Phony Pose, "Oh, We Disclose," Hurts Kaiser, Kurtz Adviser!

Political commentary and more.
June 18 2000 7:38 PM

Phony Pose, "Oh, We Disclose," Hurts Kaiser, Kurtz Adviser!

Charles Kaiser, in a letter to the New Republic, makes a point that TNR's Franklin Foer left out of his recent attack on Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz. (In case you missed it, Foer's cover story blasted Kurtz for being an "East German figure skating judge, docking reporters for technicalities," especially minor conflicts of interest.)

Advertisement

Charles Kaiser's point? Kurtz himself has large, non-technical conflicts of interest, since he free-lances and takes money "from the people he writes about, from Time Warner to Conde Nast and even Brill's Content." The most obvious conflict is that Kurtz co-hosts CNN's Reliable Sources, a gig that rewards him with not only money but national renown. Kaiser writes: "It is inconceivable that The Washington Post would allow this kind of conflict of interest for anyone covering any other beat. Can you imagine the Detroit correspondent becoming a consultant for General Motors?"

Kaiser's brother, Robert--associate editor of the Post--had a letter defending Kurtz in the same TNR issue. The dueling-Kaiser angle proved irresistible to the New York Times, which ran an item on the two letters. This gave Robert Kaiser a chance to defend Kurtz in the Times against the conflict-of interest charge--which he did as follows:

I know that Charles and others have those qualms about Howie's multiple employers. ... Howie always discloses his relationships when he writes about any of them. The Post has accepted that arrangement. I think it's O.K. [Emphasis added.]

That sounds reasonable. But there's at least one problem with it--it's not true. Kurtz doesn't "always disclose his relationships" when he writes about any of his "multiple employers."

A quick search of a popular electronic database--never lie to a man with NEXIS!--turned up the following, just within the past year :

  • On Dec. 20, 1999, Kurtz wrote about networks, in particular CNN, that lock up "exclusive national rights" to debates between presidential candidates and then shut out competing reporters. Frank Sesno, CNN's Washington bureau chief, was quoted defending the practice. There was no disclosure of Kurtz's CNN connection.

  • On Nov. 18, 1999, Kurtz wrote about an alliance between one of his employers, the Washington Post, and MSNBC, one of CNN's competitors. Kurtz noted that MSNBC "has been struggling," its ratings having "dropped 20 percent." Kurtz also noted, "By comparison, CNN's ratings dropped 33 percent." (So why wasn't CNN "struggling" too?) No mention of Kurtz's CNN connection.

  • On Oct. 11. 1999, Kurtz wrote an item about CNN rejecting a commercial from Salon.com. No disclosure.

  • On Sept. 7, 1999, Kurtz wrote a profile of Rupert Murdoch that touched on the feud between Murdoch and CNN founder Ted Turner, a man who could presumably end Kurtz's CNN career with one well-placed phone call. No disclosure.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.