As Huffington Post's Danny Shea noted, it all started with a column by Politico's Patrick Gavin taking Washington Post/CNN's Howard Kurtz to task for booking a familiar cast of characters on Reliable Sources:
"Washington can be a clubby town and CNN's 'Reliable Sources' may very well be television's best representation of that clubbiness," Gavin wrote. "It's a Sunday show by reporters, for reporters, about reporters and is hosted by Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz, who himself can be seen making all the right appearances on Washington's clubby cocktail circuit with all of us other reporters."
Gavin added that he has "always found it disappointing" that "Washington gossip columnists" and "Washington media writers" -- both categories he admits falling into -- do not often appear on Kurtz's show.
Kurtz responded on this weekend's Reliable Sources, as Shea notes, making things personal:
"If this is some kind of club, it's one that Patrick Gavin has been trying to join for quite some time," he adds. "He has repeatedly asked and cajoled me to book him on this program. Here's an email Gavin sent me just a few weeks ago: 'Why yes, I'd love to come on Reliable Sources if you're doing any White House Correspondents Dinner curtain raisers this month.'
"Sure, Patrick, we'd be happy to have you on. Sometime in the next decade."
Gavin ultimately replied at length in a statement to Shea:
Kurtz has gotten very defensive about the 'clubby' angle in my piece but he's also assuming that that was meant as a criticism. It may be to some people, but for others, Reliable Sources' clubbiness is part of it's appeal...it's like a Washington BBQ: People you know talking about things you know. Of course there have been guests outside of the Beltway and the gang of 500. No one said otherwise. I think for Kurtz to think that a list of his Top 20 guests over ten years is a completely foolhardy compilation is silly. It's a legitimate gauge and an interesting discussion topic and his sensitivity to our piece makes it seem like his show is above examination. In other words, if you write about Kurtz, he goes on the attack.
Besides: If there was any better indication of the show's inside-baseball nature, it's Kurtz using up airtime and digging through his email archive to do a segment on my piece about his show. It's a slow news week on July 4th weekend, but still...
What Kurtz still isn't discussing, however, are two questions I addressed in my piece and which I emailed him about beforehand: Why have no other Washington media reporters (Michael Calderone, Harry Jaffe, Erik Wemple, etc.) been ever asked to appear on the program and why does he almost always turns to his paper's gossip columnists as guests instead of from other area papers? He chose to not directly answer those questions. I'm curious why he's unwilling to talk about that, especially as a media reporter who demands transparency from others.
Gavin is correct in much of his Kurtz criticism -- and by the way, it happens to be constructive criticism. The Washington Post/CNN media writer doesn't just skew his bookings to the advantage of his Post colleagues, there are often ethical issues at play in the way he covers media issues involving the Post and CNN.
It's no wonder Kurtz appears to have such thin skin.