For his Monday Media Notes column, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz described the gossip-media battle between TMZ and Radar Online in a big splashy layout on the front of the Style section. But late in this piece, Kurtz wrote something that could land him in the Corrections box:
Strangely enough, given Gibson's star power and the huge controversy over his film "The Passion of the Christ," the network newscasts and major newspapers have barely touched the story.
What? Kurtz reports the Post had one paragraph in its gossip column, while the Times was slow to get to its first story last Thursday. But he offered no network-newscast breakdown. A quick Nexis search of just NBC found 26 Mel Gibson stories, interviews, and discussions since July 12. They all aired on Today, not on the Nightly News. Did Kurtz mean to suggest that the network morning shows are not "newscasts"? Or did he really think the networks had "barely touched" this?
NBC's Today jumped on this story -- of purported recordings of Gibson yelling terrible things at his Russian girlfriend -- with both feet. On July 12, Matt Lauer asked "It's a serious question? Is Mel Gibson's career over?" In a later segment, gossip Rob Shuter of the website PopEater answered: "Not only is his career over...His legacy might be over."
Not only there were 26 stories, there were 52 mentions overall on NBC since July 12, as Today routinely promoted the Gibson-tapes story to urge viewers to stick around. They led the show with Gibson promos on July 13 and 15.
Gibson news stories were often repeated during the four hours of Today, and Hoda Kotb proclaimed she was growing sick of the story in her last-hour slot. But NBC also brought in its own experts in to analyze Gibson, including legal expert Dan Abrams and medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who insisted Gibson was so mentally ill he should seek psychiatric help within hours.
It's truly sad that Gibson's personal conduct has eroded into this tabloid sensation. But there is little doubt that the network-news folks are milking this, not avoiding it.