Although Howard Kurtz probably would not put it this way, he is a dying breed of journalist. He believes in journalists reporting the news andnot journalists writing their preferred narrative. His new book Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth details how many of his fellow reporters have declared war on journalism itself. As he writes in the afterword:
No less a figure than Jimmy Carter, who endured more than his share of bad press, told columnist Maureen Dowd that “the media have been harder on Trump than any other President” he had seen and “feel free to claim Trump is mentally deranged.”
I’ve been pretty tough on my profession in this book, and I know that will bring a ton of personal criticism my way. Fair enough. But I believe I’m standing up for the fundamental values of journalism, which have gotten sadly twisted in the Trump era.
Kurtz’s book gives many examples of journalism malpractice and an inside look at the White House's communications shop. But that is not the point of his book. The point of his book is that many journalists and editors have given up any pretense of reporting the news and instead have become partisans and members of the Never Trump or “resist” movements.
This is not just when as CNN famously did in a libelous story devoid of truth on Anthony Scarrumucci. A less obvious example was a Washington Post effort to take a factually true bit of information about a 2014 real estate deal of Jared Kushner's company and make some enormous leaps that strained all credulity that it was somehow tied to Russian money laundering. Both were big scoops when released and both were bogus.
But Kurtz is definitely not trying to curry favor with the Trump Administration, Fox News, or even those who believe the “mainstream media” is fake news. He is for reporting the news. Unfortunately others in his profession are opposed to this when it comes to Trump. In one chapter, "Trump Trauma", Kurtz details how his colleagues consider Trump as a foe who must be defeated, not worthy of any sort of factual or news reporting. (Kurtz points out how Huffington Post put Trump in the entertainment section of their blog up until Election Day.)
In my opinion, the New York Times is one of the worst offenders. Kurtz describes how his counterpart there, New York Times Media Columnist Jim Rutenberg, justifies an end to factual news-based reporting:
. . . you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known and by normal standards, untenable.
Throughout his book Kurtz is lamenting his profession much as a judge if he were told there were no laws or precedents to base his rulings on, or a police officer if told he was free to arrest anyone he didn’t like. This is not the way journalism is supposed to work.
As Kurtz concludes:
Donald Trump will not be president forever, but the media’s reputation, badly scarred during these polarizing years, might never recover.
Howard Kurtz will be speaking to the RNLA in DC on Thursday. Please sign up here.