CNN’s Kurtz needs refresher course in basic journalism

At the end of his CNN “Reliable Sources” program Sunday, media critic Howard Kurtz took an unfair swipe at the University of Florida’s journalism program. He should have done his reporting first, and he should have thought first and spoke second.

He first voiced an opinion about the use of a Taser on a student questioning Sen. John Kerry, complete with his labeling of Florida student Andrew Meyer’s remarks:

KURTZ: Clearly the Florida police overreacted and the Tasering went too far, but one other point, Andrew Meyer is a journalism student. He wasn’t questioning Kerry. He was delivering a liberal diatribe.

And then, after showing the video clip, this:

KURTZ: No way Andrew Meyer deserves to get Tasered, but what are they teaching him in journalism school? [emphasis added]

That’s a cheap shot. Point one: He got his facts wrong. According to the Independent Florida Alligator, Meyer is not a journalism student. He’s a telecommunications major.

The “journalism school” is the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, which has four departments — “Advertising, Public Relations, Journalism, and Telecommunication — and offers sequences in the following areas: advertising, public relations, technical communication, journalism (reporting, editing, magazines and photojournalism), and telecommunication (news, production and management).”

According to the college’s Web site, it has the second-largest undergraduate program in the nation, second only to Michigan. I’ll bet it has courses that teach journalism students (and maybe those telecomm majors, too) how to observe carefully, record accurately, analyze carefully, organize clearly and present compelling all kinds of information fairly. Perhaps the old world (if it ever was so) of objectivity is vanishing, but fairness shouldn’t.

Point two: Why did Mr. Kurtz personify an entire community — the student and faculty of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication — as inadequate based on the behavior of a single member of that community?

That’s not media criticism. That’s simply tossing off a one-liner at the end of a show, a lazy act by a critic who ought to know better. Surely a graduate of the University of Buffalo and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism would be more careful and less caustic.

Mr. Kurtz, whose critics argue has conflict of interest issues because he is paid by both CNN and The Washington Post, ought to visit the University of Florida and take one particular course: JOU 4700: Problems and Ethics of Journalism in Society.

2 replies »

  1. “Court records show that Meyer was booked on a felony charge of resisting an officer and a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. That’s not what the officers told Meyer after he was shocked and taken into custody. “You’re under arrest for inciting a riot,” a female police officer said at the time..”

    Yikes. Mr. Kurtz should focus more on “what are they teaching students at the police academy?”

    About Kurtz’ comment on Meyer: “He wasn’t questioning Kerry. He was delivering a liberal diatribe.” So liberal diatribe = authorization for zap treatment?

    Granted, Meyer’s ‘diatribe’ sounded overemotional, but I’ve heard worse rantings and tantrums by our ‘representatives’ on C-SPAN.