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Sock-Puppet It To Me?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Pest Staff Writer
Monday March 19, 2007

In the course of many years as a journalist and media critic, I have covered hundreds of troubling stories that weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of the subjects, the readers, and me as well. Amongst the most difficult assignments that a reporter confronts are those wherein his or her credibility is at stake. Professional journalists have only their reputation upon which to rely and there are days when we must step forward to defend it.

Today is such a day.

There are rumblings erupting from the depths of the Internet that call into question certain parts of a column I wrote on February 9, 2007, "Strafing the Speaker." The article addressed the nature of travel accommodations for the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. It was my intention to illustrate the variety of opinions emanating from "typical" bloggers. In doing so, I cited 3 sources and, inadvertently, incited a mini-maelstrom of controversy.

What sparked the outrage of the blogset is that two of the websites I referenced had short and unremarkable histories. In fact, Radiant Times had only been around for a week or so, and Political Retch was less than 24 hours old, with just one posting, when I cited it. This raised the curiosity of a number of insolent, web-sters including one that satirically sports the name of Roger Ailes. I thought that I had sufficiently dealt with the matter in my next column where I wrote:

"For those who wonder why I quoted two new and obscure bloggers as criticizing the speaker--along with David Frum, who kind of defended her--I often try to look for average bloggers in their pajamas (or dorm rooms or wherever) rather than just stick with the top 100. That doesn't give them the same weight as Instapundit or Kos or Power Line or the HuffPost, but it's another way of taking the cyberpulse." [I recently learned that looking for average bloggers in their pajamas may not be legal in some states and I promised the court it wouldn't happen again]

Although I thought I had deftly muddled the issue with a plausible sounding answer that was thoroughly unresponsive, it did not silence my critics. Mark, at the colorfully named News Corpse, has sent multiple emails to me, my editor, and the Post's Ombudsman, Deborah Howell. [Ed: News Corpse itself was once referenced in the Media Notes column. But it had been publishing for over a year, with more than 150 articles written, at the time of the citation] Our strategy of ignoring him has, thus far, proven effective. When will these upstarts learn that they cannot challenge establishment media titans like the Washington Post? Do they really expect us to give serious consideration to their pedestrian griping?

News Corpse and others want to know how I came across the websites quoted in my article. They belligerantly insist that I explain how blogs that were so new and obscure that they did not appear in any search engines, still managed to register on my radar. To compound their harping, they inquire as to why, after seeing them, I would bother to cite these nearly empty, unreliable blogs even if there were a reasonable explanation for how I stumbled upon them.

What these critics fail to understand is that it is none of their business. I don't have to answer to them. For what it's worth, I could have created the sites myself to provide corroboration for my preconceptions. Or I could have had my wife, Sheri Annis, do it. As president of Fourth Estate Strategies, she has the requisite skills and experience to produce convincing right wing propaganda. So what if we did invent these sites? What are you going to do about it, tell my boss? Go ahead. You'll be lucky if you get a response back that tells you to "stuff a sock-puppet in it."

In the end, these sniping parasites need to get off my back. Don't they know who I am? I'm Howie Kurtz of the Washington Post and CNN. I am the unassailable voice of Mainstream Media™ and I will not tolerate such impertinence from my lessers. F.O.

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