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[Washington Babylon]

Beating a Dead Kurtz


I was out Thursday night and missed Howard Kurtz’s appearance on the Daily Show to promote his new cure for insomnia, Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War. Fortunately, Scott Horton called it to my attention with his delightful post about the episode, which includes a link to Jon Stewart’s interview with Kurtz.

The last time a media figure was so thoroughly humiliated on TV came when Ali G. interviewed Andy Rooney. And like Rooney, Kurtz was utterly clueless about what was happening. The highlight came when Kurtz laid out a central thrust of his book, namely that nightly news shows are “framing” the war in Iraq in a negative way and always “find ways to hammer . . . home” bad news. Sort of like Japanese newscasters after Hiroshima.

Kurtz related that Lara Logan’s bosses at CBS had once asked her “to do the lighter side of Baghdad–let’s do a story about female soldiers who are keeping cyberpets online.” I guess if Kurtz had received that request, he would have jumped from his desk and begun preparing a long segment on G.I. Jane and “Barky” the Cyberdog. Logan, because she has self-respect, refused. Indeed, as Kurtz related, she emailed back, “I would rather stick needles in my eyes than spend one second of my time on that story.” Kurtz seemed appalled by this, but Stewart clearly sided with Logan. His reply to Kurtz: “Good for her.”

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