Now that he’s at Fox News, the independence of media critic Howard Kurtz suddenly is in question
When media critic Howard Kurtz left CNN for a similar gig at Fox News earlier this summer, I was hopeful that he would maintain his independence and not shy from finding fault with any shortcomings that might arise at his new cable TV home.
But alas, the evidence so far is NOT ENCOURAGING:
Fox News’ response to the uproar over its religious correspondent’s interview with author Reza Aslan [see HERE] is a revealing example of how the network handles criticism by either attacking or ignoring it, and raises questions about how Howard Kurtz, Fox’s new media critic, will fit into that pattern.
Aslan, the author of the new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, was the subject of a recent 10-minute interview on FoxNews.com…
Fox was widely criticized for the interview, which was one of the major media stories of the week. It seemed like a perfect issue for Kurtz, the network’s in-house media critic, to address.
Instead, on July 31, Fox responded to the criticism by hosting conservative activist and media critic Brent Bozell to defend the interview on the network’s America Live. Bozell declared, “I’ll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked.” He went on to criticize Aslan’s response to Green’s suggestion of religious bias — that he’s a scholar of religions and his job is to write about religion — as arrogant.
Some noted that rather than bringing in Bozell to discuss the controversial interview, Fox could have called on Kurtz. “Fox News has a media critic on its payroll, but Howard Kurtz was apparently unavailable,” reported Huffington Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson.
On Twitter, Politico media reporter Dylan Byers wrote that Kurtz responding to the Aslan interview would be a “pretty good test for his independence,” but that he didn’t think it would happen. Indeed, Kurtz, who said he was “excited to bring my independent brand of media criticism to Fox News” when he moved to the network after 15 years at CNN, has not weighed in on the Aslan controversy. On Sunday he appeared on the panel of Fox News Sunday to discuss a variety of political topics, but did not mention Aslan.
Meanwhile, the August 3 edition of Fox’s current weekly media criticism show, Fox News Watch, did not address the Aslan interview. That program has consistently downplayed or ignored stories that are unfavorable to Fox News and its parent company.
Fox News Watch will soon be replaced with a new media criticism program hosted by Kurtz. But so far, we’ve seen little evidence that the new program will adopt a different tact on criticizing the network than the current iteration.