May 5, 2013

(h/t David at VideoCafe)

This had to be one of the most surreal and uncomfortable interviews in the history of the Sunday news shows.

Politico's Dylan Byers and NPR’s David Folkenflik took over the interviewing reins from Howard Kurtz on Reliable Sources to ask for his explanation and contrition over being fired by The Daily Beast this week.

They were not gentle to Kurtz, variously characterizing him as insensitive, slow to respond to corrections, and playing across the boundaries of journalistic ethics more times than a media journalist tasked to look at how the media does their jobs should do. Clearly feeling that more than his job was on the line, his reputation in tatters, Kurtz took his penance and apologized several times.

Kurtz's dismissal stemmed from his reporting on pro basketball player Jason Collins coming out this week. Kurtz initially insisted that Collins hadn't been forthcoming, and lied about having been engaged to a woman at one point in his life.

Mr. Kurtz was embroiled in a controversy over a blog post he wrote about the basketball player Jason Collins. Mr. Collins co-wrote a Sports Illustrated article that was published on Monday in which he acknowledged that he was gay. In a post this week, Mr. Kurtz criticized Mr. Collins for not admitting in the article that he had once been engaged to be married.

Mr. Collins, however, had written about his engagement to a woman. The error made it appear as if Mr. Kurtz had not read the material, and he became the target of gleeful bashing on Twitter. The Daily Beast retracted the post on Thursday.

When the Twitterverse pointed out to Kurtz that Collins had been open about being in a heterosexual relationship (why this matters has yet to be explained to me), Kurtz didn't immediately retract his post, but claimed that Collins had "downplayed" the engagement. I'm not sure how much more Collins needed to highlight it than writing this:

When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.

But clearly, it satisfied everyone but Howard Kurtz. So after much scorn, both on Twitter and in the comments, the Daily Beast retracted the post fully and Executive Editor Tina Brown issued a Twitter statement that Kurtz and the Beast had mutually parted ways. It wasn't the only reason the Daily Beast wanted to be rid of Kurtz--reportedly, in addition to your basic Journalism 101 errors, they were troubled by the amount of time he spent promoting another site--The Daily Download--of which he was a freelance contributer--than the site that actually employed him.

Despite having his own show on CNN, Kurtz has dedicated much of his recent time to a new venture: a website called “The Daily Download,” where he regularly appears in video segments with the site’s founder and editor Lauren Ashburn. That preoccupation seems to have taken a toll on Kurtz’s attention span and focus. [..]

The decision to add “The Daily Download” to this list of responsibilities has confounded some of Kurtz’s viewers.

”What would I go to this site for? As another place Howard Kurtz does his able thing on the week’s media news? Okay, but why does he need that? And why do we? He’s got the Daily Beast and CNN: plenty of platform,” Jay Rosen, the New York University journalism professor, wrote in an email to POLITICO. “Daily Download resists understanding.”

Kurtz has written some incredibly sloppy posts in the last few years, which a self-professed media watchdog probably ought to have enough ethics and skills to avoid. It's now up to CNN if they still want to continue to prop up the hackery. Reportedly, his show is "under review" by CNN.

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