“Please do not adjust your television sets. No, I’m not Howard Kurtz. Not yet anyway.” TVNewer columnist Gail Shister welcomed viewers to this morning’s edition of Reliable Sources. Shister, NPR’s David Folkenflik and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno were the interviewers and Kurtz, the interviewee. The media trio questioned Kurtz about his new book Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television War.
Shister asked Kurtz about an incident, first reported by Gawker, and related to Dan Rather‘s report on Pres. Bush’s National Guard service. The incident, new to Kurtz, had been reported by New York Press editor David Blum in his 2004 book.
I was completely and totally unaware that David Blum, to his credit, put this in the paperback edition of his book…My jaw practically dropped. So, the information was new to me. I was unaware that it appeared elsewhere.
Shister also asked Kurtz, with his tremendous access, about whether he ever sat on information:
Shister: You were very clear that every interview you did was to be used only for the book and you said, in this way, a lot of the sources opened up to you. Were you ever in a situation where, as a daily news reporter, you stumbled on to something that you knew would be great to get in the paper right away?
Kurtz: There were a few times when I came up with newsworthy things that certainly would have been good reading in The Washington Post. The fact is, Gail, I could not have gotten these stories without making this offer to the networks — ‘let me look behind the scenes, let me spend a year and a half to two years repeatedly talking to your people at all levels.’ I interviewed some people 50 times…If I said, ‘look, we’re on deadline for a story for tomorrow,’ I’d get the same spin as everybody else.
Shister: That said what if you had stumbled on to a tremendous blockbuster, that could have been a career-changing blockbuster, what would you have you done in situation?
Kurtz: There was always the option of going back to people and saying ‘look we talked about this for the book, I think this is so newsworthy, I’d like to write it for the newspaper, do I have your permission to do that?’ Beyond that though, I had given my word and I had cleared this with my boss at The Washington Post.
Shister: But did that happen? Did you have to go back to anybody?
Kurtz: There was no dramatic moment where that happened. I think I have a lot of things in the book that are newsworthy, but they’re newsworthy in the broader context of future of network news.”