Reliable Sources – BREAKING NEWS!

Published: April 27, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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I’ve talked about media analyst Howard Kurtz before. A journalist who specializes in how and what the media reports, Kurtz has hosted the CNN show Reliable Sources since 1998.

Along with a panel of journalists, Kurtz has discussed issues like the media’s overblown coverage of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. Most recently, he’s questioned the media’s fixation of businessman Donald Trump who’s been given far too much coverage discussing his own obsessive belief that President Obama’s birth certificate is illegitimate. The other Trump constant — from Trump’s tilted perspective — is whythe press won’t let him discuss policy issues for a potential 2012 presidential run.

Kurtz began his Sunday show with clips from a variety of interviews including the highlight of the week where Trump accuses ABCs George Stephanopoulos of bias regarding the “birther” issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there is no question. He’s got a certificate of live birth that’s recognized by the State Department.

TRUMP: Let me just say, George, I know exactly what you’re getting at. George, they have co-opted you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who is “they”?

TRUMP: Obviously, Obama and his minions. And by the way, this is not a big focus of my campaign.


Flash – Immediatly after White House officials released the long form of President Obama’s birth record Donald Trump ended weeks of speculation and officially announced that he isAmway’s newest salesman.

We now return to our regular commentary…

KURTZ: That was a low blow about Stephanopoulos being co-opted. George was saying the same thing that virtually every journalist and independent analyst has said, that there’s ample evidence that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. But here we are, thanks to the endless coverage, talking about that nonsense again.

“So are news organizations enabling the Trump presidential phenomenon or finally starting to question his record?” Kurtz asks his panel.

With the media’s continuing focus on tabloid-type stories, Kurtz continues to hold their feet to the fire regarding journalistic standards and the kinds of stories the press shouldreport rather than “Just gravitating toward what is the most fun and perhaps pulls in the best ratings,” Kurtz concludes.

In another segment, Kurtz talks about the fallout from last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf.  “One year ago, when an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, the media jumped on the disaster day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute.”

The questions he asks the government’s man-in-charge, Thad Allen, are just the kinds of questions that need examination:

KURTZ: “…did journalists go overboard on the impact of the environmental disaster? Was the reporting overheated or restrained? We saw an endless parade, it seemed, of scientists and other experts on the air and in print. Did some of these folks know what they were talking about? With the benefit of hindsight, again, did this tidal wave of media coverage — I mean, this was saturation for so many weeks — overstate and overdramatize the impact of that oil spill?”

ALLEN: Well, I think in some cases it was probably underreported. In some cases, it was probably over reported.

The closing segment of Sources had Kurtz revisiting the factual inaccuracies by author Greg Mortenson in his hugely popular book, Three Cups of Tea uncovered in CBS reporter’s Steve Kroft’s story on 60 Minutes.

KURTZ: Mortenson, who wouldn’t talk to 60 Minutes, defends the book, but says he used compressed time frames to tell the story more efficiently. Hmm. The publisher, Viking, says, ‘Well, we relied on the author.’ Is that a high enough standard for a hardcover that has your company’s name on it? Kurtz asks.

Sadly, the issue of factual accuracy – in books, business and politics (with the great exception of the “birther” issue that’s been covered to death) – is one that is only given serious media scrutiny when a high-profile individual happens to be connected to the story.

These kinds of issues and more need to be examined by responsible journalists if citizens are ever to have a chance of recognizing truth from fiction. Edward R. Murrow said it best. “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; [to be] credible we must be truthful.”

Howard Kurtz not only recognizes this truism, but consistently points out that the media’s responsibility lies in covering far more substantive stories than one billionaire’s obsession with a birth certificate.

I only wish network chiefs would spend the one hour a week on Sunday to pay attention to Reliable Sources and get a clue as to the real purpose of electronic media. They might Tivo the show and watch between “Breaking News” updates of Charlie Sheen’s Torpedo of Truth Tour.


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