Kurtz: Nothing Wrong With Debates In Opinion Pubs

Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he covered such topics as Christopher Buckley’s resignation from the National Review; the endorsement process of major newspapers; and the media coverage of “Joe the Plumber” vs. that of William Ayers. Some excerpts:

New York, N.Y.: It seems to be common wisdom by both sides that Obama will be the most left-wing president since LBJ, if not FDR. That being the case, why is it “intolerant” for National Review to drop Christopher Buckley’s column as a result of his endorsement of Obama? Obama’s political plans and ideology are 180 degrees from National Review’s outlook. Why on earth should they not get him go? Do you think The Nation would continue to publish a columnist who endorsed McCain? Why should they?

Howard Kurtz: Without adopting your “common wisdom,” I’d just say: What’s wrong with a little intellectual debate in National Review, or any other opinion magazine? Does everyone have to march in lockstep? Buckley told me on Reliable Sources yesterday that his father would have devoted six pages of NR to voices denouncing him for embracing Obama, and it would have been good journalism. For the record, Buckley offered to drop the column because of the negative reaction, which he said included a donor vowing not to give the magazine any more money as long as he was associated with it. The resignation was quickly accepted.

Arlington, Va.: How can papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post claim to have a firewall between the newspaper and editorial board when the Chairman and head editor sit in on important editorials like endorsing a president. Also these papers have never endorsed a republican for president (at least in the last couple of decades). There is always an excuse as to why the democrat is a better candidate in their mind, but at some point the facts speak for themselves. The people running these organizations support liberal candidates.

Howard Kurtz: I’m afraid you have little conception of how newspapers work. The “head editor” – the person who runs the newsroom – has absolutely, positively nothing to do with the editorial page or any candidate endorsements. The publisher does, which is fine, because the publisher is not involved in day-to-day newsroom decisions about coverage. The Post’s editorial page, by the way, does not only take the Democratic side of political battles, as underscored by its strong support for the invasion of Iraq. And in 1988 the editorial page made no endorsement rather than support Michael Dukakis for president. The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, has just endorsed the first Democratic presidential candidate in its history.

Florissant Valley, Mo.: A pleasure to chat with “Reliable” Howard! here’s a question that’s been bothering me. It was amazing how quickly Joe the Plumber got on national news. Why has there been no comparable effort by our supposedly balanced media to contact and interview William Ayres? You would think that at least the Washington Times or Chicago Tribune would have sought him out. It does make you wonder whether the Obama campaign has him under wraps. What’s the story? Thanks

Howard Kurtz: William Ayers has repeatedly refused to do interviews for the past year, since his association with Obama became known. He could talk to the Chicago Tribune; he could hold a news conference and everyone would cover it. But he has chosen not to, and there’s not a shred of evidence the Obama campaign has had anything to do with that. Joe the Plumber, by contrast, has been happy to do interviews with Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Mike Huckabee (for his new Fox show), and held a news conference outside his home. So Joe has not exactly shied away from the limelight.