Howard Kurtz conducts the con!

MONDAY, JULY 2, 2012

Can you name a single thing you ever learned from Ann Curry: Howard Kurtz is the nation’s best-known “media reporter.”

Every Sunday, on CNN, he conducts an hour-long con. During this hour, he pretends to be critiquing the press corps.

This gives us rubes the false impression that the press corps keeps watch on itself.

That impression is vastly mistaken. For our money, yesterday’s Reliable Source program was a near-perfect example of Potemkin criticism, in which the mainstream press corps pretends to be watch-dogging its own.

Kurtz started with an ersatz topic: How did CNN and Fox manage to bungle their reporting of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision, even if ever so briefly? Kurtz and several “reliable” guests pretended to be concerned by this problem—a “problem” which pops up for maybe ten minutes every twelve years or so.

Yes, it was fairly dumb when CNN and Fox bungled the ruling the way they did—though everyone knows how these bungles happen. But good God! This is a totally trivial matter—and just consider all the serious misreporting Kurtz has worked to avoid.

One obvious recent example: For roughly a month, MSNBC churned endless mis- and disinformation about the killing of Trayvon Martin. Night after night, week after night, the disinformation flowed.

We don’t know if we’ve ever seen a cable channel misbehave more thoroughly. But even when it became abundantly clear that the channel had churned tons of misinformation, Kurtz managed to avert his gaze. In this way, he kept preferred narratives about this tragic event in place—and he avoided letting the public know what this channel had done.

Kurtz gave MSNBC a pass. This has helped sustain a great deal of misinformation. But yesterday, this poor fellow was very concerned because CNN got something wrong for maybe ten minutes, in an unusual situation which happens every twelve years.

That is Potemkin press criticism. It’s designed to make the public think that the press is policing its own.

The second part of Kurtz’s program may have been even worse. In this segment, he and “media reporter” Gail Shister boo-hooed and wailed about the idea that Ann Curry may have been mistreated by NBC News.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Dear God! And oh, the humanity!
KURTZ (7/1/12): It certainly didn't look like she was anxious to embrace Matt Lauer, who was trying to be gracious, of course. Did NBC end up humiliating Ann Curry as this dragged on, and unconfirmed until finally we saw the tearful exit?

SHISTER: I don't know how you could say anything else, how you could say they did not drag it out. It took what seemed like forever. It took a little more than a week. And Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said about the source of the leaks.

It was like chasing ghosts trying to chase ghosts. Whether the leaks came from within NBC, we'll never know. But it seemed like every day, there was new gossip on some site of when is she going to be leaving.

It wasn't even a question of “if” at a certain point. There was a line of demarcation had been passed, that when would she leave and who would she be replaced by.

What I found interesting also is Meredith Vieira was host for five years, and they dedicated an entire show on her last day. And Ann Curry, all together on the Today show, including her tenure as news anchor, was there 15 years, and they took a total of five minutes.
They treated Meredith better than Ann! Have the bougie values of these horrible, vastly overpaid people ever been more clear?

("I don't know how you could say anything else!" We only wished Shister had come over here. We'd have been happy to show her!)

Curry has raked in tens of millions of dollars over the past fifteen years. Now that NBC is moving on, we’re supposed to worry about the tender feelings which had her weeping and semi-complaining on the air as she left her anchor position last week.

Question: Is there anything you know about the world because Curry worked from a very high “journalistic” platform over all those years? Did this person ever speak up about the endless disgraces which have dogged our nation and world? Or did she play along with the cloying Today show format, which requires her to read approved texts and express free-form empathetic concern?

Everyone says that Curry is a nice person. We would assume she is; most people are. But if she had an ounce of sense after all those years of astonishing privilege, she would have given a Lou Gehrig speech as she left that anchor chair:
CURRY REWRITTEN: For the past fifteen years, I have considered myself the luckiest person on the face of the earth. In fact, I have been massively overpaid. I’m embarrassed by the amounts of money I have crammed in my pockets as I sat here on this couch smiling and acting sincere.

Beyond the astounding amounts of money, I have been made a major celebrity. You should scorn me on the street for the way I’ve behaved all these years.

When they came for Naomi Wolf, I sat here and didn’t say boo. I didn’t question the war against Gore, or the run-up to Iraq. I kept my mouth shut about the abuse aimed at Hillary Clinton down through all those years. I read the texts my producers prepared, and I acted empathetic when regular folk were involved.

I’m embarrassed by how much money I’ve kept. Can you name one “journalistic” act I’ve ever committed?
People like Curry don’t make such statements. Wealth and fame fry peoples’ brains. That's even true with folk who were decent coming in.

