Kurtz on why the media choked

Everyone is writing thumb-sucker pieces on John Edwards and the media. But I think Howard Kurtz perfectly nails how and why the media failed by giving him a months-long pass on news of his affair with Rielle Hunter:

The fact that big newspapers, magazines and networks have standards — that is, they refuse to print every stray rumor just because it’s “out there” — is one of their strengths. But in the latter stages of this case, it made them look clueless. Perhaps there is a middle ground where media outlets can report on a burgeoning controversy without vouching for the underlying allegations, being candid with readers and viewers about what they know and don’t know.

In the end, the much-derided MSM were superfluous, their monopoly a faded memory. People have hundreds of ways to obtain information in today’s instantaneous media culture, and are capable of reaching their own conclusions about what is reliable and what is not.

Kurtz also quotes chief Edwards inquisitor Mickey Kaus as saying that the chief reason the reporters laid off was out of solicitude for Elizabeth Edwards. But, as Kaus wrote, “If a politician whose chief appeal is his self-advertised loyalty to his brave, ill wife cheats on his brave ill wife, what’s he good for again?”


Not such a linchpin

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen is ambivalent about doing interviews, and Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post asks him why. Kurtz, though, seems to think that the institution of the journalistic interview is more firmly established than it is. He begins:

The humble interview, the linchpin of journalism for centuries, is under assault.

In fact, what is widely regarded as the first newspaper interview was conducted not centuries ago, but in 1836, by New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, who talked with the proprietor of a brothel in the hopes of shedding light on the notorious murder of a prostitute.

It seems strange to realize that great American journalists from Benjamin Franklin to Isaiah Thomas never interviewed people, but such were the customs of the day.