In the past two days, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz has been getting a lot of attention for his “scoop” about Dan Rather.
But the anecdote, published today in his book Reality Show, is old news.
In Mr. Kurtz’s book, he writes that former CBS anchor threatened to release a document to The New York Times if his now-widely-discredited National Guard story did not run on 60 Minutes. The threat was made to CBS News producer Josh Howard, according to Mr. Kurtz.
In fact, that same anecdote appeared two years earlier, in New York Press editor David Blum’s book about the long-running CBS show, tick… tick… tick…, according to Gawker, where you will find a painstaking side-by-side comparison.
We reached Mr. Kurtz a little before the Gawker item ran, after receiving a fax of the relevant pages in tick… tick… tick… from an agitated Mr. Blum. ("It doesn't seem like a scoop to me," Mr. Blum told Media Mob.)
“I was completely unaware of that,” Mr. Kurtz said by phone on Oct. 9, referring to the previous lives of his Dan Rather story.
So, apparently, was America's assignment editor, Matthew Drudge, who ate up the Kurtz "scoop" that was positioned at the top of a list of “fascinating revelations” sent out by Mr. Kurtz's publisher in a press release Sunday.
Mr. Kurtz was pretty pleased, and on his new and very frequently updated blog about the book, which you can visit here, wrote on Sunday night: "Reality Show is already picking up steam. Drudge is trumpeting a big item [the Rather item] here."
Mr. Kurtz told Media Mob he only "glanced at" the book, which he didn't have time to read when it came out two years ago. He said he owned a hardcover copy, but not the paperback edition of the book, where the Rather "revelation" appeared in an afterword. The paperback was published in 2005.
And both reporters got the scoop from the same source: news executive Josh Howard is named as the source to both. Double-dipping!
Mr. Kurtz described himself to The Media Mob as “a fanatic about attributing information.”
“Attribution," he said, "means 'this is where you got it.'”
Mr. Kurtz said that since he got the information directly from Mr. Howard, it didn't matter that the story had already been used elsewhere. Mr. Kurtz said he won't add an attribution to Mr. Blum's book in future editions.
The question is whether he will continue to tout the anecdote as a "scoop" in his upcoming appearances supporting the book.
From Mr. Kurtz's blog:
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
For those who want to follow the grand tour, I'll be on ABC's Good Morning America at 8:30. Doing CNN's Situation Room sometime between 4 and 6, and then the O'Reilly Factor in the 8 p.m. hour.