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June 18, 2009

WaPo, bring back Dan Froomkin

Damn. The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin:

POLITICO learned today that the Washington Post has terminated its relationship with liberal columnist/blogger Dan Froomkin. Froomkin authored the "White House Watch" blog and was told today that the blog had essentially run its course. [...]

Froomkin was none too happy with the decision, telling POLITICO that he's "terribly disappointed."

"I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn’t 'working' anymore," said Froomkin. "Personally, I thought it was still working very well, and based on reader feedback, a lot of readers thought so, too. I also felt White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online. As I’ve written elsewhere, (http://www.niemanlab.org/category/themes/danfroomkin) 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. Now I guess I'll have to try to do it someplace else." [Politico]

White House Watch is a terrific blog. I suspect that Froomkin's high-profile advocacy of accountability journalism dimmed his career prospects at the Post. Froomkin argued that journalists shouldn't be afraid to passionately call out bullshit when they see it instead of keeping up a bad faith facade that allows the reporter to write as if s/he finds all assertions equally credible.

Politico reports that bloggers from Andrew Sullivan to Glenn Greenwald to Wonkette are bemoaning Froomkin's ouster. Even the painfully cynical Gawker is crying foul. Add me to the list of deeply disappointed readers.

Froomkin is a very rare commodity--a skilled reporter who is also a talented blogger. He's a gem and the Post was foolish to let him go.

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Comments

Doesn't it make sense that the person running White House Watch now should be a Republican?

No. Unless you're the Post and you assume that every opinion writer besides Ezra Klein should be a Republican.

"White House Watch" isn't flattering towards Obama.

=================================
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/white-house-watch/torture/push-back-mr-president.html#more


Give them an inch, they'll take a mile. Now that President Obama has shown that he can be rolled when it comes to his commitment to transparency, the defenders of torture are shamelessly pressuring him to keep their secrets even when court rulings and common sense say otherwise.

The latest attempt -- which finds complicit CIA officials pushing Obama to renege on his administration's pledge to release a highly critical 2004 CIA inspector general's report -- is so blatantly self-serving that even some former CIA officials are condemning it as unjustifiable.

Stop letting them play you for a sucker, Mr. President. Return to your principles. Let the sunshine disinfect this wound.
==================================

Ah, so now White House Watch is attacking Obama for being too centrist... Note to enterprising Democrats: this doesn't count as criticism any more than the self-serving Republican attacks on Bush for increasing spending. You're just using Obama to inflate your own worldview, just like the Republicans are using Bush.

Re. your headline. No, the Post should not hire him back. The Post does not deserve him. I mean, seriously, who have they got left but hacks and has-beens and neocons? Let them fucking fail *without* the good people.

What do you mean it doesn't count as criticism? Froomkin has a coherent journalistic philosophy and consistent political values. He doesn't slant his coverage to improve the electoral prospects of Democrats. When he saw the Bush administration falling short on transparency, good government, human rights, and the rule of law he reported the facts to prove it. Now, he's seeing the Obama administration fall into some of the same traps and he's holding the administration to the same standards.

Your argument implies that the only legitimate criticism of Democrats comes from the right. Why can't the Washington Post have a consistently liberal voice? They've got plenty of consistent conservatives and plenty of pseudo-centrists. It's not like Froomkin was the only blogger, columnist, or reporter covering the White House. Everyone who writes about the White House should be on White House watch.

We should reject the conventional wisdom that every political commentator is either a Democrat or a Republican first and foremost. Froomkin has valuable insights. Maybe the Democrats are little closer to his personal politics than the Republicans, but so what?

When he saw the Bush administration falling short on transparency, good government, human rights, and the rule of law he reported the facts to prove it.

That's exactly the problem. These are predominantly liberal yardsticks to measure government against. A conservative critic would be more preoccupied with falling short on economic growth, America's worldwide stature, and small government. Bush of course failed on all three, but the moderate and conservative critics who attack him on those always gave off the impression that they'd be fine with wars of aggression if they were better executed, and that they'd be fine with health and social security crises as long as government spending were contained; thus, they completely failed to see how poorly Bush was doing on non-conservative measures. A liberal critic will be equally likely to ignore Obama's performance on non-liberal measures.

Why can't the Washington Post have a consistently liberal voice?

Sure it can. It just shouldn't have a consistently liberal White House critic. Ideally the White House criticism should come from a bipartisan team led by a member of the opposition party; if that's impossible, then it should come from a member of the opposition party alone. The White House has enough of a platform to promote its agenda.

We should reject the conventional wisdom that every political commentator is either a Democrat or a Republican first and foremost.

No, every political commentator is a pundit appealing to some specific audience first and foremost. For commentators doing White House critiques, it's always a partisan audience.

Alon,
Of course there's such a startling paucity of conservative white house critics, isn't there?
The loss of Froomkin hits hard because he's one of a very small group of authentic liberals afforded access to a mainstream audience. Your argument is being made inside a vacuum where media bias does not exist. Most voices out there with access are either centrist or conservative.

There is an acute need for a liberal white house critic, particularly because on issues from gay rights to health care reform, war and torture, Obama is breaking his contract of trust with the liberal American voter.
Shutting out that critique creates the false impression that the only valid criticism of Obama's white house comes from the right, and will have the effect of only allowing a tension between centrist and right wing ideas of governance. This distorts our national discourse and bends it away from accurately representing what the public believes, since it cuts a significant section of us out of the conversation entirely.

Your argument is being made inside a vacuum where media bias does not exist. Most voices out there with access are either centrist or conservative.

I'm sorry, but media bias really doesn't exist, outside the minds of partisans. Democrats can be reliably expected to call every outlet right of the Huffington Post biased; Republicans can be reliably expected to call every outlet left of Fox biased. In a world where the best way to predict a person's political views is to ask him what he thinks CNN's bias is, complaining about how most voices aren't like yours is narrow-minded.

In truth, there are plenty of liberal voices, especially within the universe of people the White House listens to. For example, a few weeks ago Obama had an off-the-record dinner with Stiglitz and Krugman. He's given no such access to Mankiw. The point of media criticism is to present the points of view the President is insulated from.

Raw Story reports "On Thursday, the Washington Post confirmed it had fired liberal online columnist Dan Froomkin. On Friday, they gave a guest column to Bush war architect Paul Wolfowitz."

Isn't that special?

Hey, if being an abject failure means you can't get columns anymore, then politicians will never be able to write for newspapers again.

I'm confused; he's still blogging at the Post. When was (is) his termination date?

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