Howard Kurtz Defends His Own Kind

In his Media Talkback online forum, Howard Kurtz takes questions from readers. Unfortunately, at least in this instance, he doesn’t actually answer them:

Pennington, N.J.: Why do we keep having people who were wrong on Iraq giving advice on TV? MTP this week had a politician and two Times columnists who have been consistently wrong. Why not have Russ Feingold, Paul Krugman, and Bob Herbert who were and still are right.

Howard Kurtz: If you banned pundits or politicians who were wrong about something from further TV appearances, the newscasts and talk shows would have a near-impossible time finding guests.

Note to Howard: The questioner did not ask about or propose banning anyone from TV. This was a reasonble inquiry as to why there is such an abundance of bunglers being presented as experts. Your answer implies that it doesn’t matter if a pundit is a serial screw-up. Is it really too much to ask that TV commentators demonstrate an ability to correctly analyze the issues they are invited to discuss?

Another questioner later asked much the same thing and Kurtz still didn’t comprehend, responding:

Howard Kurtz: A majority of both houses of Congress went along with the president’s war resolution, and a majority of news organizations supported the war and the argument that Saddam had WMD. So you had an awful lot of people who were wrong. Some of the publications have run mea culpas, and some of the politicians — John Kerry and John Edwards leap to mind — have said they were wrong to support the war. But I don’t think anyone has completely been let off the hook. Both politicians and pundits have had to account for the stance they took in 2002 and 2003.

Note to Howard: The fact that there were “an awful lot of people who were wrong” only reinforces the need to identify the few who were right and to bring their superior analysis to the fore. Despite your assertion, I can’t think of a single pundit that has had to account for an erroneous stance, even though there were an awful lot of them. I am also unable to think of a single pundit that has been rewarded for having been correct.

This illustrates one of the fundamental shortcomings of modern journalism, particularly the broadcast variety. The same faces are rotated throughout the TV schedule regardless of what they have to say or their credibility (or lack thereof). Once you’ve been admitted to the fraternity, you’re tenured and can rest assured that there is no professional lapse that will result in your removal. This creates an insular community that defends itself from outsiders and forgives its member’s failings. At the same time, it insures that diversity and dissent are dismissed, especially if it contradicts the established order.

The question is really very simple, Howard. Shouldn’t those who are more frequently correct be invited back more often than the brain-dead, ideologically compromised, elite pundicrats that endlessly litter the television landscape? You know, all of your buddies?


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