As the harbinger of the mainstream media treatment of the Eason Jordan scandal, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz continues to wear blinders to the overall context of Jordan’s slanderous accusations. In his review of three blogosphere-related oustings over the past week, Kurtz again reports on Eason’s Fables only in the narrowest sense, ignoring the other similar incidents that infuriated the blogosphere:
In the case of Jordan, a 23-year CNN veteran, it was a single online posting by technology executive Rony Abovitz, after Jordan’s ill-fated comments at an off-the-record forum Jan. 27 in Davos, Switzerland, that led to his downfall. The lesson, say media analysts: In the digital age, anyone can be a journalist.
After Jordan told the forum that the U.S. military had targeted journalists — and then backed away from the charge, though to what degree is very much in dispute — he granted an interview only to The Washington Post, and CNN tried to minimize the matter with a terse statement. Jordan maintained that he was talking about accidental and possibly careless attacks on journalists in Iraq, where three CNN employees have been killed. But he compounded the problem, critics say, by not insisting that the World Economic Forum release a videotape of the session.
That’s not inaccurate, but it’s incomplete. As with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article below, it attempts to spin the problem as a single point of misunderstanding, followed by a mystifying cover-up. The consistent problem with Kurtz’ reporting on this story is that he refuses to report on Jordan’s earlier, similar statements, which provide a much different story about Eason Jordan.
One might excuse Kempner, who has no national reputation and may be rather new to the story — although that hardly excuses shoddy research and reporting. However, media issues are Kurtz’ beat, and he arguably is the most well-known and, until now at least, the most highly-regarded media critic in the US. Kurtz sets the tone, and his first three articles on Eason Jordan has certainly done that. Media outlets appear to have assumed the Kurtzian response of ignoring all but that which has been the most publicly known details.
We’ve seen mainstream media stars like Robert Fisk and Maureen Dowd inadvertently lend their names to disreputable journalism; in the former, just for biased and false reporting, and the latter for mangling quotes to significantly change their context for her own purposes. I propose the use of Kurtz as a verb meaning to provide cover for someone through the deliberately selective reporting of facts, just enough of which to protect the reporter against charges of falsification while accomplishing a purposeful misdirection. In this case, the Post has Kurtzed Eason’s Fables into the appearance of a witch hunt, and look for more of the same at other outlets.