March 25, 2013

Activists from the online group “Anonymous” rally at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, last December. (Michael D. McElwain/Associated Press)

CNN’s “Reliable Sources” yesterday covered quite an array of pressing media issues. Jay Leno’s alleged dethroning, cable-news and nonstop opinionating, the new Roger Ailes biography, media coverage of the Republican Party, the labor of fact-checking Michele Bachmann, the Daily Caller’s ailing story on Sen. Robert Menendez and Pope Francis’s subscription cancellation — they all managed airtime on Howard Kurtz’s weekly show.

One that didn’t make the cut was CNN’s much-criticized coverage of the March 17 verdict in the Steubenville rape case, wherein hordes of viewers pummeled the network for spot-news reports that showed sympathy for the perpetrators of the crime. A petition on Change.org seeking an apology from CNN characterized the coverage as “disgusting” and marshaled around 260,000 supporters by Thursday of last week.

CNN kept quiet about the matter throughout the week.

So why didn’t “Reliable Sources” take up the matter? Writes Kurtz via e-mail:

I made the editorial judgment not to focus on a few comments made in a breaking-news report that, while certainly not handled ideally, did not outweigh CNN’s generally fair coverage of the trial. It’s worth noting that nobody at CNN asked me not to cover the story, which is in keeping with my program’s long-standing tradition of independence.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.