Junior High Journalism

From Joe Coscarelli at Press Clips (blog) at the village VOICE:

As interest in Anthony Weiner’s penis and the dirty messages that brought it out to play begins to wane, we focus instead on the media coverage of Anthony Weiner, thereby proliferating Anthony Weiner coverage. Hm! It’s a conundrum, especially for those who go on television to proclaim, “The degree of piling on: the way it hijacks cable news, the way it hijacks the morning shows, the way it is all over the Internet says to me that we are more interested in covering salacious topics than matters of the economy, on matters of war and peace,” while simultaneously writing for a news organization doing just that. Oh, hello there — Howard Kurtz, is that you? Why yes, it is.

thepeeweehermanshowhowardkurtzOriginal image

Weiner Fatigue: Unsurprisingly, Anthony Weiner accounted for 17% of news coverage for the period from June 6-12, according to the News Coverage Index of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.  That’s the fourth most unavoidable news story starring an elected official since January 2007, behind Rod Blagojevich’s Senate seat for sale, Eliot Spitzer’s prostitutes and Larry Craig’s “wide stance.” The economy and the Middle East each accounted for 11% of news, according to the same report, with Weiner also earning the honor of “top newsmaker” above Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.


Howard Kurtz, the former media critic for the Washington Post and currently the Daily Beast’s Washington bureau chief, played the scold instead and as a result gets called a “hypocrite.”
From the Atlantic WIRE:

The Atlantic Wire writes:

    Kurtz the media critic is simply aghast at the excesses of the political press corps. Kurtz the D.C. bureau chief is part of a web site that has covered every tiny incremental advancement of the Anthony Weiner story, including a running slideshow of Weiner’s every shirtless and semi-nude photo and a story about the “pun-filled responses” titled “Weinergate’s 9 Best Moments.” It would seem something would have to give.”

I am not in charge of the site’s Weiner coverage,” he told the Wire, “but I wouldn’t deny for a second that The Daily Beast has aggressively jumped on this story.” The above links say otherwise.

From the Atlantic WIRE:

Howard Kurtz should get over himself. For 20 years, Kurtz earned his bread tsk-tsking the excesses of the mainstream media for The Washington Post. His standard biography kept him at arm’s length from the newsroom. As the “About the Author” section of his most recent book, Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War, put it: “Howard Kurtz is the media reporter for The Washington Post and also writes a weekly column for the newspaper and a daily blog for its Web site.” His distance from the actual crafting of the news of the day gave him the breathing room for sanctimony. But, now, as Washington bureau chief of The Daily Beast, he’s lost that privilege.


Kurtz the media critic is simply aghast at the excesses of the political press corps. Kurtz the D.C. bureau chief is part of a web site that has covered every tiny incremental advancement of the Anthony Weiner story, including a running slideshow of Weiner’s every shirtless and semi-nude photo and a story about the “pun-filled responses” titled “Weinergate’s 9 Best Moments.” It would seem something would have to give. Asked about the tension, Kurtz first minimized his role. “I am not in charge of the site’s Weiner coverage,” he wrote by email, adding, “but I wouldn’t deny for a second that The Daily Beast has aggressively jumped on this story.”


But that sense that he’s part of the machine (as is The Atlantic Wire) feasting on the page views generated by a guy’s dumb mistakes hasn’t come across in his recent television appearances. On Wednesday, Kurtz the media critic appeared on CNN’s In the Arena with Eliot Spitzer (insert irony here) to assess the media’s coverage of the “sexting” scandal engulfing Rep. Anthony Weiner. Predictably, he scolded the media: “The degree of piling on: the way it hijacks cable news, the way it hijacks the morning shows, the way it is all over the Internet says to me that we are more interested in covering salacious topics than matters of the economy, on matters of war and peace. It’s not a novel statement on my part. But I’ve never seen it spin at this velocity and get this far out of control.” Three days prior, Kurtz opened his own show CNN’s Reliable Sources with a panel discussion on the appropriateness of covering the Weiner scandal. “Are journalists enjoying this tangle tale just a little too much?” he asked CUNY journalism professor Jeff Jarvis and Gawker writer Maureen O’Connor.  Yesterday he devoted nearly his entire broadcast to the same, navel-gazing media-on-media criticism. “It’s on 10,000 Web sites in half an hour,” he told Jane Hall, an associate professor of communications at American University. “It seems to me… that there aren’t gatekeepers anymore… Is there a point where it just becomes excessive?”


Though he may not be running the Weiner coverage (and if not, one wonders if he ought to defend his territory as bureau chief), Kurtz has played a hand. He is on record saying he hunted down Kirsten Powers, Anthony Weiner’s ex-girlfriend, to have her write a negative article on the embattled congressman, which he personally edited.


