Sunday, November 4, 2007

Taking on the Talkers

I write here about my book-tour experiences, bouncing from O'Reilly to Olbermann to Jon Stewart. There isn't a host out there, radio or TV, conservative or liberal, who doesn't have strong opinions on the media. But so do the people who call in to radio shows! I was on one show in Boston where some callers complained that network news was too liberal and others groused that it was too conservative. And some of these folks don't want to be confused by the facts.
I think it's great that everyone in America is a media critic. But somewhere, buried beneath this cacophony of conficting views, must be an objective reality of what network news really is.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Grilled by NR

National Review interrogates me on everything from Brian Williams going on Saturday Night Live to Katie's chances of survival to whether I prefer print or television. An excerpt:
Lopez: Is it a sign of evening-news desperation that Williams is doing such a thing? Desperate for anyone who can stay up past 7 p.m. to watch?
Kurtz: It’s true that the average age of viewers watching all those segments on back pain and hip replacement is 97. (Okay, I made that up. It’s 60.) But there’s little question that NBC is trying to show a late-night audience that Brian can be a wild and crazy guy. NBC executives have privately urged Williams to show more of his personality on Nightly News — he is, in fact, one of the funniest people in the biz — but he has clung to a very formal anchor role. Maybe the Saturday night gig looked more attractive after Charlie Gibson took over the ratings lead.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

At the Press Club

I'll be signing copies of Reality Show on Thursday night, Nov. 1, at the National Press Club's Book Fair. Along with a few other authors.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Meet the Author

I'll be signing books on Thursday evening, Nov. 1, at the National Press Club. Oh, and a few other authors will be there too. The book fair runs from 5:30 to 8:30.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meet the Russert

There's a difference between Tim Russert on Meet the Press and Tim Russert off Meet the Press. I taped an interview today for Russert's MSNBC show, and instead of a fast-paced interrogation, we had a...conversation. That's what some extra time buys you, the chance to complete thoughts and engage the other person. It's like the difference between TV and radio. You get to hear an actual back-and-forth between a guy writing about network news and someone who is a key figure in network news. When it airs, though, I'll be following Stephen Colbert on the show, so history may regard me as a mere footnote.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Reviews

At Slate, I get a most unusual two-fer for an author: pieces on two of my books. Here's Jack Shafer on Reality Show, and also on Spin Cycle.
MarketWatch's Jon Friedman weighs in on my book and defends me against petty sniping: "A good old-fashioned page-turner about the rivalry among the big three TV news anchors, filled with revealing anecdotes."
The Austin American-Statesman also has a nice story: "Armed with extraordinary behind-the-scenes access...his account is chock-full of details and anecdotes."

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Colbert Factor

David Carr has a NYT column today on Stephen Colbert, contrasting his popularity with the network newscasts: "The incipient generation of news consumers has made it clear that it does not want to see a bunch of guys with really nice neckware standing on the White House lawn talking about what they did not learn in the press room behind them and then flick at 'sources' who suggest that 'one thing is clear.'"
That strikes me as a little glib, though young people have little interest in the Brian, Charlie and Katie newscasts. I devote a chapter of REALITY SHOW to Colbert and Jon Stewart, explaining how they are having an influence on the traditional newscasts. Colbert's appearance on Meet the Press is a case in point.
I'm taping an interview this week for Tim Russert's MSNBC show; the other half, as I understand it, will be devoted to Colbert. I wonder which part will be funnier.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kalb's Take

"A fascinating, richly detailed story...He takes full advantage of his access by quoting them extensively, even in private conversations between a husband and a wife, and enriching his narrative with intimate insights and little-known facts about this secret negotiation or that meeting between anchor and president."
--The first major newspaper review of REALITY SHOW, by Marvin Kalb in The Washington Post.
(Note: These things are kept so secret that I had no idea who was reviewing the book.)

Wet and Wild

One of my favorite radio interviews was last night's hourlong chat with Jim Bohannon, who's been holding down Larry King's old late-night radio spot for more than two decades. Unfortunately, getting there was another story. There was a driving rainstorm that, by the time I parked a few blocks away in downtown D.C., had become a monsoon. As the minutes ticked away, I had no choice but to make a break for it, armed only with a flimsy umbrella. I was utterly drenched -- my jeans were soaked through -- when I stumbled into the CBS bureau. Fortunately it was radio, so nobody noticed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Message

I've done so many book interviews that I can now anticipate every question. I know when they'res going to ask why Katie's ratings have tanked. I know when they're going to ask how Charlie got to be No. 1. I know when the question about Dan suing CBS is coming. Toward the end they always ask whether network news will survive. When I talk about war coverage, the conservatives ask whether the anchors have an antiwar agenda, and the liberals ask why they didn't stand up to the administration during the rush to war. I've got it down to a science.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Now That's Funny

I did something even more important today than talk about my book. I talked about Stephen Colbert running for president on the Situation Room (after my BIG exclusive WashPost interview with the man himself). But I also talked about the book in radioland, including a two-hour marathon with Hugh Hewitt. Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Times weighs in on REALITY SHOW.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Getting Hoarse

