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Morning Daniel Froomkin News Roundup

Hamilton Nolan:

Gawker - Washington Post Fires Token Liberal - Dan Froomkin: The Washington Post, which pays money to opinion writers such as Bill Kristol (smarmy) and Richard Cohen (smarmier), has fired blogger Dan Froomkin, one of the only WaPo opinion writers who pointed out that the Bush White House was crooked. Froomkin wrote the "White House Watch" blog and he was extremely "Liberal" because he generally pointed out the Bush administration lied all the time. (While the rest of the paper's opinion page supported the Iraq War, etc, they really do suck). Here's the paper's s----- explanation:

I think the easiest way to put it is that our editors and research teams are constantly reviewing our columns, blogs and other content to make sure we're giving readers the most value when they are on our site while balancing the need to make the most of our resources. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes features must be eliminated, and this time it was the blog that Dan Froomkin freelanced for

Translation: the Washington Post has to be even more conservative now with Obama as president or else they won't be taken "Seriously"...

John Harris of The Politico:

John Harris: This is a quick note on your recent items on Dan Froomkin's ouster from the Post.

I blundered four years ago in allowing myself to have an overwrought public disagreement with Dan over what now seems (and if I was thinking clearly at the time would have seemed then) an insanely narow [sic] issue--i.e., whether his column was appropriately labeled. I don't want any current references to that now ancient episode to obscure my actual view of Dan and his work. I think he is a distinctive and valuable voice on the presidency and on journalism. I particularly admire the entpreneurialism [sic] he has shown in his career--using the power of the Web to build a community of followers and create his own franchise. This was actually my view at the time, though it got lost in the smoke when I got indignant over a couple points that seem distant now. But my view has strengthened in the years since, with more appreciation of how the Web is changing journalism and how enterprising writers thrive in this new environment.

It's been nearly three years since I have had anything to do with decision-making at the Post, and I have no insight into what prompted he and the Post to part ways. But he had some impressive achievements there, and I hope he'll find the right home for his voice soon.


John Harris

Actually, I don't think that last is true. I think John Harris has considerable insight into what prompted the Post to fire him--how could it possibly be otherwise? I would be interested to learn what his insights are.

Glenn Greenwald:

Glenn Greenwald: [T]his Froomkin firing is so revealing.  The fact that one of the very few people to practice real adversarial journalism in the Bush era was decreed not to be a real "journalist" -- and has now been fired by the Post -- is one of the most illustrative episodes of the past several years regarding what the real function of the establishment media is.  Along those lines, Harris might want to consider also acknowledging that Froomkin was absolutely right when insisting (and Harris wrong when doubting) that Froomkin was not acting as "liberal opinionist" when criticizing Bush, but rather, was as an "accountability journalist" because he was merely pointing out facts, and would subject the actions and claims of a Democratic president to the same journalistic scrutiny.  Froomkin's tenacious criticisms of Obama leave no doubt about that... 

Jane Hamsher:

Campaign Silo » Froomkin v. Washington Post — The Battle Continues: Glenn Greenwald says most of what needs to be said about the Washington Post's firing of Dan Froomkin.  But having been involved in the early rounds of this battle and watched it ferment over the years, I thought I'd add a few notes of context. When Debbie Howell wrote that Dan Froomkin was "highly opinionated and liberal," she didn't just think that up by her little old "yippie ki yeah motherf-----" self.   It was the consensus of the newsroom, where it was believed -- correctly -- that Froomkin's writing about the war and US foreign policy were an inherent criticism of the WaPo's own coverage and editorial position.  And so they wanted to make it clear that he was Not One Of Them, nor did he rise to their high standards.   Here was Len Downie at the time:

"We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion," Downie told E&P. "And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."

And here's John Harris (now chief of Politico):

They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.

But aside from the desire to play access footsie with the White House, Downie and Harris were bristling at Froomkin's critique of -- well, them.  While they were fawning over Bush, his war and his codpiece, Froomkin was writing about Bob Woodward's "unique relationship" with the White House.   When Froomkin was transferred into Fred Hiatt's fiefdom a couple of months ago, it didn't bode well for his consistently popular column.

There was always a sympathetic ear in the halls of the Washington Post for anyone who wanted to complain about Dan Froomkin.  The arrogant presumption that they were carrying on some sort of noble journalistic tradition that Froomkin violated is just baked into the concrete over there.  In the end, the bitter petty people who discredited the entire profession with their coverage of the war and its fallout just did not like the mirror he held up to them. 

And an organization that has long felt it could change reality simply by refusing to acknowledge its existence runs true to form once again.

Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander:

Ombudsman Blog: Post Axes Froomkin's "White House Watch": After five and a half years as a regular feature on the Web site, Dan Froomkin’s White House Watch column is being axed. Froomkin was quietly passing the word today that he was told by The Post that his contract will be terminated in early July....

"I’m terribly disappointed. I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn’t 'working' anymore. But from what I could tell, it was still working very well," Froomkin said. "I also thought White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online. I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That’s what I tried to do every day," he continued. "I’m not sure at this point what I’m going to do next. I may take White House Watch elsewhere, or may try something different."

Froomkin bills his often-irreverent online column as a “pugnacious daily anthology of White House-related items from news Web sites, blogs and other sources.” He does not operate as a White House reporter. Rather, he compiles material about the White House and offers his own commentary, often with a liberal bent.

That slant seemed to attract a large and loyal audience during the Bush administration, but it may have suffered when Barack Obama became president.

Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, whose stable of contributors includes Froomkin, said late Thursday: "With the end of the Bush administration, interest in the blog also diminished. His political orientation was not a factor in our decision."

