How I wish Howard Kurtz were a moron.If that were the case, it would be easy to dismiss the Washington Post and CNN media reporter as mentally impaired, and thus not responsible for his own idiocy. But Kurtz is not dumb. Itís just that his liberal bias makes him say some really, really dumb things.
This morning on Reliable Sources, his CNN show, Kurtz addressed the blogs. They complain about the mainstream media (MSM), he said, but what would they do without CBS, NBC, the Washington Post and New York Times? The blogs spend most of their time “kicking around” the MSM - rather than breaking news or doing original reporting.
Yep, the Monica scandal, broken by Drudge, was not a story. Ditto the fake Bush papers. No story there. And forget about a few years ago, during the 2000 election, when Slate posted exit polling information, long a taboo among the MSN. Nope, no news or reporting there.
Is Kurtz online? Does he read National Review Online, Firstthings.com, Slate, the Huffington Post, Spectator.org? Politicalmavens.com? Does he have any clue how much news, politics, and culture is covered that is missing from the MSM? Does he know what year this is?
I could go through all the various websites and simply itemize the hundreds of stories and reviews and opinions in them that are original - and a lot more interesting than anything in the MSM. But it might be more instructive to simple trace how one newspaper - Kurtzís Washington Post - let bias and lack of originality allow it to blow a story. It was a story I tried to drop in their lap several times.
A quick explanation, and then you be the judge. Earlier in 2005 I published a book, God and Man at Georgetown Prep. It detailed how a world famous all-boys prep school outside Washington was undermined by left-wing Jesuits and hippie teachers. We were not taught the catechism of the Catholic Church, but were instructed in graphic sex ed - including abortion - by Bernie Ward, now a socialist radio talker in San Francisco. We had a bachelor party for a teacher and there was a stripper present. Alcoholism was rampant, as was homosexuality in the clergy. It was a combustive place that was playing with fire, I argued in internet articles from Frontpagemag.com to Spectator.org. I told editors I knew at the Post about what was going on. They yawned.
The Post never touched the book. It was not reviewed and I was not interviewed about it. Of course, if I was a liberal who had exposed a Catholic high school for being repressive in its orthodoxy - say, a school run by Opus Dei - I would no doubt land in the Style section. But suppose that my little book was not newsworthy. Fine. Even beyond that, a couple things should have made the Post think that there was more here than just right-wing polemics. For one, the year before it was published Georgetown Prep sold much of its land to developers for $100 million to build apartments - I story I read about online. At least one older Jesuit complained that the school was becoming so status-obsessed that the students were suffering. The campus became one giant mud pit as the apartments went up - an image I got, again, online. Do ya think a Post reporter might be interested in whatís going on at one of the more famous schools in Washington? Would the pre-secular, pre-Watergate Post - the Post in, say, 1950 - ignore the story?
If thatís not enough, thereís the case of Fr. Orr. Last year Fr. Orr left Georgetown Prep, where he had taught for 20 years, for sexual harassment. I had known in 2004 that an investigation ha been opened about Fr. Orr. Had the Post covered my book and asked me about it, they would have known that too. When Fr. Orr was found guilty earlier this year, the story was broken - by the Washington Times.
People who had read my book, and read the pieces by me and about the book on the internet and in alternative magazines, were not shocked by the revelations.
OK, so letís back up and review. You are a reporter at the Washington Post. A book about Georgetown Prep, the oldest Catholic high school in America, is published by Crossroad, one of the worldís oldest religious publishers. The author is a native Washingtonian. (His grandfather was a baseball player for 20 years with the Washington Senators; in 2003 the author published Damn Senators, a book about this man. It was never reviewed or mentioned in the Washington Post.) In his book, the author reveals the serious collapse in morals and teaching that happened at Georgetown Prep, and speculates that a preponderance of gay teachers and priests might be a tinderbox for the church. He chides the school for greed and allowing too much building on the campus. Right before the book is published a priest who had been there for 20 years is accused of improper sexual conduct, and voluntarily leaves the school. After the book is published, the school sells half the campus grounds to make money. Construction crews move in, and commuters into Washington see a lush green golf course (yep the school had a gold course) turn into a mud hole. In other words, everything the author of God and Man at Georgetown Prep warned against seemed to come to fruition as the book was released.
Um…think you might make a phone call?
Not when youíre the Post. And Howie Kurtz still doesnít seem to get that the empire is collapsing. How different it is now from even ten years ago. I remember around that time a symposium that was broadcast on c-span. It was a seminar about book reviewing, and the panel consisted of editors from the Washington Post Book World, including editor Marie Arana and her husband, head critic Jonathan Yardley. During the q and a, a man crept up tot he microphone. He introduced himself then said the following, which I am paraphrasing from memory: “Six months ago I published a book with a major house. It was about Washington, D.C., the city where I was born and raised. It got nice reviews, including a full page love letter from the New York Times. My question is, why do I have to go to New York to get attention for my work here at home?”
You would have thought the man had walked up to the microphone, belched, then given them all the finger. Jonathan Yardley, looking like he swallowed a hammer, angrily waved the man away, and quickly moved on to another topic. We are God in here. I was left wondering what the Post would not tell me - who was this guy, and what was his book about? That man, like all of us, now has options, as the morning newspaper increasingly goes straight from driveway to recycle bin.One final observation. I couldnít help but notice that in my book Damn Senators I bring something up that Post fails to in the book Katharine Grahamís Washington. That book is a compendium of articles, essays, and reminiscence about Washington from 1917 to the late 1990s. The years coincide with the life of Graham, the legendary late Washington Post publisher. Yet there
ís a hole in Grahamís history. The 1919 Washington race riot, one of the most devastating and remarkable episodes in the cityís history Ė and one that my grandfather was here to witness - is left unacknowledged in the rush to get from Woodrow Wilson to the flappers of the 1920s. The lacuna probably had nothing to do with the fact that the riot was caused, or at the very least aided and abetted, by the Washington Post. The toxic atmosphere that lead to the was the result of both the segregationist policies of the Wilson administration and white resentment over the fact that blacks were moving into higher paying jobs as more white men went of the fight the war. Then, as one historian put it, “the existing conflicts were brought to a boil by opportunistic journalism.” The Washington Post was then published by Ned McLean, a playboy and a man swelling with enmity for the D.C. government and police force. McLean wrote editorials in the summer of 1919 excoriating the police for not controlling the “crime wave” plaguing the city, even though there was no such wave. McLean emphasized the spurious idea that the worst of these crimes involved blacks trying to rape white women.There was widespread violence based on false accounts in the Post. However, blacks fought back, making a stand in front of Griffith Stadium, where my grandfather was in his fourth year as a Washington Senator.
I guess Post editors didnít think any of this important enough to put in the book. Maybe Iíll write a piece about it. Online, of course.
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