UPDATE: Howard Kurtz Apologizes For Errors In Jason Collins Reporting

May 6, 2013  |  

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has taken to the CNN airwaves to apologize for the errors in his reporting of the Jason Collins story.

“I read it too fast and carelessly missed that Jason Collins said he was engaged previously to a woman and then wrote and commented that he was wrong to keep that from readers, when I was in fact the one who was wrong,” he said on Reliable Sources. Before the apology, CNN had already committed to a continued relationship with Kurtz, according to The Huffington Post.

The editor of the website that Kurtz writes for, The Daily Download, Lauren Ashburn, has also apologized for participating in a video with Kurtz, in which he repeated the error, failing to double check the facts and then pulling the video down without explanation.

“I knew Kurtz was going to make this point about Collins before we taped, and I didn’t double check to make sure it was accurate,” she wrote. “As soon as I knew about the mistake, I pulled the video off of the site without acknowledging and correcting the mistake. That was another error.”

Howard Kurtz, a prolific reporter whose work could be seen online and on CNN, was dismissed from his job at The Daily Beast yesterday, days after he erroneously reported that Jason Collins came out without mentioning that he had been engaged. However, writes The Washington Post (a previous Kurtz employer), that last gaffe wasn’t the big reason he was fired. The news site was said to be upset about the amount of time Kurtz was spending on another site, The Daily Download. Media reports say The Beast wasn’t happy that a lot of his social media activity focused on The Daily Download.

In a statement, Tina Brown, head of The Daily Beast and Newsweek said:

The Daily Beast and Howard Kurtz have parted company. Under the direction of our newly named political director John Avlon we have added new momentum and authority to our Washington bureau with columnists such as Jon Favreau, Joshua Dubois and Stuart Stevens joining our outstanding DC team of Eleanor Clift, Daniel Klaidman, Michael Tomasky, Eli Lake, David Frum and Michelle Cottle – giving us one of the best politics teams in the business which was instrumental in this week’s Webby win for Best News site.

TVNewser reports that Kurtz’s contract to appear on CNN’s Reliable Sources probably won’t be renewed once it’s up.

The importance of this story lies in the fact that Kurtz is a well-known reporter who continually makes mistakes and yet maintains a prominent platform for saying false things. WaPo notes, “Kurtz drew attention for a 2011 misquote of Nancy Pelosi and for a 2010 story in which he misattributed quotes to California Rep. Darrell Issa.”

TVNewser continues with, “We wrote about a ridiculous item he filed about TV coverage of the primaries, and he emailed a Daily Beast colleague to discourage her from writing about Anderson Cooper’s sexuality. He also was reluctant to give credit when other’s broke stories, and was loathe to correct errors, a number of which were in his big interview with Lauer. Then of course there was always the inherent conflict between his CNN program and his media criticism work, though it sounds like that conflict will not be an issue much longer.”

Finally, we have the Jason Collins story, which was ultimately retracted by The Daily Beast (h/t Fishbowl NY).

In the wake of the error-filled reporting from CNN’s John King during the manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, media outlets need to be more proactive about cutting free from reporters who, either in their haste to be first or their lust to be more visible, are putting out wrong information. It not only hurts the credibility of the outlet, it diminishes trust among the population, who desperately need accurate reporting to counteract the craziness that get passed around on Twitter and other sites. Maybe with some more time on his hands, Kurtz can focus a little more on fact-checking.

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