Howie Kurtz did a segment on the media's coverage of Anthony Weiner's Twitter story on CNN's Reliable Sources. Jeff Jarvis was the voice of reason in a lot of ways. I like Gawker and expect them to have a good time with this story--because there's nothing Gawker likes better than a political sex scandal--and they have Maureen O'Connor defending the merits of their coverage. Kurtz set up her opening by saying that Gawker can get away with using salty language on their site and she responded by saying the word "dick" on TV and although it made it on the telecast, it was deleted out on CNN's transcript page. Transcripts must never be seen by children. They may go blind.
MAUREEN O'CONNOR, WRITER, GAWKER: Well, I personally only cover Capitol Hill for the underwear scandals. This is what we do. And, you know, is this relevant to Anthony Weiner's career as a politician? Maybe. But it's an interesting story. And from our perspective, this is what we do. We cover human interest stories. We cover the strange case of a person, a powerful person, ending up falling to the exact same ridiculously follies that everyone does, taking a picture of his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and getting caught doing it.
'Doing it' is still not a given yet and the Congressman hasn't admitted to that, but Howie was stunned for a second and then turned to Jarvis and asked him how journalists handled the story.
KURTZ: OK. As I was saying, Gawker does have a different way of talking about these things. Not a word that I would use on the air. Jeff Jarvis, I know you're not embarrassed to talk about these things. We've talked about your prostate operation on this program. How did journalists do on this story, particularly on figuring out what happens with a Twitter account, whether it can be hacked and whether a photo can be sent without your knowledge?
JEFF JARVIS, FOUNDER, "BUZZ MACHINE": Well, Howie, I disagree with you when you say the media had no choice. Yes, there's a choice. It's a fine story for Gawker, absolutely. It's a fine story for Jon Stewart, who point out the bloggers actually did some reporting on this.
But all in all, what's the real story here? You know, that a congressman has a penis? Let's stipulate that, there's no news in that. That he wears underwear? Who cares. That he might have accidentally sent out the wrong photo on Twitter? OK, big deal.
We have to find some medium ground here behind the American Puritanism of, oh, my God, congresspeople are sexual, and the European view that, of course they're sexual. There's some middle ground. This is not a story, Howie. The amount of effort that was put into this was just pathetic.
KURTZ: Jeff, I take your point that perhaps we have overplayed it. But the reason I said we have no choice is because Congressman Weiner kept giving interviews in which he clearly could not answer basic questions, including the clips I just played about, well, I have no idea whether that guy and that picture of some guy in underwear is me.
JARVIS: OK, but carry it so the extreme. So what is the story?
JARVIS: If he had sexually harassed someone, then maybe there's a legitimate story. But if, at the most, he sent out a photo from his hard drive with his photo on it, what's the big deal? What's the news there? What's the impact on democracy and how we live our lives? Zippo.
Jarvis tried to make some sense of the MSM feeding frenzy. But there's little sense to be found.
John Ensign, whose affair is fast becoming legendary for its insanity and depravity didn't face the feeding frenzy that this story has. Tom Coburn has been given a pass by the MSM and it appears he was deeply involved. Murray Waas did at least get a comment out of him.
The media has no idea how Twitter works and what the "Follow" function does and they immediately equated it to stalking. Most people don't know who's following who on Twitter and how to use the many functions available to users unless they are pretty committed to it. And with so many people online and using aliases as many blog commenters do, it would have been helpful to explain how ignorant the media is about Twitter and maybe explain how it's used. I still ask my team a lot of questions about how to use Twitter better since I'm so busy and it's another software platform I have to learn. As Jon Stewart told CNN, how about doing some reporting since you're a news organization.
STEWART: Well I guess that's the end of it. By the way, those liberal and conservative blogs having an all out war, they're probably not doing anything about this story, except showing that the EXIF tags from the photo don't match the camera Weiner normally uses, although analysis of the actual yfrog image shows no signs of manipulation although it's very odd that the only person who image in the tweet has a history of sending harassing messages to the woman who had received the tweet and others who follow the Congressman on Twitter.
Wow, those blogs, that sounds a lot like reporting. Slow down Woodward and Blogstein let the big boys at CNN handle this with their trademark "I guess we'll never know."
To be fair, they’re not just going to let a guy come on and speculate saying Congressman Weiner might be some sort of sexual predator or pedophile, particularly if the accuser is someone who has openly and publicly sworn that his life’s mission is to destroy those people on the institutional Left.