Howard Kurtz Works Overtime

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has a story in this morning’s paper that, along with his regular column, reflects on the relationship between “major” media and its competitors.
This report is on changes at the New York Times since Bill Keller took over from Howell Raines. It isn’t especially encouraging; there is no indication that Keller intends to move the Times away from its partisan left-wing stance. However, Keller does acknowledge, at least implicitly, that the Times’ Iraq coverage has been slanted:
“Asked about the Bush administration’s charge that reporting on Iraq has been overly negative, he says: ‘I’m sure they’re hoping editors will stop and take stock and say maybe we owe them a few more stories about what’s going right in Iraq. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for editors to do. Maybe in response to carping from the White House, the coverage has become a little more sophisticated.'”
Keller also admits to reading blogs: “I look at the blogs. . . . Sometimes I read something on a blog that makes me feel we screwed up. A lot of times I read things that strike me as ill-tempered and ill-informed.” (Our commentary, of course, is in the former category.)
One good development, potentially, is Keller’s intention to “announce a policy…that ‘cuts back on the reflexive use and the pointless use of anonymous sources,’ which has ‘gotten out of hand.'” If done across the board, that would be a great thing. The likelihood, however, is that the Times will continue to publish liberal anonymous leaks while citing the new “policy” to suppress conservative anonymous leaks.
Which brings us to Kurtz’s regular column on the media, which leads off with the subject of leaks:
“Reporters love leaks. Can’t get enough of ’em. The juicier the leak, the more sensitive the disclosure, the more likely you are to see it splashed on the front page. But lately there have been a series of leaks that haven’t gotten all that much attention outside of the conservative corner of the profession.”
Those are, of course, the Pentagon report on the connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda; memos from far-left interest groups to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, instructing them which of President Bush’s judicial nominations to obstruct (Miguel Estrada “is especially dangerous because he is Latino”); and staff memos to Democrats on the Joint Intelligence Committee about how the Democrats can misuse the intelligence made available to them to sabotage President Bush in next year’s election.
Kurtz can find no good explanation for why the “mainstream” press (including his own newspaper) buried these three explosive stories:
“I can’t help but think that if some of these stories had been obtained by one of our mainstream media muckety-mucks, as opposed to Sean Hannity or the Weekly Standard, it would be treated as a much bigger deal.
“The dismissive notion that conservatives leak to outlets on the right for ideological reasons ignores the fact that liberals often do the same thing with news organizations that are either left-of-center or likely to be sympathetic to the message being peddled. Most leakers have self-serving motives. That doesn’t mean the information they’re peddling is marginal or bogus.
“It’s little wonder that some on the right are complaining once again about media bias.”


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