But in his television appearances, Kurtz the media critic makes it clear that media companies should be held responsible for their excesses (which is basically the whole point of his show, Reliable Sources). […] If that’s the case, why doesn’t Kurtz the bureau chief steer the Daily Beast’s coverage away from Weinergate? Is his title as an editor meaningless? Even if he’s just following Tina Brown’s orders, one suspects he could at least steer his own coverage away from the scandal. Yet here he is in today’s column explaining how hard he’s worked the Weinergate beat: “On the afternoon that Anthony Weiner tearfully confessed to all manner of X-rated misadventures, I furiously scribbled notes and banged out a story for The Daily Beast—one of several on a seamy saga that, as they say, has nothing but readers.” After giving similar coverage to John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominque Strauss-Kahn, he adds, “I can defend every one of these stories, which involve public officials and questionable-to-serious allegations,” he wrote today. But it’s worth asking a larger point: If even Howard Kurtz the bureau chief can’t live up to the standards of Howard Kurtz the media critic, what’s the point in making the argument at all?

My take is this: today’s media is a collection of people, for the most part, who are lazy. Instead of covering the boring important stuff that actually affects citizens of the country and the world, their default is sleaze. If it’s sleazy, it’s easy. Why bother having to learn stuff in order to ask intelligent question when they can go for the reality-TV crap? What Anthony Weiner did was stupid, and it was yucky. However, I’d bet my bottom dollar that a surprising percentage of people (both men and women) have done similar things. He didn’t break any laws, and he didn’t hurt anyone except his wife and himeself. The Democrats who threw him under the bus (including President Obama) should be ashamed of themselves. What they should have said when asked about it is Congressman Weiner didn’t break any laws like David Vitter did, and Vitter is still in the Senate, and Weiner never hypocritically passed himself off as a “Family Values” politician, like Vitter and John Ensign and others have done.   It’s a personal issue that he and his wife are dealing with.  Given them some breathing room.  Don’t you guys have more important things to cover?

As for the press, I am so sick of hearing them say that Weiner had to resign, because he was a distraction. The reason he was a distraction is that they were constantly flapping their lips about him and nothing else! Yes, the story was lots of fun with all the innuendo (his name is Weiner!! Oooh!!), but the talking heads on TV and the bloviators in the printed press are supposed to be a little more mature than junior high school boys.


Filed under Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barack Obama, Congress, David Vitter, humor, John Edwards, Larry Craig, Media, parody, politics, Scandals, snark, television, Wordpress Political Blogs

22 responses to “Junior High Journalism

  1. Stories like this remind me of why I listen to NPR. They covered the story, but didn’t put effort into seeing how many poor-taste puns they could slip into the story. It’s like listening to an actual news organization instead of adolescents.

    The fact is, this story is blown way out of proportion, and it’s because the guy’s name is “Weiner.” This really tells you where the American news-watching public is, maturity-wise. As you said in your title … junior high.

    I have no sympathy for the guy, but as the article said, he hasn’t violated any laws. Standards of decency, yes. But it’s not like Vitter is a decent human being. He’s a criminal and a reprobate all at once. Weiner’s just a reprobate.

    In case anyone is wondering why this country gets so screwed up … it’s because we get obsessed with the scandal of a guy named Weiner instead of trying to understand real issues. With wars all over the place, a weak economy, and people rally suffering, I can think of better uses for our time than making locker-room jokes.

    • unfortunately, the media missed the real story. the real story is that asswipes like andrew breitbart can target any politician and find some dirt on him/her. there are no perfect human beings, and with enough scrutiny, you can find “something” on anyone. is that what we want in this country? a political system based on whatever stick is up whomever’s ass about whichever politician? if that’s the case, then i guess all the so-called journalists can put away their pencils and notebooks, because breitbart, drudge, and james o’keefe have everything under control.

  2. Kurtz had the ability to do critique of the TeeVee News Organizations while working for one (CNN) so he must have some sorta invisible super powers beyond talking with what sounds like a mouth full of marbles. Mute button each time his mug shows up as he has no standing, Hasn’t in my mind for years.

  3. John Erickson

    I love the defence of “it was on 10,000 sites in a half an hour”. I can find you 1,000 websites off the cuff that will tell you Hitler is still alive, that Elvis is working in a Burger King, or that the author is a member of Star Trek’s Starfleet. (Actually, the latter is easily over 10,000! 😀 ) More so than sleazy being easy, it seems that the news organs are simply looking to the Net for their content, or using online media to vote for news stories. The latest on the Columbus news is to give 3 teasers, and ask the audience to vote on Facebook for which one they want to see. Here’s an odd idea – HOW ABOUT ALL 3? You’re the friggin’ NEWS, after all! (Sorry, am I relying too much on common sense again?)
    Okay, here’s some blatant silliness to keep this topic from getting too heavy: Blago was number one! YES! Chicago breeds the best sleaze in the nation! 😉

    • funny how the lamestream media (including howie) never seemed to run with all the stories about princess sarah and her pregnancies and her supposed affair and toddy’s supposed affair, etc. thousands of websites were discussing this crap, but you never heard about them on the tv news. why? because when that crap is talked about, the rethugs attack. the dems could learn a few things about controlling the media from them.

