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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

All the potential news that's fit to print

Who critiques the media critics?

That's a worthwhile question this morning when you check out this Washington Post story by media reporter (and leading national media critic) Howie Kurtz:

NBC Universal executives declined to deny a report Wednesday night that Comcast, the cable giant, is in talks to buy the television and movie company from General Electric.

Comcast also did not deny the report that bankers for the two sides discussed a possible deal Tuesday in New York.

So now one of the nation's leading newspapers is publishing stories that sources decline to deny something?

Isn't that the old "when did you stop beating your wife question"?

In fairness, Kurtz wears two hats and a rumor that a cable giant is in talks to purchase a television network is tantalizing to media reporters. The 24-7, 140-character news cycle makes it increasingly tougher to pin down stories with adequate sourcing. Especially when they involves companies like NBC-Universal that own cable television channels that revel in the poorly sourced story.

Kurtz offers an obligatory weasel graf:
Such talks often lead nowhere, but rumors have circulated for months that GE might be looking to unload the news and entertainment company. NBC is stuck in fourth place among broadcast networks, and Universal Studios is enduring a rough movie season.
But it didn't seem all that long ago that the Washington Post excelled in pinning down hard facts with two sources. And I do seem to recall it was those efforts by a couple of cop reporters named Woodward and Bernstein that spawned an entire generation of reporters taught to get it first -- but get it right.

Kurtz may have been the first mainstream media reporter to get it (losing out to a web site run by a former Post and New York Times reporter). And he very possibly will get it right.

But if someone else did this, I know I would be running to his Media Notes column to see how he and other media critics viewed a story in a major publication with the weak sourcing of a web site that "cited sources who have knowledge of the talks."

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