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Reporters In Glass Houses

Do reporters pull their punches to ensure administration access? While certainly no one would call them on the take, Bob Woodward and Judith Miller have been the targets of criticism for their relationships with their sources.
Do reporters pull their punches to ensure administration access? While certainly no one would call them on the take, Bob Woodward and Judith Miller have been the targets of criticism for their relationships with their sources. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)

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In short, is it really all that vast a distance from the TriBeCa nightspots prowled by Page Six writers to the Georgetown cocktail parties and Gridiron dinners where Washington reporters might sniff out news?

"When you think about it," writes blogger Jeff Jarvis, "how much really separates celebrity gossip from Washington coverage? Rumors, blind items, schmoozing, tips, paybacks, grudges, parties, lunches, leaks, hidden agendas, corruption, sex. "

Of course, Washington journalism is way above gushing over Angelina Jolie (unless she happens to be talking about her U.N. work) or Geena Davis (unless she's portraying a female president) or George Clooney (unless he's producing a show on K Street lobbyists).

And D.C. reporters would never stoop to the "blind items" that populate Page Six ("Which TV anchor was seen canoodling in SoHo with a woman not his wife . . . ?"). When they do it, it's "senior officials who declined to be identified discussing sensitive matters and because they enjoy taking potshots at the opposition without being named."

What distinguishes capital journalism is a much greater seriousness of purpose. Last week, Page Six wrote: "Word is that Star and the National Enquirer may be put on the block soon. Either way, editorial director Bonnie Fuller -- despite protestations -- may be out of a job anyway." (The next day, Page Six said that American Media has "full confidence" in Fuller and that "company reps also assured us that, contrary to our speculation yesterday, Star and the National Enquirer will not be put on the block.")

By contrast, the New York Times cites a GOP source in saying the new White House chief of staff "wants Mr. Bush to replace the Treasury secretary, John W. Snow," while The Washington Post says that "the most prominent name discussed for possible replacement is Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, who has often been rumored to be on the way out." A much better class of rumor, no?

But there is little question that some New York gossip writers get better freebies. Stern told USA Today that he accepted a hotel junket to the Bahamas and often got free use of cars in exchange for favorable mentions. Page Six Editor Richard Johnson got a free trip to the Oscars and a fabulously expensive bachelor party at the Mexican estate of the producer of those "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

And Washington reporters? A free screening at the Motion Picture Association of America? Unlimited hors d'oeuvres at a Capitol reception? Watching Condi work out on the road?

The temptations are endless.

Lone Ranger

After a quarter-century in the journalistic shadows, Murray Waas is getting his day in the sun.

The freelance investigative reporter has racked up a series of scoops. He's been cited by New York Times columnists Frank Rich and Paul Krugman. And New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen calls him the new Bob Woodward.

But Waas -- whose blog is called Whatever, Already -- doesn't toot his own horn much and only reluctantly granted an interview. "My theory is, avoid the limelight, do what's important and leave your mark. . . . If my journalism has had impact, it has been because I have spent more time in county courthouses than greenrooms," he says.


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