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In Defense of Howard Kurtz (Not Really)

When I see so much self-righteous dumping on Fox News media correspondent Howard Kurtz it makes me feel all uppity. Sure, we’ve written a ton on his self-pimping and hypocritical ways over the years. So we’re not immune to knocking him. Still, this week I want to find something, anything, to say about him that would be favorable or show some other side to the journalist once hailed as the nation’s premier media writer.

This week he wrote about WaPo Ben Bradlee‘s daughter-in-law Pari Bradley for wearing a “Swiss cheese” bra. “Do the pictures go too far?” he asked. But all sense of irony is lost on him. Has Howie gone blind? Has he seen the anchors at his own network? You can’t watch Fox News and not notice that many of the female anchors tend to don skimpy, tight clothing that shows off their legs or breasts. And you must realize that they are instructed to do so.

His former newspaper of 29 years, WaPo, reduced his work to a “hallowed middle ground he has spent his entire career clinging to.” Gawker castrated him, said he was having a mid-life crisis and wondered intensely about his relationship to The Daily Download‘s  and now Fox News colleague Lauren Ashburn, who appears to trail him wherever he goes. And others dumped, dumped and dumped. Strangers called him things like “sourpuss pervert” and “old pervert” and said he had a face like “old oatmeal.” WaPo‘s Sally Quinn, also mother-in-law to Pari, told Media Matters that he’s an “old geezer.” Even NPR‘s reasoned David Folkenflik remarked on Twitter, “Howie’s going to do just fine at Fox.” Who says America doesn’t have a big heart?

Pari has since taken her pictures down: “This content is currently unavailable.”

I asked a colleague, don’t you think people are being a little self-righteous here? The response I got: “I think they’re spot on.” Which only fueled my fury. Why can’t people leave Howie (and Miley) alone? Like WaPo‘s Clinton Yates argued, why can’t Miley be herself? And why can’t Howie?

Then I came to from my fugue state and took to his Twitter feed to find out if there was any possible way to defend Howie. (I’m really pulling for you here, man. Come on, help a media reporting sister out, will you?)

August 21: “I’m done clicking on slideshows that are cheap attempts to get 17 clicks for bits of information. Always feel used. Just saying no.”

Oh, I see. So writing something for cheap attempts at clicks is wrong Howie? It’s fine to write something like that just so long as you really believe it and live it. Wasn’t writing about Bradley’s provocative pictures an attempt to get cheap clicks? Click-bait is rampant out there in the media wilderness. Just peruse HuffPost or The Daily Beast and you might want to bow your head in shame as you’re lured into one dark alley after another. It’s not your statement that is troublesome here, Howie. It’s that you don’t practice what you preach that one might find irritating.

August 23: “Forget politics. Best news of the day: Panda Born at National Zoo.”

Heartwarming, Howie! You like Pandas. Maybe you love Pandas. That’s wonderful news. This is your feel-good best news of the day declaration? Fine, you can have this one. Was the animal clothed I hope? I don’t want to see any scantily clad pandas.

August 27: “How media are gorging on Miley Cyrus’ appalling act: This is terrible, horrible, outrageous. Let’s show it again!”

The media is “gorging” on Miley Cyrus. Hmmm…really? Just like you gorged on Pari Bradley? Again, it’s not that Howie gorged on Pari in the first place, it’s that he thinks gorging on someone for largely similar, appalling sexual reasons that they find “terrible, horrible, and outrageous” is well, appalling. For God sakes Howie, find your spine, have a point of view and stick with it.

On a positive note — here it is! — this week he has cut his Twitter use way down, sometimes just one a day. This is absolute music to my eyes. Less is more, Howie, especially in such a seedy medium. Don’t forget it.

Still, words Howie may live to regret came on August 26. “I’m really going to value your input here as we get Media Buzz up and running on Sept. 8; I’ll be doing a lot online as well,” he wrote. Also: “Catchy name or not, Media Buzz show will be substantive but we’ll also have fun on Sundays. Twitter page launches late next week.”

Way to cover your bases: substantive and fun. What could possibly go wrong?

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