Lots of people, including those at "Good Morning America," have been asking me what I think of the media's role in the balloon hoax.
I don't blame television for carrying the two-hour balloon extravaganza that turned out to be an utter sham. ... In 24-hour cable, you put the live pictures on the air first and seek explanations later.
Left unanswered -- unaddressed, even -- by Kurtz: Why? Also unaddressed: Is this a good thing? Kurtz is supposed to be a media critic, but he omits any criticism. He just offers the circular statement that he doesn't blame "television" for what it did because it did what it does. Huh?
Any producer who cut away from the balloon, saying his news team wanted to gather more information first, would have been fired on the spot.
I do not believe this for a second, and I don't think Howard Kurtz does, either. He's spinning on behalf of cable news, not offering a serious, rational assessment of what happened.
Speaking of Kurtz just making things up, here he is last week:
In retrospect, you could say the cable channels went wild covering the flight of an empty balloon. And technically, that is true. But cable doesn't have the ability to say, You know what, folks? We're not sure what's going on here, so we'll check it out and get back to you. I mean, there are times when you can do that. A runaway bride says she was accosted by assailants, you check it out first. But not a runaway balloon. Who among us wouldn't have switched channels if the one you were watching dropped the subject? The ratings, forgive me, must have soared.
First, of course cable has the ability to do that. They choose not to.
But that part about the ratings at the end is what really stands out. Howard Kurtz is Howard Kurtz. Surely he can find out if the ratings did, in fact, soar, and give us a sense of what that meant for the cable channels' revenue. But he didn't last week, and he still hasn't. I suspect that's because two hours of live balloon coverage didn't make the cables much if any money.
Again: Kurtz is spinning for the cable news channels -- one of which pays him.