Keep in mind, his day job is being a media critic.
That said, here's Kurtz crowing today:
I took some heat a few weeks ago for quoting a radio industry analyst as saying that Rush Limbaugh's ratings had surged during his vociferous battle with the White House. Now Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer has the numbers to show that my piece was on target.
The heat came courtesy of yours truly. And according to Kurtz's convenient telling today, he was right about Limbaugh's ratings and I was wrong to question his work. Except that Kurtz--a media critic by profession--leaves out all kinds of pertinent information and misleads readers about what he actually wrote.
This is what he wrote on March 6. It was the first sentence of his news report [emphasis added]:
By one measure, Rush Limbaugh is a clear winner this week: His ratings have nearly doubled since his feud with the White House burst into the media limelight.
Note that Kurtz did not, as he insists today, claim Limbaugh's ratings had "surged." That's what he should have written. Instead, Kurtz stated as fact that Limbaugh's ratings had nearly doubled; that they were up 80-90 percent nationwide. I jumped all over that because there was simply no proof; no proof in the article (the referenced "industry analyst" simply gave Kurtz a guesstimate), and no proof within the radio industry since syndicated ratings for shows like Limbaugh's aren't turned around that fast. Indeed, the very next day, Kurtz's Post colleague wrote an article explaining why nobody really has any idea what Limbaugh's ratings are.
That's the back story, and please note how Kurtz a) isn't accurate about what he previously wrote re: Limbaugh's ratings and b) doesn't provide a link so readers can see what he wrote. It's up to CF to explain what's going on.
Now, back to the current ratings. Kurtz says he's vindicated because a conservative blogger posted some ratings information for a handful of major market stations where Limbaugh is broadcast and where the stations enjoyed a big jump in audience size. Kurtz quotes from Maloney's cheerleading piece and cites five markets where Limbaugh is up; five out of the 300+ stations Limbaugh is reportedly heard on. But in those five markets, there's not one in which Limbaugh's show has "nearly doubled" its ratings. Not one. But today Kurtz claims he was right all along.
And is it just me, or is it odd that a media writer for the Washington Post is reporting about radio ratings that he doesn't even have access to? As far as I know, conservative blogger Maloney is the only one who's published the Rush numbers. (A gift from the show?) Are the numbers accurate? I'll assume they are. But when was the last time Kurtz turned to a partisan blogger to confirm hard ratings information? Shouldn't Kurtz wait until he, or someone else at the Post, can independently go over the ratings info instead of just assuming that a partisan blog is speaking the unvarnished truth about Limbaugh's audience growth?
UPDATE: Maybe I should claim vindication as well, since on March 9, I wrote, "Have Limbaugh's numbers spiked in recent weeks? I'd be shocked if they hadn't given the extraordinary publicity he's received."
See, just like Kurtz, I had it right all along.
UPDATE: The Media Bloodhound has some more on Kurtz woes.
A week ago, Politico editor/co-founder John Harris wrote a peice for CJR about Politico, now and in the future, in which he wrote a lot about Politico being a "major player" -- but ignored little things like ensuring they focus on important stories ... and that they get the stories right.
Now the Washinton City Paper names Harris and his colleague Jim VandeHei DC's best and second-best editors, respectively. And, once again, the concept of "quality journalism" doesn't even seem to cross anybody's mind, as the City Paper focuses on business models and publicity.
I understand that the news media, like plenty of other industries, faces an uncertain future. It's only natural that those who work in the media give some thought to profitability. But it's striking that they don't bother to even pay lip service to the idea that their jobs should involve producing accurate, thorough, meaningful journalism about important topics.
The Drudge Report is mocking the Obama administration with this banner headline:
NANNY STATE: GOVERNMENT WEBSITE TO WARN OF SADNESS/CRYING OVER ECONOMY
The Drudge item details how, reportedly, the White House will roll out an online initiative to help people spot the early signs that "warn of depression, suicidal thinking and other serious mental illnesses. It will raise warning flags for: Persistent sadness/crying; Excessive anxiety; Lack of sleep/constant fatigue; Excessive irritability/anger."
According to Drudge this is supposed to be a hoot and we're sure conservatives will join in the hilarity and make fun of government for trying to help hard working Americans deal with the difficult strains that have accompanied our drastic economic downturn.
Because, y'know, suicide today is such a funny topic. And the idea that today's economy might be leading people to do deranged and violent things, well that's just a liberal, big government myth, right?