For our money, the culture of upper-end bougie entitlement dominated Kurtz’s last segment too. We’ll let you read that transcript yourself. It was massively aimed at the lives of highly privileged women—and it failed to ask the obvious question about the role being played by privileged men when such women “can’t have it all.”

Yesterday’s program struck us as one of the worst hours we’ve ever seen. Your “press corps” is a giant con—an act of giant misdirection.

Your career liberal leaders agree not to notice. They want to get rich and famous too, the way poor Curry did.


  1. I'd love to see a cable news outlet initiate a practice of term limits for their on air clowns.

  2. "We don’t know if we’ve ever seen a cable channel misbehave more thoroughly."

    You must not have had cable in 2002.

  3. Wow! CNN and Fox get one of the very biggest stories of the year exactly, 100 percent wrong, and it's trivial.

    And it's not like planes flying into the World Trade Center. Both networks knew when and where this ruling was going down. And they still got it exactly, 100 percent wrong.

    Sorry, Bob. That's not "trivial." Both news organizations took a big hit on credibility (or in Fox's case, what little it had left). You going to trust them to get it right before they go on the air? Go ahead, but I'm not.

    1. In the big scheme of things, this type of error doesn't matter. Granted that sometimes it can if it influences later events (i.e. Fox News calling Florida for GWB in the 2000 election). I doubt many people will continue to believe that the Supreme Court invalidated Obamacare because of this screw up. Getting a story wrong for 15 minutes is embarrassing, but isn't even close to the top of the list of what's wrong with cable news.

    2. Of course, it doesn't matter. The "error" wasn't committed by MSNBC.

      But if you believe that if Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O'Donnell did the same thing and Bob wouldn't spend the next 10 years blogging about it, then welcome to this blog.

    3. Anon above: Nope, I don't think Bob would spend much time on it at all.

    4. Of course you don't think. You're a good Bobinista, who just marvels over that fine suit of clothes your emperor wears.

    5. No, no, an error of clear fact that is self-corrected within a very few minutes -- that's just exactly the kind of thing Somerby gets on Maddow's case over.

      Or so you "think" if you are a Somerby-hating, Maddowphile.

      The rest of the world can see that's not true at all. Most of the coverage here of Maddow has involved repeated mistakes and false claims that have NEVER been corrected by Maddow.

      The same is true, to choose another target, of Gaill Collins' horse manure -- repeated, false, never corrected -- and the comments to her posted columns show us that her readers have internalized and expanded upon those false beliefs.

      So, NO, idiots, there is no comparison between this story and MSNBC's miscoverage of Williams/Zimmerman, or Collins' flogging and embellishment of the Seamus story, or Maddow's mischaracterization of a report on male/female wages, or any number of other examples.

      There is a big difference, as hardindr accurately notes, between "getting a story wrong for 15 minutes" and correcting it yourself, permanently, and the type of work by Maddow that you clowns would like to brush under the rug.

      But the evidence is VERY clear -- despite your never-ending claims, you actually cannot think for yourselves.

    6. Well, actually, Fox has never quite corrected itself. In 15 minutes, or to date. Their lame excuse is that they were merely, and I quote, "reporting the facts as they came in." As if the Supreme Court ruled against the mandate, then changed its mind after Fox's first report.

      But you don't know that because Bob never told you. And I'm the one who cannot think for myself.

      Also something else Bob will never tell you. After the oral arguments, pundits lined up to say how weak the commerce clause argument was as well as the lawyers who argued it, and thus the mandate was dead in the water.

      However, one caught on to the taxing power strategy and predicted way back then that it would be the reason the mandate would be upheld.

      That pundit? The hated Lawrence O'Donnell. Something else Bob will never tell you.

    7. Wow!

      With your argument about the comparison between this issue and Somerby's corrections of Maddow in tatters, you now respond with this insane fantasy:

      Fox hasn't corrected itself.

      Well, you say that. But then you really admit they *have* corrected. You just find their excuse for the mistake laughable. (Which is OK, but not at all the same thing as still saying the Court threw out ACA.)

      Uh, ok, you big dope.

      You live in your world we'll live in this one.

  4. There tend to lots of "last straws" with Somerby -- after all, boredom drives most internet surfing, so resolutions tend to be short-lived -- but "We don’t know if we’ve ever seen a cable channel misbehave more thoroughly" really does break that camel's back.

    How many years of Rupert Murdoch, and shameful abdication by all 3 networks on matters of life and death -- indeed, life and death of millions of people, if you care to look at our foreign policy -- and the worst misbehavior Somerby knows of is George Zimmerman coverage on MSNBC talk shows?

