August 27, 2013
Howard Kurtz on Pari Bradlee
Howard Kurtz. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)

No one cared about the Facebook photos of one Pari Bradlee. No one cared that one of them portrayed her in a “Swiss-cheese bra.” No one cared that another showed her posing nude, “shot from the back, twisting one arm behind her.” No one cared that the photos were “R-rated.”

Except for Howard Kurtz, the recently installed media correspondent for Fox News. The quotes above come from his posting today, titled “Ben Bradlee’s daughter-in-law reveals (almost) all on Facebook.” Pari Bradlee, nee Pari Williamson, is married to Quinn Bradlee, son of the former and famous Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee. She’s a well-known yogi, at least inside the Beltway, and her choice of photos, at least in Kurtz’s estimation, constituted a public issue worthy of FoxNews.com.

A nothing-sandwich posting of this sort cannot proceed without a clever device — a bit of trickery that enables the author to pretend, if only for a second, that there’s a story here. Kurtz accomplishes this with a single stroke of the keyboard:

Pari Bradlee is a personal trainer and yoga instructor who gives private lessons and whose clients include many Washington A-listers. And she is marketing herself with a combination of Facebook’s share-everything ethos and her famous last name.

Do the pictures go too far?

Question mark in bold to highlight the brilliance of Howard Kurtz. His post contains no quotes or testimony from no one alleging that the pictures go too far. A quick look at Pari Bradlee’s Facebook page turns up no charges that the pictures go too far. By today’s web standards, the pictures quite clearly do not go too far. And Kurtz himself refrains from alleging that the pictures go too far. He merely asks if they go too far, which means he thinks they go too far, but by asking the question, he gets to claim that hallowed middle ground he’s spent his entire career clinging to.

Yet Kurtz is doing the job he was hired to do. By writing a post on an issue that doesn’t exist; whose only connection to significance is Georgetown establishment; whose motivation is transparently communal prurience; whose execution is so nakedly lacking in meaningful editorial supervision; whose publication is being thoroughly giggled about on Twitter; and whose facts are unimpeachable, Kurtz is elevating the editorial standards of Fox News.

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