UPDATE: No More Mister Nice Blog wonders where Drudge was during the Bush years when the federal government offered up similar type of "Nanny State" initiatives.
Among other things, this serves as a useful reminder that the people who ultimately call the shots in major news organizations are wealthy elites. From Philadelphia magazine:
Though the company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy at the time, this past December Philadelphia Media Holdings awarded bonuses to CEO Brian P. Tierney, vice president of finance Richard Thayer and Daily News publisher Mark Frisby.
PMH board chair Bruce Toll confirmed bonuses of $350,000 for Tierney and $150,000 each for Thayer and Frisby in a phone conversation on Friday. Reached by phone, Frisby told Philadelphia, "The numbers are wrong. But I'm not going to give you a number."
PMH filed for bankruptcy in February. Toll, of the homebuilding Toll Brothers company, confirmed that the PMH board knew the company¹s fiscal situation was dire. "The financial condition of the papers was obviously not good," said Toll. "We knew what was going to happen sooner or later."
So why give out $650,000 in bonuses? "We thought it was deserved," he said. "But we can't get into the details because we're involved in bankruptcy proceedings."
It had earlier been revealed that Tierney received a raise in December, just before Christmas, boosting his pay roughly 40 percent to $850,000. The company initially defended the raise, which was revealed in its bankruptcy filing, by saying that Tierney had taken on extra responsibilities since his initial deal had been struck.
Tierney gave up the raise shortly after it was revealed. Frisby and Thayer simultaneously gave back smaller raises. Now comes news of the bonuses, which were awarded just two months after the company's unions voted to postpone $25-a-week raises for each of its members at the request of PMH.
UPDATE: Atrios has more.
Howard Kurtz continues to act as though Joe Scarborough doesn't exist, so that he can suggest MSNBC is as liberal as FOX is conservative. A couple of months ago, Kurtz went to great lengths to downplay the three hours a day that MSNBC hands Scarborough. Today, he just disappeared Scarborough from a discussion of the cable channel's leanings:
N.Y., N.Y.: Once again, I must take exception to the depiction of MSNBC as left- leaning. Rachel Maddow is certainly a progressive "left" leaner and Olbermann, while appearing left-leaning, is actually a libertarian with personality leanings (i.e. he likes Obama and does not like Bill O'Reilly -- I'm sure you can recall how much he did not like Hillary Clinton who was to Obama's left on many issues). Matthews and Shuster are center right with Matthews having a particular fondness for D.C.'s homegrown insular conventional wisdom as dispatched by folks like Howard Fineman (Morning Joe is big on this, too). I would be delighted if there was a progressive news channel but MSNBC is definitely not that channel.
Howard Kurtz: You're entitled to your view, of course. But one way to measure it is by criticism of the two administrations. Olbermann and Maddow criticized the Bush administration virtually every day, and have clearly been more sympathetic to Obama. Hannity has ripped the Obama administration, and O'Reilly has been skeptical to critical, almost every day, and both were more sympathetic to Bush. The same applies to the vast majority of their guests. And Democratic politicians are far more likely to show up on the two MS shows, and Republicans on the two Fox shows.
Note that the questioner mentioned Morning Joe - but Kurtz, bent on equating MSNBC and FOX, pretended the show didn't exist, and that MSNBC consists solely of Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann.
Howard Kurtz, today:
New York City: I realize you're not the Ombudsman, but you do call yourself "Media Critic," so hoping you'll comment on this one: The Post used a lot of breathless language a while back to announce the scandal over the AIG bonuses was "increasingly blowing back on Obama" and "threatening to derail" the young administration's agenda. But how in the heck does the Post know the Obama White House is paying a stiff political price? The reporters don't (can't?) actually point to anything to suggest "the public" is taking its anger out on Obama, or that the public has decided he's to blame for Wall Street's greed. (Greed the president has, in fact, denounced.). There's no polling data cited, and the article doesn't offer up even anecdotal evidence to suggest Obama's entire agenda is now threatened. I suppose it's just a coincidence that the RNC thinks the exact same thing, right? So... why does this article appear as a "news" story and not in the op-ed section?
LINK: Anger Over Firm Depletes Obama's Political Capital (Post, March 17)
Howard Kurtz: I didn't think the story was opinionated or served up RNC talking points by any means. But I do think it got out a little bit ahead of the available facts.
Anyone want to guess what "I didn't think the story was opinionated ... I do think it got out a little bit ahead of the available facts" means?
