December 4, 2013
Howard Kurtz. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)
Howard Kurtz. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

Fox News contributor Lauren Ashburn has looked defensive of late. A frequent guest on Howard Kurtz’s CNN media program before the pair decamped to Fox, Ashburn was the founder and editor of the news site Daily Download. That site is now defunct and, when BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski asked her what happened with it, Ashburn didn’t respond.

She later provided a statement to Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, stating that grants that had financed the site had run out. “[O]perating an advertising-based niche website without additional funding is tough going in this economy,” said the statement.

Good move, in all: Ashburn bootstrapped the Daily Download thing into television appearances and is now riding high, turning in regular hits on Kurtz’s new program on Fox, “Media Buzz.” Who cares if her Daily Download leadership stops being a useful credential?

And speaking of crumbling credentials, “Media Buzz” has changed its introduction of Ashburn for her appearances. In the first two months after the program launched in early November, she was routinely identified as a “Fox News contributor and a former managing editor of USA Today.” Starting in November, however, she became a “Fox News analyst who writes the top Twitter talk column for foxnews.com.”

Perhaps Fox News bagged the “managing editor” thing because it’s misleading.

In May, the Erik Wemple Blog asked USA Today whether Ashburn had ever served as a “managing editor,” a title that had been attached to her at least once on CNN programming. A spokeswoman for USA Today replied that Ashburn’s last title at the organization was “Managing Editor/USA TODAY Live.” It was incorrect, said the spokeswoman, to suggest that Ashburn was a “managing editor” of USA Today, a title that has a loftiness far in excess of Managing Editor/USA Today Live. USA Today Live produced USA Today segments for Gannett TV stations. Like Daily Download, it no longer exists.

No one can take issue with her current description. Ashburn is indeed a Fox News contributor, and here is her Top Twitter Talk column. Yet the dents to Ashburn’s resume raise a question: Just what does she bring to CNN and Fox News’s coverage of the media?

Slate’s Dave Weigel yesterday delivered a dreary verdict, writing that Ashburn “has almost nothing to say about anything.” Kurtz, when pressed in May on his CNN show about why he’d worked closely with Ashburn on the Daily Download, cited her expansive television experience. In other words, she’s had some media training. But why Kurtz continues to promote her remains unknown.

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