Howard Kurtz: Government and Media Need a "Cease-Fire" Now and Then

Howard Kurtz makes an extremely funny joke today, showing why he is the "media critic" for both The Washington Post and CNN:

Howard Kurtz makes an extremely funny joke today, showing why he is the "media critic" for both The Washington Post and CNN:

know the [DC media/political] dinners may project an image that we're
all just a bunch of cozy Washington insiders, but I don't think they're
that big a deal. There's such a built-in adversarial relationship between the press and the pols that spending a couple of evenings in a kind of light-hearted cease-fire doesn't strike me as a terrible thing.

is some very penetrating media criticism there. The media and
political leaders are at each other's throats so viciously, they have
such sharply conflicting interests, that it's a wonder they can even be
in the same room together without physical confrontation. For
instance, it was the same Howie Kurtz who, in 2004, wrote this about what happened at his own newspaper:

before the Iraq war began, veteran Washington Post reporter Walter
Pincus put together a story questioning whether the Bush administration
had proof that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

he ran into resistance from the paper's editors, and his piece ran only
after assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, who was researching a
book about the drive toward war, "helped sell the story," Pincus
recalled. "Without him, it would have had a tough time getting into the
paper." Even so, the article was relegated to Page A17. . . .

examination of the paper's coverage, and interviews with more than a
dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post
published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on
the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence
for stories that questioned the administration's evidence complained to
senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic
about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of
groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at times.

"The paper was not front-paging stuff," said Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks. "Administration
assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the
administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday.
There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?". . . .

Vice President Cheney and other administration officials had no problem
commanding prime real estate in the paper, even when their warnings
were repetitive. "We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power," [Post reporter Karen] DeYoung said.
"If the president stands up and says something, we report what the
president said." And if contrary arguments are put "in the eighth
paragraph, where they're not on the front page, a lot of people don't
read that far.". . .

Such decisions coincided with The Post editorial page's strong support for the war,
such as its declaration the day after Powell's presentation that "it is
hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of
mass destruction."

Kurtz's own paper also reported Tim Russert's policy of refusing to report anything said by government officials unless explicitly authorized by them to do so and the view of Dick Cheney's communications aide that Meet the Press was the ideal format for Cheney to control the message. The Post's Op-Ed page is overflowing with "journalists" demanding that there be no investigations of what the Bush administration did when torturing people and spying on Americans with no warrants; who condemned the prosecution of Bush officials for obstruction of justice and cheered on pardons for high-level government lawbreakers; and who insist upon immunity for surveillance lawbreakers and support the most extreme government assertions of power. It was also TheWashington Post that brought us the inspiring (and completely false) tale
of Jessica Lynch engaged in a firefight-to-the-death with her evil
Iraqi attackers, only to be rescued from the toxic clutches of Dr. Germ
and Mrs. Anthrax by heroic Marine commandos who fought through Iraqi
machine gun fire to carry her to safety from the mad-lab-germ-hospital
where she was having her injuries treated by Iraqi doctors being imprisoned and abused.

Bush's own Press Secretary mocked the American media for being "too deferential" to the White House. The practice of writing flattering hagiographies of government officials
in order to win favor with them is so pervasive that journalists
bestowed this sycophantic ritual with its own playful
name ("beat-sweeteners") and defend it as natural and proper. When
Charlie Savage won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Bush's
signing statements, his Boston Globe editor said that "what Charlie does and the reason he won this richly deserved Pulitzer is because he covered what the White House does, not just what it says"
-- because most "political journalism" is so devoted to the latter that
it actually becomes Pulitzer-worthy when, in those very rare cases,
someone actually does the former.

Our largest media outlets pay people who receive their talking points from the Pentagon to pose as independent experts, and even once that's exposed, they continue to do it and -- as Howie Kurtz himself noted -- never mention any of it to their viewers.
Virtually every corporation that owns our largest media outlets are
dependent upon, and intertwined with, government leaders in countless
ways. Ashleigh Banfield got demoted and then fired
for pointing out that media coverage of American wars glorifies those
wars and only shows the pro-Government side. Phil Donahue was fired for relentlessly criticizing the war. Katie Couric and Jessica Yellen, among others, both revealed that they were pressured by corporate executives to avoid coverage that was too critical of the Government. And on and on and on.

But Howie Kurtz, as America's "media critic" with the furthest-reaching platforms, is here to assure us all that things like this
are not at all bothersome even as symbols because the media and the
political establishment are so inherently adversarial with one another
-- in such a perpetual state of war with one another -- that a few
nights of giggly revelry (what Kurtz actually calls a "light-hearted
cease fire") won't cause any weakening of the relentless watchdog role
played by our journalists. He actually wrote this sentence with a
straight face: "there's such a built-in adversarial relationship
between the press and the pols."

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