We've been checking out Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz's new book, "Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War," an advance excerpt of which was posted Sunday with great hubbub on Drudge. That excerpt recounts a discussion between Dan Rather and '60 Minutes' executive producer Josh Howard that took place on the eve of the airing of the controversial piece that would end Rather's career at the network. Kurtz's story was treated as big news—but the substance, and some of the language as well, was no different from New York Press editor-in-chief David Blum's 2004 book, "Tick... Tick... Tick..: The Long Life and Turbulent Times of 60 Minutes."
The meat of the Drudge-worthy news from Kurtz was that Rather said he'd take his items to the Times. But Blum had published that in his book:
Kurtz writes, "The night before the story was tentatively scheduled to air, Rather was sitting at the anchor desk, with less than half an hour before the start of the Evening News."
"I'm told that the Rather leak threat was in the paperback edition of David Blum's book, which I never saw," Howie Kurtz told us by email. "(I did look at the hardcover.) Good for him for getting there first. I never saw it picked up anywhere, so when I got the information in an interview with former 60 Minutes II producer Josh Howard, it was the first I'd heard of it. I'm a fanatic about giving credit, which is why my book is filled with footnotes, but you can't do that if you've never seen the information."
Blum's version, which appeared in book's 2005 afterword, goes like this: "On Tuesday, September 7, 2004, Rather was sitting at the anchor desk in Studio 47, minutes away from the start of that night's CBS Evening News. But instead of poring over that night's copy one more time, he reached for the phone to call Howard."
Rather's discussion with Howard was over prime-time promotion of the piece. Both Kurtz and Blum write that Howard told Rather the piece might not even run, considering it hadn't been vetted by CBS lawyers, nor had a call been made to the White House for contact.
Kurtz writes, "That was not the answer Rather wanted to hear."
Blum's own follow-up sentence, written three years previous? "This wasn't what Rather wanted to hear."
The Kurtz excerpt, from Drudge Report:
The Blum excerpt:
Disclosure: I worked with David Blum at the 'Village Voice.'