Howard Kurtz, a longtime observer and critic of the media, himself made news this week, leaving CNN for Fox News and trading “Reliable Sources” for “Fox News Watch.”
In reporting this move, many publications took the opportunity to point out Kurtz’s own shortcomings as a journalist. For example, a blog post Kurtz wrote earlier this year about gay NBA player Jason Collins was retracted because of “several errors” and “a misleading characterization.”
That’s certainly a relevant and timely detail. But a few publications took that a step further in their headlines, labeling Kurtz as “disgraced.” It’s probably predictable that The Huffington Post, known for its overheated headlines, was one of them. But it’s surprising that Bloomberg News also used that word to describe Kurtz. It revised the headline and omitted the word, but “disgraced” lives on in the URL for that story.
“Disgraced” indicates actions that are dishonorable or dishonest. I’ve used that adjective on this blog to describe John Edwards, the former senator whose political career and personal reputation imploded because of an extramarital affair. In journalism, I would be comfortable using “disgraced” to describe plagiarists and fabricators like Jayson Blair.
Kurtz has made mistakes, just as any person has, but they appear to be honest ones made from haste, not deception. And he has expressed remorse.
Those errors are, of course, especially embarrassing for someone who has made a career of analyzing the news media. But to my mind, “disgraced” does not match the level of the offenses.