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Kurtz: Shoe Thrower Doesn’t Deserve “Reporter” Label

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Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he answered several questions — as might be expected — about President Bush and the Iraqi shoe-throwing incident (as well as other topics.) Some excerpts:

Ocala, Fla.: Can we expect American journalists to follow the lead of their Iraqi colleague and get tougher with the president?

Howard Kurtz: I knew it! I was telling people yesterday, just wait, some folks will say this is how American reporters should have been treating the president.

Perhaps you’re being sarcastic. Television has had a grand time replaying the footage, and I suppose it’s humorous, and Bush handled it well. But it still makes me uneasy. What if the shoes had been laced with something dangerous? I find it fairly amazing that this guy could get so close as to hurl something hard at the president.

Medord, Ore.: Good morning, Mr Kurtz. May I inquire as to why you apparently felt compelled to belittle Iraqi reporter Muntather Zaidi by referring to him as a “reporter” (ironic quotation marks yours)? I read carefully that section for context and saw no justification offered for that demeaning and belittling use of pejorative quotation marks. I don’t know what he did to earn your ridicule — especially when you actually refer to people like Blanquita Cullum and Jane Hamsher as journalists without the dripping sarcasm. I am genuinely curious. Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Jumping the Gun (Post, Dec. 15)

Howard Kurtz: I happen to have a master’s degree in journalism, and in my studies, I have never encountered our professional duties being defined as including throwing shoes at public officials. Someone who does that is not, in my humble view, as “reporter.”

Last word on the “shoe” incident: If it were an Iraqi politician who threw the shoe, I could understand; that’s not saying I condone it, just that I could understand how, in an environment where politicans throw things (including punches), it could happen. However, a journalist, regardless of where they are from, should have a higher, impartial standard in which they cover the news, even if they represent a news organization with a political “bent”; they should not be making or even be part of the news they’re covering.

Howard Kurtz: Well said.

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