A Reliably Soft Sunday With CNN’s Howard Kurtz

There’s one reliable thing about CNN’s “Reliable Sources:” You can count on host Howard Kurtz to challenge authority figures, but never too harshly.

It was telling, in fact, that Kurtz — the media columnist for the Washington Post — saved his toughest questions for Michael Hastings, whose Rolling Stone piece led to the ouster of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“Telling” because Kurtz’s other interviews were with ABC News’ Chris Cuomo, who wasn’t really pressed about the practice of checkbook journalism and the media’s obsession with missing white woman, especially if they’re attractive; and CNN Prez Jon Klein, who defended the decision to give a weekday show to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Kurtz noted that there was resistance to the Spitzer hire within the ranks of CNN — without indicating who might have been complaining. Anonymous staffers, one assumes? Nor did he follow up on Klein’s response that the decision was “innately controversial.” It’s a common drawback of Kurtz’s on-air interviews, where he asks all the right questions but tends not to challenge the answers.

Kurtz also closed with a brief note about the Post’s break with blogger Dave Weigel over leaked email comments, letting his own paper off pretty easy by saying that Weigel was “burned by his own incendiary words.” That’s true to a point, though there’s been some criticism of the Post in this situation as well for not establishing clear guidelines regarding the distinction between its bloggers and reporters and the rules governing them.

In short, Kurtz again had all the right sources lined up. It’s just the interviews that weren’t completely reliable.

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