In Depth: Howard Kurtz Punts on Octavia Nasr…
I made sure I had Reliable Sources DVR’d today so that I could see how Howard Kurtz, and by extension CNN, treated the Octavia Nasr controversy.
One of the biggest knocks on Kurtz by some of his most vocal critics, Mickey Kaus and Eric Alterman being two, is that he has an inherent conflict of interest problem because he’s supposed to be covering the media for the Washington Post but he has a show on CNN. Well, based on what happened today on Reliable Sources with the Nasr story, those critics will be feeling entirely justified in their conflict of interest claims.
The Nasr story was reported on Reliable Sources but that’s as far as it went. It got maybe two minutes of air time at the end of the show and was lumped in with a bunch of other media stories that occurred this week. There was no analysis or commentary.
This would not appear to be so galling if Kurtz hadn’t devoted an entire segment to Levi Johnston apologizing to Sarah Palin and another to Rush Limbaugh talking about how Barack Obama would have been a tour guide in Hawaii instead of President if he weren’t black. The Nasr story was tailor made for Reliable Sources to cover. It could have been approached from any number of angles; journalists in the age of Twitter, is a single tweet enough to compromise an entire career?, was CNN over-reacting in summary dismissal rather than suspension followed by re-assignment?, the delicacy of Middle East coverage…you could go on and on. It’s not like there was universal consensus on Nasr other than the fact that her original tweet was chronically brain dead. There’s been commentary on both sides of CNN’s decision to oust her and the story on that is far from settled. Instead of Reliable Sources doing what it’s supposedly there to do we got nothing beyond straight reporting on Nasr but got plenty on Johnston and Limbaugh.
Questions are going to linger around CNN and Kurtz as to why the Nasr story was treated that way. Did Kurtz decide it wasn’t a big enough story? Did CNN “suggest” that just reporting the story was all that was needed? Would the story have been treated differently if the subject wasn’t a former CNN employee?
Who knows. The one thing I do know is that Kurtz did his show a major disservice by not taking the Nasr story head on with a full panel to debate the many serious issues that go to the heart of what journalism is today. It was an opportunity wasted.