    Is Somerby a right-wing bot? Is he certifiably insane? Or is the word "crank" sufficient to describe this behavior?

    1. 2:39, Bob sure seems to have taken a hard tack to the right. This blog is becoming "Media Matters" for the Tea Party, with the exception that Media Matters doesn't pretend it's conservative when it goes after conservative news media.

      I presume Somerby was alive during the '90s and saw Fox's reporting during the entire Whitewater/Jones/Lewinsky thing. Remember when it was reported nightly that Clinton had "suborned perjury"?

    2. P.S. In addition to the Clinton impeachment and the run-up to the Iraq invation, we also got the whole "Fast and Furious" debacle going on as we speak.

      Somerby on that: (Crickets chirping).

    3. uhm...

    4. Nice try, hardindr, but a link to a post written AFTER Holder had been cited for contempt, when Somerby could ignore it no longer, hardly counts.

      This story broke last October with, it appears, some highly flawed and in most cases, completely false reporting by major news outlets from coast to coast.

      Where was the Great Somerby's incomparable analytical skills back then? Or since?

      Somewhat behind those of Rachel Maddow's, who has been on this one for months?

    5. But TDH's coverage sites no wrongdoing from the right press on "Fast and Furious", maybe they have been little darlings.
      In any event, let's take a trip down short term memory loss lane with The Daily Howler. Off the top of my head:
      Bob made a big, rather Bush friendly big deal about weather the levees were "breached" or "topped" during Katrina. This suggested to him they were being sloppy and maybe unfair to W. When it turned out they were both breached AND topped, we got crickets.

      In the Scooter Libby trail, Bob portrayed the Wilsons as liars, and talked about what a big mistake liberals were making for taking there side. When the State built a solid case against Libby, Bob dropped the subject. Even if you tend to agree the Wilsons became Media Hot Dogs (and I do)this was a particularly egregious. The press at large formed a protective smoke screen around W, making the most elemental aspects of the case matters of opinion. When the highly corrupt pardon rolled in for Scooter, the public seemed to sense W was running a con; but the real facts of the case have never been clarified, and have been as deliberately fudged as anything in the War On Gore.
      And then of course, my favorite, the time those pointy headed liberal critics went after "The Passion Of The Christ", suggesting, get this, that Mel Gibson was some kind of ant-sementic nut case! This story, it seems, did not have legs for TDH.. But consider: a Republican Movie star punches his girlfriend in the face while She's holding his baby, then threatens to kill her on tape, and never does a day of jail time! The press plays along, up and down the line. You might argue it's at least as bad as what is being done to poor George Zimmerman. But once those pointy headed film critics had been proven wrong, there was no more to say about Mel Gibson at TDH.

    6. Good point about Wilson, Greg.
      i was aslo pissed when Bob kept saying Wilson was not credible either, as if the "sixteen words", the Gerson, (Dan) Bartlett, and Hadley campaign of lies, the outing of Plame and subsequent cover up, the leaving of George Tenet twisting in the wind, all counterbalanced whatever Wilson was supposed to have lied about.
      Bob played King Solomon on that one.

    7. And has nothing to to with this post, but whatever.

    8. Yes it does. I am pointing on Bob may be as hesitant to correct his own mistakes as those he trashes.

  5. " It certainly didn't look like she was anxious to embrace Matt Lauer".

    Can't blame her for that. I wouldn't piss on Matt Lauer if he was on fire.

    These presenters are all pretty much cut from the same cloth - they gush over celebrities and that's aboput it.

  6. Ann flunked out in August 2001. The world then(pre-9/11) cared only about whether Gary Condit killed Miss Levy. Nothing else mattered. GWB was shutting down the anti-terrorism programs. Chaney was conducting secret meetings on staeling Iraq's oil. Rush Limbaugh destroyed his hearing with drugs on the news that a Vermont Senator switched out of the GOP making the Senate Democratic. But I digress. Curry was interviewing a journalist who revealed the earth shaking news that Chandra Levy was not pregnant at the time she disappeared, thereby shattering on live TV the only conceivable reason Condit could have had to harm her.

    So what did Curry do? Nothing. Changed the subject. And no news organization reported it. And as a result, we were subjected to the same insane reporting, (CNN had a reporter at Levy's parents' home reporting when he left for work each day) for the remaining weeks right up to 9-11-2001.

  7. Anyone who thinks Somerby has swung right is an idiot. Or has ceded the authority to define what is a liberal to MSNBC. Which amounts to the same thing.

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