Monday, May 22, 2006

Howard Kurtz Pens Hit Piece on Truthout & Leopold, Omits Key Fact

You know something's fishy when a prominent rightwing blogger offers a better defense of the progressive blogosphere than a senior Washington Post reporter. Captain's Quarters acknowledges what Howard Kurtz fails to mention in Kurtz's takedown of Jason Leopold and Truthout's Marc Ash:
"The Daily Kos has already outed Leopold for some sock-puppetry, and it doesn't take much imagination to think that Leopold would not have shied from misrepresenting himself." - Captain Ed
As Chris Bowers at MyDD argues - and Captain's Quarters obliquely implies - major progressive bloggers have stayed away from the story. But that didn't stop Kurtz from making this generalization:
“While no other news organization touched the report, word spread through blogs and Internet sites.
While Kurtz's assertion isn't false, it is most certainly overbroad. I find it interesting that he fails to mention what Bowers lays out so clearly:
"There is something else that this story demonstrates: a difference in the willingness of many major left-wing sites online and major right-wing sites online to run with unsubstantiated stories. Last week, despite what appeared to be an extremely hot story from Leopold in Truthout about Rove, led by Peter Daou almost no major left-wing blogs ran with front-page supporting comments on Leopold's story.... The progressive political blogosphere is quite capable of self-policing, if for no other reason then we know the right-wing and the established news media are extremely eager to pounce on our mistakes to try and discredit us."
Bowers correctly notes that I've written skeptically about Leopold's Rove 'scoop', expressing the following concern:
"[T]he reason I write this is that Leopold's ubiquitous reporting has set expectations very high in the blog community. We're at a moment when blogs are under assault by prominent media and establishment figures. I wouldn't want to see him used as a cudgel to flog the progressive netroots as a bunch of conspiracy nuts. There's enough of that already. We don't need to provide ammo to our opponents."
A day after I posted that, the WSJ obliged by using the Leopold flap to attack progressive blogs. Salon's Tim Grieve responded:

"The Journal's Anne Marie Squeo checks in today on Leopold's report that Rove has already been indicted in the Valerie Plame case, and she uses her story as an occasion for a little blog-bashing. Squeo says that bloggers have "blurred the lines with traditional media and changed both the dynamics of the reporting process and how political rumors swirl," and she quotes Jay Rosen for the proposition that the blogosphere has a "let's see if this holds up" philosophy when it comes to news.

Just two problems here: Leopold isn't reporting on Plamegate as a blogger, and the blogosphere -- or at least the part of it we respect -- hasn't taken anything like a "let's see if this holds up" approach to his latest report. While some liberal bloggers jumped immediately on Leopold's Rove "scoop" Saturday, many others looked at the story through more cautious eyes."

Kurtz may get some satisfaction from airing Leopold's dirty laundry and painting Rove's team as innocent victims of a hoax, but if he wants to get things straight, he should at least let his readers know that the story behind the story is not that so many bloggers ran with it, but that the vast majority of influential bloggers didn't. He would also do well to inform his readers that blogs like Whatever Already, Firedoglake, and The Next Hurrah have done stellar work on the Plame scandal.

(For more on Kurtz, visit Media Matters)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howard Kurtz omitting facts? I am shocked, shocked!

5/22/2006 11:10 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

"...the blogosphere -- or at least the part of it we respect -- hasn't taken anything like a "let's see if this holds up" approach to his latest report. While some liberal bloggers jumped immediately on Leopold's Rove "scoop" Saturday, many others looked at the story through more cautious eyes."

Um, first, what is the difference, exactly between "let's see if this holds up" rather than 'jumping immediately', and looking at the story with "cautios eyes"?

Has caution been re-defined now as condemning something as false, rather than as waiting and seeing before endorsing?

Second, the response - correctly, I think, and including Grieves himself - has largely been to do exactly what Grieves said here it's not: a 'wait and see' approach, while documenting all the known facts.

While Grieves has done great at listing everything from Leopold's history with Salon to the 'clarifications' of truthout's position as they're made, he's done little to nothing more than express frustration at being asked to wait for the truth to come out.

The response has included what's appropriate: getting Leopold and Ash making take clear positions, and having *someone's* neck stuck out; either the story will pan out, or Leopold and Ash will expose sources who lied, or Leopold and Ash will be viewed as having done a serious wrong.

The one piece missing in what I've seen is why Grieves did not ask Ash for a time frame in which they will expose the sources.

However, there may be some time, as one scenario speculated about is that the indictment may have occured, and Rove may be cooperating in some way leading Fitzgerald to keep it hidden.

It's possible that reporting confidential information actually can have a harmful effect on the process, if that's the case.

5/22/2006 12:22 PM  
Blogger Seixon said...

He might have done well to mention that mainstream media guys like David Shuster and Chris Matthews on MSNBC have been running the same types of stories as Leopold for months now. In fact, you'd think that they have the same sources. Matthews and Shuster were "convinced" that Rove was going to be indicted, Matthews commenting several weeks ago that it "could happen today".

Of course, the liberal blogosphere had no problems with publishing what Shuster and Matthews were reporting, even though it too was faulty. Leopold committed the sin of stating, as fact, that it had happened without being able to show anything for it.

In summary, I am actually quite amazed at the degree of restraint the liberal blogosphere has shown with this Leopold story. This leads me to believe that most of the prominent liberal bloggers have their own sources, who told them "not to get too far out" on Rove. However, I doubt they would have shown such restraint hadn't it been for Leopold and MSNBC hyping the imminent indictment of Rove since October...

5/22/2006 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Jay Rosen's defense, it should be noted that he was in a WaPo online chat on Thursday and had this to say about the way his quote was used in the Wall Street Journal article...

Jay Rosen: I wasn't happy with the way that came out. You talk to reporters for a good while about a great many things, and what is quoted is so tiny. Sometimes that system doesn't work very well. (And that's one reason I write a blog.)

I didn't realize what use could be made of my comments until I saw the Wall Street Journal article by Anne Marie Squeo. As I recall the interview I spent much of it arguing with the reporter (an NYU grad, and fun to talk to...) about the accuracy of her attitude: "On the Web, anything goes. No matter how far fetched, it gets picked up. Then we're off to the races with rumors and much worse! There's no accountability. No ethics. Let's take Jason Leopold..."

I was trying to establish that while the old system of controls is, in fact, giving way, the new system for establishing reliability among blogs and online news sites is being born, and is not--at all--what Anne Marie Squeo (or her editors) see when they look at the Web. The Wild West! Anything goes! No one accountable for nothing. That's a conversation about a cartoon. Tim Grieve in Salon gave a good reply to Anne Marie Squeo.

5/22/2006 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And let's dare not mention the GOP recipe of rumor churning:

Step 1 - Story leaked to Drudge Report as a "RUMOR"
Step 2 - Radio hate-mongers start talking about the "RUMOR"
Step 3 - Conservative (but respectable!!!) print MSM picks up a story on the "RUMOR"
Step 4 - Entire print MSM reports that another MSM source is running a story on the RUMOR
Step 5 - Conservative TV talking head #1's analysis "I'm not saying this RUMOR is true, and I'm not saying it's false but it needs to be looked at and discussed and repeated and repeated"
Step 6 - Conservative talking head #2 has a segment, maybe a roundtable on the RUMOR
Step 7 - MSM TV reports/discusses it

remember Kerry's affair with the woman RUMORED to be his 'intern'

5/22/2006 1:27 PM  
Blogger RossK said...

In the meantime, the brand, spanking new 'Whirlizter North' has been taken out for a most successful test-drive.

5/22/2006 1:39 PM  

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