2010/03/15

Kudos for Kurtz

Howard Kurtz gets slammed a lot for being a lousy, lazy journalist but I noticed one of the final paragraphs in his report on Glenn Beck and Fox News:

In a recent online interview, CBS's Katie Couric asked Beck about critics who say he "resorts to inflammatory, unfair, despicable, hateful rhetoric." Beck's response: "Did they say that when I was saying the same things about George W. Bush, or is this new?" (Beck has criticized Bush, but not with the harsh language he employs against Obama.)

Y'see, Kurtz's last sentence in parentheses is what we call real, live, actual journalism!!! This is where a reporter supplies meaningful context to what his subject says and doesn't just engage in "he-said, she-said" stenography.

Asked if he regretted saying the president has a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture," Beck said: "I'm sorry the way it was phrased."

Kurtz makes it clear that Beck was given a chance to, but refused to, clarify said remarks. So what Beck means by "sorry" is far from clear.

Also, FAIR points out that Beck is hardly an historian. Beck hates Woodrow Wilson and there is indeed quite a bit worth hating. But Beck's assertion that Wilson promoted Prohibition is simply inaccurate. Wilson vetoed the 1919 Volstead Act, which was the enabling legislation for the 18th Amendment which had put Prohibition into place.

And that said, it was also quite interesting to see that, according to Kurtz, Beck is fast becoming the face of Fox News. That's far from being a good thing as many advertisers have abandoned the network, precisely because of Beck's influence.

More than 200 companies have joined a boycott of Beck's program, making it difficult for Fox to sell ads. The time has instead been sold to smaller firms offering such products as Kaopectate, Carbonite, 1-800-PetMeds and Goldline International. A handful of advertisers, such as Apple, have abandoned Fox altogether.

I had to chuckle when I read this bit:

Television analyst Andrew Tyndall calls Beck an "activist" and "comedian" whose incendiary style has created "a real crossroads for Fox News."
"They're right on the cusp of losing their image as a news organization," he declares. "Do they want to be the go-to place for conservative populist ideas on television, or do they want to be a news organization? Ailes has done a good job of doing both."

Good job?!?!? Uh, no he hasn't. Among informed audiences, Fox has long since lost any image of being even remotely in even the general vicinity of being a real news organization.

4 comments:

Andrew Tyndall said...

Rich -- last year when the White House tried to isolate FNC as illegitimate, ABC's Jake Tapper and others stood up for their fellow journalists as credentialed newsgatherers, in other words "a real news organization." Major figures such as Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace have unquestioned journalistic bona fides. Up until now, FNC executives have argued that their content be treated as newsgathering during certain hours and opinion during other hours. The recent CJR analysis by Terry McDermott found such a split. I disagree that those arguments are already universally discredited as you suggest. Maybe in the future, but not yet.

Rich said...

Interesting analysis from CJR. Thanks! I dunno, do the frequent and unhinged lies from Fox's commentators override the reputations of their straight-news people? Certainly, their commentators draw a great deal more attention than their straight-news people do.
As far as comparing Fox News with other channels goes, CNN certainly seems to be trying to close the gap in crazy commentators. Their hiring of Erik Erikson from RedState is not just hitting the bottom of the well, it's digging down into the mud and the weeds at the bottom of it.

Andrew Tyndall said...

Do the commentators override the reputations of the straight news people? Not yet.

FNC as a whole is treated as a member of the mainstream news media in good standing. The Project for Excellence in Journalism unquestioningly makes FNC the lead in its cable TV news chapter. TVNewser treats FNC as a news network side by side with CNN, HLN and MSNBC. So did Columbia Journalism Review.

Personally, I believe that if the day ever comes when FNC leaves the category “journalism” it will be because of its own business decision that ratings will be better by jettisoning news rather than because its fellow practitioners throw it off the journalistic island. It may decide of its own account that its founding slogans--Fair & Balanced and We Report. You Decide--are no longer a pathway to success.

After all, Rush Limbaugh is a massive political, financial and cultural success partly because he is not constrained by going through the motions of acting like a journalist. FNC, led by Beck and Hannity, may decide to go in the same direction.

That is why I see FNC is at a “crossroads”--not necessarily because of its reputation in others’ eyes but because of its own business strategy.

Rich said...

The CBO score on the Democratic health care bill came out today and the CBO's conclusion is that it will lower the deficit by $130 billion. What did Fox News have to say about that? Why, they focused on the cost of $940 billion! Which number is more relevant for citizens to be aware of? Obviously, the deficit-lowering effect is of far more significance to voters, but Fox News is a propaganda outfit, after all.