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[Washington Babylon]

Waiting for Kurtz


I’ve been mildly surprised that Howard Kurtz, the Post’s journalism ethics guru and a man always willing to critically examine his own employers, hasn’t discussed the cases of David Broder and Bob Woodward. After all, he clearly feels passionately about the topic, as seen in this excerpt from a 1996 PBS interview:

Too many journalists, these defenders of the First Amendment, take the view that we are private citizens, and we don’t have to discuss whether we make 10 or 20 or 30 thousand dollars talking to the National Association of Wigget Manufacturers. And these are the same folks who call for full disclosure from politicians about any financial matter. And so, I think, increasingly, part of the public anger at the news business comes from this sense of arrogance, this double standard, that it’s okay to go moonlight and take money from corporations if you are a journalist, but you don’t feel you have to talk about it publicly. I don’t think that washes anymore….

An awful lot of very well-respected, well-known journalists have been unable to resist the lure of lecture circuit cash once they ascend into this pantheon of celebrity journalism. And I don’t suggest that any of these people are on the take, or that they would knowingly slant a story just because they spoke to a health insurance group the week before. But sometimes, perhaps, it’s the stories that you don’t do about these interest groups that could be a problem. And certainly when health care reform was at the top of the Washington policy agenda, for many of these folks to go out and talk to health industry groups for tens of thousands of dollars, and then talk about those same issues on Sunday morning, and then say that the public didn’t even have a right to know that money had changed hands, I just think that is an awfully short-sighted view of journalism.

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