Kurtz ignored own advice on balanced Reliable Sources discussion panels

››› ››› GABE WILDAU

On October 4, Washington Post "Media Notes" columnist Howard Kurtz said: "I've always felt it is unfair to have working reporters fill the 'liberal' slots on a panel against a conservative commentator." But the discussion panel on the October 24 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, which Kurtz hosts, featured just such an imbalanced, rightward-leaning panel: two journalists -- ABC News chief Capitol Hill correspondent Linda Douglass and CBS chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation Bob Schieffer -- alongside conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks.

In the October 4 edition of "Media Backtalk," Kurtz's weekly online discussion about the media at WashingtonPost.com, Kurtz responded to a reader who complained (apparently in response to an October 4 report by Media Matters for America) that the October 3 panel on NBC's Meet the Press skewed right because it featured National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne alongside two reporters. Kurtz responded:

KURTZ: I've always felt it is unfair to have working reporters fill the "liberal" slots on a panel against a conservative commentator. The reporters may or may not be left of center, but it's not their role, nor would they be comfortable, taking the liberal side of every argument. I don't think we should judge Meet the Press or any show by one particular program, but there should be a rough balance over time.

But Reliable Sources frequently features panels that lean right, while rarely featuring liberal-leaning panels. Following are the members of recent Reliable Sources panels:

October 17:

  • Dana Milbank, Washington Post staff writer
  • Evan Thomas, Newsweek assistant managing editor
  • Laura Ingraham, conservative radio talk show host

October 10:

  • Gloria Borger, co-host of CNBC's Capital Report and U.S. News & World Report contributing editor
  • Jake Tapper, ABC News Washington bureau correspondent
  • Debra Saunders, conservative San Francisco Chronicle columnist

August 29:

  • Chris Bury, correspondent and substitute anchor for ABC's Nightline
  • John Roberts, CBS News chief White House correspondent
  • Debra Saunders, conservative San Francisco Chronicle columnist

August 22:

  • Dana Milbank, Washington Post staff writer
  • Alexis Simendiger, National Journal White House correspondent
  • Byron York, National Review White House correspondent

Reliable Sources has not achieved the "rough balance over time" that Kurtz says he favors. Since August 2004, the only Reliable Sources panel that could be considered liberal-leaning was the October 3 panel, which featured U.S. News & World Report chief political correspondent Roger Simon; longtime pundit, professor, and presidential adviser David Gergen; and New Republic senior editor Michelle Cottle.

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