When it began, the column was called “White house Briefing.” But the name was changed after concerns by some at The Post newspaper that readers might believe Froomkin was a White House reporter, working alongside those offering objective news reporters.

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank's comment on this is that it would have been much more popular with readers for the Post to have kept Froomkin and fired Alexander.

Jay Rosen:

The Washington Post, Dan Froomkin and the establishment media: Froomkin came along, in the wreckage of that, and from a position way on the wing, as a columnist for, this new entity which to the guys downtown at The Washington Post didn't even matter at first, came along and he basically picked up the signals from that event, and started to write it up, and started to bring that story, that whole narrative of the radicalism of the Bush years, into The Washington Post. And the truth is, that the Washington press corps, and the people at the White House themselves, helped to normalize Bush; they normalized a radical move. They didn't know what to do in the case of an outlier. All the things they would have had to do to respond, they failed to do. And Froomkin was reminding them of that. And that is ultimately why he was let go...

Duncan Black:

Eschaton: I think one mistake people, including me, have been making in discussing Froomkin was to assert that he's a liberal and, as Glenn Greenwald said, is almost alone in the mainstream media in criticizing Obama from the Left. This is true, in some sense, but only because our political discourse has become so weird. I mean, a decade ago, whatever I thought of conservatism, I wouldn't have considered "following the law" and "constitutional limits on executive power" and "skepticism about government secrecy" and "acknowledgment of the 4th amendment" and "accountability for government misdeeds other than blowjobs" and "lying our way into war is maybe wrong" and, perhaps, most of all, "torture is bad" to be just "liberal" positions. But since we just came off the age of Bush, where only liberals actually got upset about these things, and conservatives haven't yet (for some reason) become all that concerned that Rahm Emanuel might be bugging their phones, these are now apparently "liberal" positions. So in our discourse Froomkin became an extreme leftist, even though I don't remember him actually expressing opinions on the vast range of issues which, in non-crazy times, we associate with liberalism.

James Fallows:

James Fallows: egative journalistic development of the week: the Washington Post's insane decision to fire its media-political blogger Dan Froomkin. (I know Froomkin only through his work, not personally.) We all have heard the reasons that the press is under pressure by forces not of its making. This is an example of a self-inflicted wound. Are papers like the Post under suspicion for being too insidery and old-media-y? How does it make sense get rid of an independent minded, new media, presumably not-that-expensive, non-Washington-cliquey voice on politics and the media and leave... well, the full opinion and media lineup the Post is sticking with? Some people tell me that it's a mistake to say that the Post's editorial page (and the weight of its op-ed lineup) has "become" neo-con and establishment-minded under its current editor, Fred Hiatt; the argument is that this is the Post's long tradition, which its anti-Nixon crusade concealed. I don't know. But I would have liked to have heard the argument about why Froomkin was the necessary next person to cut. More later.

A Reader of Glenn Greenwald:

From a reader, via email: As of this moment the post on the WaPo Ombudsman's blog about Froomkin has 395 comments (most in support of Froomkin). His previous post, on Howard Kurtz, has 9. The post before that has 25. The one before that 0, as in none [and the 3 posts prior to that have 3 each, and the one prior also has zero]. Genius of the WaPo to get rid of the writer who readers are most passionate about.

And Glenn comments:

Number of comments isn't a perfect barometer of interest, but when the disparities are that large, it is certainly probative. The bottom line is that I'd be willing to bet anyone that Froomkin generates more outside traffic to The Post than the overwhelming majority of Post blogs that remain.

Steve Clemons:

Dan Froomkin and White House Watch - The Washington Note: Politico's Patrick Gavin (who is editing Michael Calderone's column this week) reports and I have confirmed that Dan Froomkin's invaluable White House Watch blog has been discontinued at the Washington Post. Froomkin was the new media hybrid of Woodward and Bernstein during the George W. Bush administration and provided one of the best informed portals into America's palace politics. I want all TWN's readers to know that Froomkin was one of those who greatly furthered serious public discourse about torture, domestic spying, the Iraq War, and many other stressful and important subjects -- and his platform at the Post will be missed.

Steve Benen:

The Washington Monthly: if Froomkin is leaving the Post, it's a real loss. Froomkin has been a great writer with keen instincts, often picking up on a burgeoning story before it's gained traction elsewhere. The Politico says the move is "sure to ignite the left-wing blogosphere," but Froomkin's departure, if true, should disappoint anyone concerned with insightful political analysis. Indeed, far-right complaints notwithstanding, Froomkin has spent months scrutinizing the Obama White House, cutting the Democratic president no slack at all. Just over the past couple of days, Froomkin offered critical takes on the president's proposed regulations of the financial industry, follow-through on gay rights, and foot-dragging on Bush-era torture revelations.

Froomkin was one of the media's most important critics of the Bush White House, and conservative bashing notwithstanding, was poised to be just as valuable holding the Obama White House accountable for its decisions...

Megan McArdle:

Froomkin Fired - Megan McArdle: Dan Froomkin is out at the Post, for reasons that aren't clear to me.  Was there really room for only one liberal political blogger?

And Dan Froomkin:

Froomkin, Lord Carlile, and US Political Journalism: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central.  The threat comes from inside.  It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do…

Calling bulls---, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.

It also resonates with readers and viewers a lotm ore than passionless stenography I’m not sure why calling bulls--- has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons. There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access fo  insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bulls----calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bulls--- more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bulls----calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat.  We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship — or whatever it is — out of the way.