Howard Kurtz’ CNN Apology

The power of the press is mighty.  It can raise a person, or situation to the pinnacle of greatness, or pull them down into the pit of a cesspool.  So, when Howard Kurtz spent nearly fifteen minutes of airtime on his CNN show “Reliable Sources”, apologizing for his story about Jason Collins, what is his audience supposed to believe?

Jason Collins became the first active professional athlete, playing in one of the three major sports, to tell the world he was openly gay.  In the first person article, written for Sports Illustrated, among his many revelations was that he was engaged to a young woman.  When Kurtz wrote his story, and repeated it on television, he accused Collins of not mentioning his engagement.  Kurtz, who at the time was employed by the “Daily Beast”, was ‘let go’ from his position.

When I wrote the first article on this subject, I asked the question whether Kurtz had read the entire article, or if he had simply skimmed over it, because he made an obviously false statement.  I still am not certain of the answer.

Much like a politician, Kurtz attempted to explain his way out of a worsening predicament.  His show “Reliable Sources” is ‘under review’, according to CNN.

“This show has always been about turning a critical lens on the media,” Kurtz said as he opened “Reliable Sources” during which he was questioned by POLITICO’s Dylan Byers and NPR’s David Folkenflik. “This time the media mistake was mine — a big mistake, more than one, in fact.”

He went on to say that when he originally accused Collins of hiding the facts of his engagement, and that it was wrong to exclude that from Sports Illustrated readers, he said; “In fact, I was the one who was wrong.”

Kurtz went on to explain that he showed a lack of sensitivity when he raised the issue.  He further said that his later apology and explanation was ‘incomplete’.

At one point, Kurtz looked directly into the camera and told the viewing audience:

“This is not a ritual for me where you just come on camera and say you’re sorry and hope to move on. I’m truly sorry about what happened. I believe deeply in good journalism and fair journalism, and I am determined to learn from this episode and minimize the chances of anything like this happening again.”

When a politician is criticized, he or she often attempts to spin the issue and make an effort to place his or herself in a better light.  Other tactics include a re-direction of the question, or an attack on an opponent.  Although the press generally accepts these tactics, intelligent members of the “fourth estate” find a way to remove his or her attempt to avoid the issue.

When a member of the press, a vaunted and well-known member, such as Howard Kurtz attempts comparable tactics, what should be done with him?

The first issue is that his original comments, both in writing and on television, contained an underlying hint at homophobia.  But the more pressing issue, is if he had the audacity to comment on the Sports Illustrated article which became front page news, and did not read and dissect it thoroughly, can he be trusted to be accurate and honest in any subsequent opinions?

I am not privy to the discussions between Kurtz and his employers, but it seems that there are still many questions to be answered.  The respect I have for the ‘Daily Beast’ convinces me that relieving Kurtz from his position with them was fair and just, and their decision was made with careful consideration of every nuance.

After all this, the most important fact remains.  Jason Collins has received enormous support from every sector of the country.  For one young man, courage to do the right thing trumped fear.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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