The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz covered the controversy in today’s column. Here’s the entirety of what he wrote:
When the New York Times published a March 21 op-ed column sympathetic to a “quintessential nice guy” — stock swindler Bernie Madoff — contributing writer Daphne Merkin noted that she had “a sibling who did business with him.”
That turned out to be J. Ezra Merkin, former chairman of GMAC, now accused by New York authorities of defrauding clients by funneling more than $2 billion of their money to Madoff. Was the vague “sibling” reference really enough?
Ombudsman Clark Hoyt wrote yesterday that many readers thought “the disclosure was so limited as to be disingenuous,” but Op-Ed Editor David Shipley defended it, saying that paper approached Merkin “in some respect because of her brother.”
So here’s the thing. Kurtz is, for better or worse, the nation’s most prominent media critic. Just today, he’s been hosting a chat with readers on the Post’s site, entitled “Critiquing the Press.” But here’s a genuine controversy involving an editorial judgment made by a major news organization, and Kurtz, in writing about it, can’t bring himself to actually express an opinion.
Maybe Kurtz thinks there was enough disclosure by the Times. If so, we’d strongly disagree, but we’d at least respect him for taking a position. Instead, as so often, Kurtz narrates what both sides are saying, but refuses to use his pulpit to speak up in support of what he thinks is right.
Which would seem to be the price of admission for a media critic.