Howard Kurtz: Ira Glass shouldn’t retreat ‘to a no-comment stance’

Reliable Sources | Mike Daisey | New Beans
Howard Kurtz isn’t pleased that “This American Life” host and executive producer Ira Glass hasn’t agreed to appear on “Reliable Sources” to talk about what happened with the Mike Daisey episode. On Sunday’s show, Kurtz said Glass has turned down two requests:

His spokeswoman said, “We’re not making further public statements about this at the moment. Ira feels that he’s said what he needed to say about this on the air and on our Web site. And we have so many requests we can’t possibly manage them to meet them all.”

But they haven’t met any. I’m sorry. That is a copout. A journalist who asks questions for a living should not refuse to answer them, should not hide behind PR people when his organization makes a big mistake.

That’s what politicians and business executives do when they’ve got something to hide. Mr. Glass, our invitation remains open.

In an email, Kurtz says, “My position isn’t even that Ira Glass has to talk to me about this, but that he should do an interview with some reputable news organization about what happened. I do think our program would be a good forum for an intelligent conversation about it. Given the magnitude of the mistake, I don’t think he should be retreating to a no-comment stance.”

In the meantime, I guess, Mike Daisey will have to do. On Sunday, he published a more apologetic apology. This time, he named three groups of people he thought he’d harmed:

To journalists he’d lied to: “In my drive to tell this story and have it be heard, I lost my grounding. Things came out of my mouth that just weren’t true, and over time, I couldn’t even hear the difference myself.”

To human rights advocates: “If my failures have made your jobs harder, I apologize.”

To the theater community: “If I have made your path more difficult, or the truth of your work harder for audiences to discern, I am sorry.”

He may want to broaden that apology, judging from what Alli Houseworth, who used to work at Washington, D.C.,’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre, said about working with him on his monologue about Steve Jobs and Apple:

For months and months four major non-profit organizations across the US (Seattle Rep, Berkeley Rep, Woolly and the Public Theater) worked to put [The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs] on the stage, bringing the story we all felt was so enormously important – a story Mike told at least me time and time again was true. He insisted that “This is a work of non-fiction” be printed in playbills. This was to be a work of activist theatre. Staff at Woolly handed out sheets of paper to every audience member that left our theatres, per Mike’s insistence, that urged them to take action on this matter. (I and other staffers would get nasty emails from him the next day if even one audience member slipped by without collecting this call to action.) As the head of the marketing staff at Woolly, my staff and I worked hard to get butts in seats, and it worked. We sold out our houses. As in the other cities where Mike appeared, we got Mike in every major news outlet in DC, and the buzz, hype and importance of the show only grew along the way.

Woolly Mammoth just announced that Daisey will appear at a forum it’s holding about the show Tuesday night. In an email, Houseworth tells me she’s not planning to attend.

Related: 4 important truths about Mike Daisey’s lies & the way ‘This American Life’ told them (Poynter) | The unanswered questions about ‘This American Life’ and journalism (Poynter)

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  • Nogabda Woohoo

    What about went Kurtz retreated to the exact same stance for several days after his Irene fiasco?@alroker:@thedailybeast @howardkurtz Howard Kurtz needs to admit he made a mistake about the “hype” about Irene. 40+ dead. 7-10 billion $ in damage@fivethirtyeight:Disappointed that @HowardKurtz hasn’t responded to claims (like mine) that his column dismissing Irene as media hype missed the boat.

  • aperobot

    Let’s just see how Glass answers some very basic questions about TAL’s fact-checking procedures without being able to “control the message,” as it were. As it stands, he’s painting himself as a journalist without doing much more than throwing Daisey under the bus, running away, and covering his ears and hiding to avoid answering some of the same questions.

    If Glass is going to defend the journalistic process and fact-checking, he should make sure his own show’s practices live up to the same critiques. There’s a too-easy pun here about his last name and throwing stones, but it fits the situation almost perfectly.

  • Bob Garfield

    In a remarkable act of self-reflection and rapid production, TAL immediately constructed an entire hour devoted to exposing Daisey’s lies — and its own errors — to public view.  Howard might ask his own organization, CNN,  why it for years has refused every request for comment from On the Media on all manner of sins of commission and omission. Howie is lobbing criticism of TAL from within a citadel made of stone.
    Bob Garfield