Howard Kurtz’ Lament

Howard Kurtz just penned a rather petulant article in the WaPo with the byline, “Modern journalism’s Googlian algorithm isn’t as simple as Gaga + Palin x Tiger = Page views.”  Howard laments the fact that he has to “appease the Google gods” with keywords that will grab the attention of the soulless computer minds that now hold the future of “serious journalism” in the balance.  No doubt entirely similar pieces were penned a century and more ago by the builders of horse drawn conveyances, regretting the irrational taste of their fellow citizens for those noisy, stinking horseless carriages. 

Yearning for those golden days of yesteryear when the legacy media controlled the “news” and the narrative to go with it, Howard writes,

Most people don’t read publications online, patiently turning from national news to Metro to Style to the sports section. They hunt for subjects, and people, in which they’re interested. Our mission – and we have no choice but to accept it – is to grab some of that traffic that could otherwise end up at hundreds of other places, even blogs riffing off the reporting that your own publication has done.

That’s right, Howard, we now have the right to sass back.  The Internet is a wonderful thing.  It’s the greatest amplifier of free speech since the invention of moveable type, and it has effectively nullified the power of the media gatekeepers.  All of us now have the power to “riff off,” meaning we can answer and even contradict the “objective reporting” of sanctimonious journalists from our own little bully pulpits. 

Howard is so convinced that the ideological narrative he and his pals have been flogging all these years is “news” that he becomes a caricature of himself:

Naturally, those who grew up as analog reporters wonder: Is journalism becoming a popularity contest? Does this mean pieces about celebrity sex tapes will take precedence over corruption in Afghanistan? Why pay for expensive foreign bureaus if they’re not generating enough clicks? Doesn’t all this amount to pandering?

It’s incredible, really.  He’s been living in an echo chamber for so long that he can actually write stuff like that with a perfectly straight fact, and, I don’t doubt, actually believe it himself.  So “corruption in Afghanistan” is “news,” is it?  Anyone who takes that line seriously is:

        a.  Suffering from a prolonged case of sleeping sickness

        b.  A university professor in the humanities

        c.  A “serious reader” of the WaPo, or

        d.  On drugs

Corruption in Afghanistan “news,” after we’ve been getting a steady diet of it on the dead tree media for years, in spite of the rampant corruption in every other country in the region, in spite of the abundant corruption in every major country in Europe, and, more to the point, the rampant corruption right here at home?  “News,” Howard?  I think not.  Put it in Category a (ideological narrative), Subcategory b (antiwar propaganda).  You and your pals have a right to an opinion, and we’ve been familiar with your opinion concerning wars you don’t consider “just” ever since the Vietnam era, but the days when you could fob that narrative off as “news” are over, and we’re all the better for it.

Howard concludes his piece with some lugubrious observations to the effect that Obama is more popular overseas than he is at home, no doubt because the many alternative sources of information we now have at our command interfere with WaPo’s ability to “accurately” inform us about him. 

It’s unfortunate you have to put up with the indignity of worrying what the search engines think about you, Howard.  It’s a competitive world, and if you can’t compete you’ll have to close up shop.  I suspect you’ll be surprised at how little you’ll be missed.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

One thought on “Howard Kurtz’ Lament”

  1. What’s been astonishing to me, at least ever since the runup to the 2000 elections, is the Press’s treatment of scandal.

    It’s been known since the beginnings of newspapers that scandal — or, perhaps better — sensation grabs “eyeballs”. The Press, by their relentless suppression of scandal related to Democrats and equally relentless promotion of Republican misdeeds, throw half the potential sensation in the dirt. Actually, it’s more like three-quarters, because Republicans are boring. Teh Newz has to go to extraordinary lengths to whip minor matters into a noticeable froth.

    You do at least have to grant them the courage of their convictions. They’re clearly prepared to ride that horse ’til it founders and dies.


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