Howard Kurtz is losing it. Today the quote-unquote media watchdog published 527 words on FoxNews.com about the Hamptons photo shoot of Ben Bradlee’s daughter-in-law, Pari Bradlee, who apparently teaches yoga to Washington A-listers like Howard Kurtz. It’s not that Pari Bradlee’s precise arrangement of undergarments has nothing to do with the media (though, in fact, it does not); it’s that it has nothing to do with anything. It has no point; it has no angle; it has no news. There is nothing there. Except some boobies. Which, to be fair, is probably all Howard Kurtz is really interested in right now.
Kurtz, you see, is a gentleman of a certain age who recently lost all of his bearings, and all around the same time. Tina Brown fired him from The Daily Beast in May for imagining that gay basketball player Jason Collins hid his engagement to a woman from Sports Illustrated — a story for which he filmed himself giggling with frequent CNN co-commentator Lauren Ashburn. (Kurtz later submitted to an on-air interrogation by media reporters David Folkenflik and Dylan Byers.) Two months later, he suddenly departed CNN, where he had hosted Reliable Sources for the past 15 years, for Fox News, where he plans to host a similar media criticism show called MediaBuzz.
Floating on the margins of Kurtz’s precipitous decline is his persistent relationship with Lauren Ashburn, editor of a media-news website called the Daily Download. Ashburn regularly appeared on-air with Kurtz at CNN and quickly followed him to Fox News. Kurtz routinely dodges inquiries about his exact role at the Daily Download, where he continues to film hours upon hours of amateur “media criticism” with Ashburn. (Here they are, for example, interviewing Paul Carr about “using Twitter to help kick the drinking habit.”) Furthermore, several former interns at the site recently told Gawker that Kurtz often line-edited their blog posts at Daily-Download.com. Whatever the precise details, Kurtz has devoted a stunning amount of time to this one obscure site, for which (he claims) he is paid on a “freelance” basis. And no one knows why.
Which brings us to today’s Media Matters interview with Washington Post columnist and mother-in-law of Pari Bradlee, Sally Quinn:
Asked why she believed Kurtz would write such a column, Quinn said she did not know, other than he could not find anything else to write about.
"I guess it's been a slow news week. I just don't know what he's up to, would I go after a friend's child? No," she said. "I don't think it had anything to do with anything. I think it was just a slow news day. There has been no personal animosity between Howie and me, none, never."
The key bit of context here is that, before Kurtz wrote for The Daily Beast, he wrote for The Washington Post. (Where he published some decent work!) That might explain why he chose to focus on the daughter-in-law of the paper’s vice president-at-large. Maybe. Or, like so many other adults who violently confront the basic fact that they are going to die, Kurtz just stopped giving a fuck. If so, more power to him. Good luck, Howie.
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[Art by Jim Cooke]