This gave us a good chuckle, reading the WashPost's Kurtz. It's in an article about Fox News and Kurtz faithfully goes through the pointless ritual of giving FNC bosses a chance to explain how the entire operation isn't really a GOP movement-driven organization:
Fox executives maintain that the channel's reporting is aggressive but not ideological. Senior Vice President Bill Shine says that "our reporters, people like Major Garrett, have been asking tougher questions" than their rivals, such as scrutinizing efforts to increase White House involvement in the 2010 Census. As for the commentators, Shine says Hannity still has some liberal guests.
Of course, Hannity's longtime liberal co-host, Alan Colmes, recently left the show* so now it's just right-wing Hannity for an hour each weeknight. But an FNC boss claims Hannity still has "some" liberal guests on, so Kurtz types it up.
We just did a three-minute search on Nexis and found Hannity's list of guests for the past week. We couldn't find a single liberal. (A couple of Dems, yes. Liberals? No.) But we did see that Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter, J.C. Watts, Karl Rove, Hugh Hewitt, Newt Gingrich, Judd Gregg, Dick Morris, (radio nut) Mark Levin, and the WSJ's Stephen Moore appeared on the show.
Maybe when Hannity actually does have "some liberal guests" on his program Kurtz can publish an update.
UPDATE: * Changed original language to indicate Colmes left the show on his own accord.
And that the press, aside from downplaying what have now become routine, gun-related killing sprees that dot the nation, has completely walked away from even raising the issue of gun control in the wake of the rampages?
The latest proof came in the wake of the carnage that unfolded in Carthage, North Carolina, on Sunday when a heavily armed suspect, Robert Stewart, entered a local retirement home and began randomly shooting patients and employees with a high-powered rifle. Eight were killed and three others were wounded before police subdued the man. The local police chief described the killing scene as "unimaginable, horrific, everything you can possible imagine that is bad in this world."
The thin coverage the story has received nationwide has been rather astounding. According to TVeyes.com, in the 24 hours since news broke about the bloody killing spree, it has received just 180 mentions on cable and network television, combined (i.e. ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, and NBC.)
By contrast, the flood that didn't materialize as feared in Fargo, North Dakota, over the weekend received nearly 250 mentions during the same time span. So the flood that didn't happen got more coverage than than the killing rampage that left eight people dead in North Carolina.
Also, TV mentions of General Motors in the last 24 hours, prompted by the news its CEO is being forced out, far outnumbered the news mentions of the nursing home killing spree.
As for a discussion of gun control in the wake of the nursing home massacre, forget about it. It never came up on TV. The press has no interest in dissecting our Rampage Nation.
To date, there have been just seven mentions of the story on cable and network news, according to TVeyes.com
Here's the headline on an article in The Hill about purported Obama missteps: "Experts say Obama needs to watch the gaffes"
And here's the 18th paragraph:
The presidential experts don't believe that Obama has been more gaffe-prone than his predecessors. "Most presidents make rookie mistakes because everything they say is going to be newsworthy, and even prominent individuals get surprised by that," West said.
In between, The Hill lists various supposed Obama "gaffes" going back two years. Included among them: "saying that bailed-out businesses shouldn't be going to Las Vegas." The Hill may consider that a "gaffe," but I suspect few Americans want companies that have been bailed out by the government using that tax money to head to Vegas.
The Hill then inadvertently shows that Obama is being held to a higher standard than his Republican predecessors:
Ironically, a tool that Obama keeps at the ready to avoid verbal missteps - the teleprompter - has quickly become a running gag, with a popular blog launched pretending to be the voice of Obama's omnipresent teleprompter. This might not play against a politician, except for the fact that Obama was praised as a great orator on the campaign trail by right and left.
The fact that the same people who would mock Obama for verbal missteps mock him for taking unremarkable steps to avoid them isn't really "ironic" -- it's an indication that Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. The Hill continues:
Noting Reagan's reliance on note cards, [Lee] Edwards said the teleprompter was a new factor in presidential assessment. "It's just strange," he said. "We haven't been able to figure out why he's so dependent on it, because he's a really intelligent guy.
So, Ronald Reagan relied on note cards, but it's supposed to be remarkable and inexplicable that Barack Obama uses a teleprompter? Huh? Do Lee Edwards and The Hill think there is some fundamental difference between note cards and a teleprompter?
Finally, would it surprise you to learn that Edwards is the Heritage Foundation's "Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought," or that Heritage touts him as "the chief historian of the American conservative movement"?