      • John Erickson

        By the by, what is off to the right of the word “squirmin'” on your poster? It looks like a clothing button, or a compass, or something small and circular. Or am I just hallucinating again? 😀

  4. I too wish Weiner would have waited another week or two to let things settle down & decide. He did not break laws, he did exhibit poor judgement, but he needed to work that out himself & with his family. The Dems should have backed off, but I’m sure they are all focused on the next election cycle & how this plays out for the election factor.
    For all the juvenile Weiner jokes, nobody had the balls to just speak the truth & bring up Vitter, & Ensign & Larry Craig…. and point out the GOP hypocrisy.
    Vitter, by comparison, did break the law by paying for services from prostitutes– but he kept his seniority & stayed on all the committees he had been appointed to. It was forgive & forget for his sex crime.

    Totally agree with you here!

    Hope you are feeling better.

    • what really pisses me off is that, if it had been any other dem in trouble, weiner would have been the most vocal in his/her defense. he knew enough not to throw another dem under the bus if they hadn’t broken the law.

  5. Nonnie, you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head…this is what passes as journalism ?(twitter gossip) and this is what passes as Democrat leadership ? (Rethug lite)
    Oy gevalt!

  6. I just tune it out and watch TCM instead. The straight people of this society get such grade school level titilation from anything that delves into the forbiden. I was quite offended by those middle age bitches interviewed today about how the Anthony trial is the center of their misearble lives. And no better example of the media arousal factor than what happened during the Iran-contra trial. After endless testimony and buckets of North tears, it dully ploded along until the Dawn Hall testimony came up. Then she related how she would smuggle documents out of the office in her panties….the magic word had been spoken. The next day the trial with many PANTY details was the front page lead on almost every newspaper in the country.

    • tcm is one of my favorite channels. and i can watch it again now, because i drove all the way down to the stupid comcast office to exchange the piece of crap cable box (for the 5th or 6th time, i’ve lost count) that was screwing up all my channels.

      this country is the most immature when it comes to sex. gasp! men have penises! and they get horny! who knew? why isn’t mary bono being raked across the coals for allowing a picture of her with another woman licking her breast? not just a woman, but a campaign contributor! that’s actual contact, something that anthony weiner never had with any of the women.

      • John Erickson

        We had an acquaintance of the friends we lived with when we first moved down here, who was a RAGING homophobe. (Trust me, the phrase “methinks he doth protest too much” was invented for this jerk.) He seriously believed that gay men should be imprisoned, just for being gay. My point? He thought two women together was HOT! And no matter how many times we tried to explain his hypocrisy, he wouldn’t see it. America has been given the idea of two women groping as being the ultimate titillation. I’d be willing to bet that, if somebody found pictures of Bachman and Palin getting it on, both their popularity ratings would skyrocket. (Yeah, I know, sorry for such a disgusting image so early on a Sunday.) All part of the far right double-standard machine.

        • the biggest hypocrites are the ones who will never see, let alone admit, their own hypocrisy. they live in worlds of black and white with no gray. they don’t understand nuance, and they only see things in 2 dimensions. they’re either not very smart or willingly ignorant.

  7. In recent years I’ve wondered if reality tv mimics society or does society mimic reality tv. The Weiner story is very much like reality tv in the way they fed the public. Was it a story? Absolutely. Worth all the time, space, and energy? No. After all, this is the same media that followed Sarah Palin’s bus around. That bus tour was even less of a story!

    Washington has its share of stories that a much worse than Weiners. Ensign, Vitter, & Rangel come to mind – yet none of the went away as fast was Anthony Weiner – that I find sad. So, has both parties now boxed themselves in a corner to not tolerate any misconduct or any form? Especially misconduct that gets either gets blown out of proportion or is actually false.

    • the point is that it never should have been a story. he did nothing illegal and nothing that would have affected his votes in congress. vitter and rangel broke the law. ensign probably did, too. that makes those legitimate stories.

  8. After reading your post and all the comments, all I can think of now is Beavis and Butt-Head saying “Huh, huh, he said Weiner.”

    Actually, I do have something else to say. You’re right about journalists being lazy. When I write science stories, I pick the ones that are easy, at least for me. Paleontology and astronomy have big “gee, whiz” angles and medicine has inherent interest, so I have no problems writing articles about them. Chemistry and physics, on the other hand, require me to actually think, so I don’t write about them if I have something easier. Then again, I’m only paid a few dollars an article, so I’m only going to do a few dollars worth of work!

    • weewee stories are easy. so-called journalists don’t have to do any research or ask intelligent questions. they can just sit around and giggle and make believe that they don’t do much worse in their own personal lives.

  9. We are all flawed individuals. Weiner’s was just a little too flawed. All too bad. He should have known…and that is the real tragedy. I will stick go with him, morality wise…. than anyone who gives me Norquist/Rove talking points,,, ‘That is just another way of being a prick… and posting it, too.

    • what i don’t get is why what anthony weiner did, and i agree he should have known better, any worse than what a lot of other people do? people do all kinds of strange things to get turned on. should we go through congress, one by one, to determine who has a foot fetish, who likes to be dominated, who is wearing silk panties under his suit? i think the real test is the hypocrisy test. do they preach one thing and do another? anthony weiner never got on his high horse and declared himself to be the family values guy. he did nothing illegal, and nobody was hurt other than himself and his family. his constituents wanted him to stay. i think it should have been up to them and nobody else.