When I go there, I see serious and important news positioned prominently on the page as it should be, with the lifestyle stuff much lower down.

    Howard Kurtz: It changes throughout the day. At the moment there’s a big picture of the shuttle landing successfully. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing up a style or entertainment story on the home page. After all, that one screen has to provide an overview of the day’s offerings that is featured on five different section fronts in the dead-tree edition. There is no shortage of serious, important stories at the top of the home page day after day. But the Web is a different animal, and we have blogs and chats and late-breaking stuff, so the page shouldn’t be a strict replica of the newspaper’s A1.

    Besides, SOMEBODY must like it. I notice our Web traffic is now just slightly behind usatoday.com, while trailing nytimes.com–both done by papers that circulate across the country as oppposed to one metropolitan region.