Providence, Portland, San Francisco, D.C., Cleveland, Minneapolis, Nashville, L.A., Raleigh, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit. Those are the cities where I conducted radio interviews before 10 this morning. And that was before my half-hour on Sirius or my hour with Ed Schultz (or my five minutes with Glenn Beck). Some of the interviews were terrific, others mediocre, and others pretty lame. There were hosts who had read the book, hosts who were interested in network news, hosts who were only interested in Katie and hosts who didn't seem to own a TV. Not that I'm complaining or anything. I think radio is actually a great way to sell books, especially in longer interviews. Can you imagine getting an entire hour on television? Me neither.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Rachel Sklar calls the Kurtz vs. Kurtz debate on Reliable Sources "goofily endearing" but also inviting "sneers from the sneering class." The heck with the elite media! Ordinary Americans liked it.
Well, the radio callers of America are getting their shot at me. Many know what they think about the media and don't want to be confused by the facts. One caller this morning said of course Dan Rather was right about George Bush and all this criticism was disgraceful. Another said that she will never watch CBS News again because of Dan Rather. (Memo to caller: He's gone. They gave his office to a woman named Katie.) I enjoy radio because you have time to make your arguments (two HOURLONG sessions today, with Diane Rehm and Michael Medved), but when the open the phones, you're never quite sure what you're going to get.
Tucker Carlson made an interesting point when I was on his show today. Do people want straight news, as represented by decades of network tradition (not that it's always pulled off with equal balance), or these days do they prefer news that reinforces their point of view (as in Rush listeners vs. Air America listeners). I grapple with that very point in REALITY SHOW.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Toughest Interview Yet

Ganging Up

It was 3-on-1, but I survived. Gail Shister, Frank Sesno and David Folkenflik all grilled me about the book on this morning's Reliable Sources. Hey, it's easier to ask questions than to answer them, but they handled it well and the result was a great conversation. Now if I can just wipe away this flop sweat...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Film at 11

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, my Daily Show appearance is up. (Just click on my face.) See Jon Stewart mention REALITY SHOW at both the beginning and the end! The man was engaged in the subject (and too bad you won't get to see the outtakes). Nothing like a live audience to get your adrenaline flowing (plus the hired hands whip up applause before each segment). Jon didn't say whether he liked the little picture of him on the back cover.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bleary Eyed

You know you've had a long day when you start at 6 a.m. in New York with Morning Joe and wind up at 6 p.m. in Washington playing Hardball.
Especially since my encounters with Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews came on very little sleep after a two-day marathon, bouncing between O'Reilly and Olbermann and Jon Stewart. Such is life on book tour. Squeezed in some radio in between, lots more next week, plus an appearance! on Tucker! on Monday.
What's fascinating is how each host takes what interests him from REALITY SHOW, filters it through the prism of his own experience or ideology, and steers the conversation in that direction. It also makes each interview surprisingly different. I'll say this for Jon Stewart -- he didn't go for the cheap laugh (only the expensive ones). He really wanted to have a conversation about problems in the TV news biz. Matthews was interested in how campaigns try to manipulate the evening newscasts and the morning shows.
No one really knows whether all these appearance help sell books, but they are, at least, a way of spreading the word. Until you start babbling incoherently, which may happen any day now...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Taking On Jon Stewart

I just got done taping the Daily Show, but you won't see the best part.
We were chugging along, Jon Stewart and I, talking about my book and the network news wars, and we had pretty much exhausted the allotted time when Jon kicked it into third gear. He started debating me more forcefully -- don't worry, he said, we'll edit this out -- and demanding to know why the networks can't provide "the truth" and whether they pull their punches to maintain access to the powerful. The crowd was hooting and hollering. It was great television -- but it's destined for the cutting room floor. Jon just didn't want to stop. He loves the debate the media, he was fully engaged, and who cared about the format? He wanted to keep going, and he did.
Further upside: I got a pretty nice goody bag.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More KurtzTV

The series hasn't been canceled yet! I've been pumping REALITY SHOW around the clock. Survived GMA and Chris Cuomo, Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, and Bill O'Reilly's No Spin Zone. On tap Thursday: CNN's American Morning at 8:30, Keith Olbermann in the 8 pm hour, and at 11, I try to liven up the always-serious Jon Stewart. And I'm playing Hardball with Chris Matthews on Friday. Plus I have to talk to all these radio people and print reporters! But no complaints. It's fun talking about something you've spent two years on, especially when the hosts have actually read the book.

Observed by the Observer

The New York Observer weighs in on Reality Show and how I put it together. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

KurtzTV on Wednesday

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.

Moving On Up

Okay, I admit I'm checking Amazon every few hours. Well, every hour. Reality Show was up 73,000 percent yesterday (if only it was an IPO), making it No. 1 on the Movers and Shakers list. Of course, that's up from a base of two or three books, since we were keeping the thing under wraps, but I'll take it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

HuffPo Hype

Rachel Sklar at the Huffington Post weighs in on Reality Show. She's got some tidbits, analysis and a great line about the former supreme leader of NBC. I'm starting to wonder: How did we ever promote books before the blogosphere?

Media Bistro

My chat with the TV Newser blog is up. These reporters ask tough questions! Actually, it's a good look at how lucky I was with the timing of this book, as two of the three networks were rocked by anchor upheavals. The one thing you don't want when you're doing a real-time narrative is a bo-ring year.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Making Waves

REALITY SHOW is already picking up steam. Drudge is trumpeting a big item here. The Washington Post excerpt, about the anchors grappling with the coverage of Iraq, has just gone up. And I haven't even gone to bed yet.

Hitting Bookstores Oct. 9th

Everything you ever wanted to know about REALITY SHOW: INSIDE THE LAST GREAT TELEVISION NEWS WAR -- and maybe a few things you didn't -- will be posted here. We'll track blogs, reviews, praise, smears and my forthcoming blitz of TV and radio appearances.
Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media reporter and host, CNN's Reliable Sources
Author of Spin Cycle: Inside the Clinton Propaganda Machine and The Fortune Tellers: Inside Wall Street's Game of Money, Media and Manipulation