6.27.2009

Dan Froomkin's Farewell WaPo Piece: An Ode To Bloggers & A Lesson In Journalism

I can't do Dan Froomkin's last WaPo piece, White House Watched, the justice it deserves. So, I'll let it speak for itself. It's a shame Fred Hiatt doesnt' understand how med media works and why the WaPo has just taken giant leaps backwards.

When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney's lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby's lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles.

And while this wasn't as readily apparent until President Obama took office, it's now very clear that the Bush years were all about kicking the can down the road – either ignoring problems or, even worse, creating them and not solving them. This was true of a huge range of issues including the economy, energy, health care, global warming – and of course Iraq and Afghanistan.

How did the media cover it all? Not well. Reading pretty much everything that was written about Bush on a daily basis, as I did, one could certainly see the major themes emerging. But by and large, mainstream-media journalism missed the real Bush story for way too long. The handful of people who did exceptional investigative reporting during this era really deserve our gratitude: People such as Ron Suskind, Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer, Murray Waas, Michael Massing, Mark Danner, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau (better late than never), Dana Priest, Walter Pincus, Charlie Savage and Philippe Sands; there was also some fine investigative blogging over at Talking Points Memo and by Marcy Wheeler. Notably not on this list: The likes of Bob Woodward and Tim Russert. Hopefully, the next time the nation faces a grave national security crisis, we will listen to the people who were right, not the people who were wrong, and heed those who reported the truth, not those who served as stenographers to liars.

It's also worth keeping in mind that there is so very much about the Bush era that we still don't know.

Now, a little over five months after Bush left office, Barack Obama's presidency is shaping up to be in large part about coming to terms with the Bush era, and fixing all the things that were broken. In most cases, Obama is approaching this task enthusiastically – although in some cases, he is doing so only under great pressure, and in a few cases, not at all . I think part of Obama's abiding popularity with the public stems from what a contrast he is from his predecessor -- and in particular his willingness to take on problems. But he certainly has a lot of balls in the air at one time. And I predict that his growing penchant for secrecy – especially but not only when it comes to the Bush legacy of torture and lawbreaking – will end up serving him poorly, unless he renounces it soon.

Obama is nowhere in Bush's league when it comes to issues of credibility, but his every action nevertheless needs to be carefully scrutinized by the media, and he must be held accountable. We should be holding him to the highest standards – and there are plenty of places where we should be pushing back. Just for starters, there are a lot of hugely important but unanswered questions about his Afghanistan policy, his financial rescue plans, and his turnaround on transparency.

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DKos' mcjoan had this to say about Froomkin's departure:
Share this on Twitter - Froomkin's Last WaPo Stand

As Fred Hiatt retrenches ever deeper into his Village enclave, creating as Scott Horton says, "a Neocon remainder bin" on his opinion pages, Dan Froomkin bids farewell. And he demonstrates again why he's consistently been the main reason to visit WaPo's opinion page, and why it must have been so uncomfortable for Hiatt to keep him around...

[snip]

Providing ample proof of why he couldn't coexist with the go-along ethos of High Broderism. He reads, and links to, bloggers! He's intellectually consistent, willing to criticize both Republicans and Democrats! That's perhaps the rarest commodity in a Village that seeks at all times a political equilibrium that won't endanger its cocktail circuit invite.

Any media outlet in the nation would increase its credibility tenfold by including Froomkin in its DC bureau, just as the WaPo lost the bulk of its credibility by firing him. Best of luck, Dan, in finding an outlet that appreciates you as much as your readership does.

Here is Dan Froomkin's original statement after he learned he was fired (h/t Glenn Greenwald):

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. 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.

As I’ve written elsewhere, 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.

Andrew Sullivan's response to Dan's firing:

A simply astounding move by the paper - getting rid of the one blogger, Dan Froomkin, who kept it real and kept it interesting. Dan's work on torture may be one reason he is now gone. The way in which the WaPo has been coopted by the neocon right, especially in its editorial pages, is getting more and more disturbing. This purge will prompt a real revolt in the blogosphere. And it should.

Upon hearing the news of Froomkin's firing, Glenn Greenwald asked,The Washington Post fires its best columnist. Why?:

What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry is that, as Gavin notes, Froomkin was easily one of the most linked-to and cited Post columnists. At a time when newspapers are relying more and more on online traffic, the Post just fired the person who, in 2007, wrote 3 out of the top 10 most-trafficked columns. In publishing that data, Media Bistro used this headline: "The Post's Most Popular Opinions (Read: Froomkin)." Isn't that an odd person to choose to get rid of?

Following the bottomless path of self-pity of the standard right-wing male -- as epitomized by Pete Hoekstra's comparison of House Republicans to Iranian protesters and yet another column by Pat Buchanan decrying the systematic victimization of the white male in America -- Charles Krauthammer last night said that Obama critics on Fox News are "a lot like [Hugo Chavez'] Caracas where all the media, except one, are state run." But right-wing polemicists like Krauthammer are all over the media.

[snip]

Notably, Froomkin just recently had a somewhat acrimonious exchange with the oh-so-oppressed Krauthammer over torture, after Froomkin criticized Krauthammer's explicit endorsement of torture and Krauthammer responded by calling Froomkin's criticisms "stupid." And now -- weeks later -- Froomkin is fired by the Post while the persecuted Krauthammer, comparing himself to endangered journalists in Venezuela, remains at the Post, along with countless others there who think and write just like he does: i.e., standard neoconservative pablum. Froomkin was previously criticized for being "highly opinionated and liberal" by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell (even as she refused to criticize blatant right-wing journalists).

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Side note:
In Glenn's, Persecution of the Right and the Washington Post Op-Ed page, he listed the recent right-wing editorials found on just one day in the Wapo:

This is what one finds -- just from today -- on the Op-Ed page of The Washington Post, which yesterday fired Dan Froomkin:

* Neocon Charles Krauthammer: attacking Obama for indifference to Freedom in Iran

* Neocon Paul Wolfowitz: attacking Obama for indifference to Freedom in Iran

* Establishment/CIA spokesman and war supporter David Ignatius: demanding that Obama do more to support Freedom in Iran and refuse to negotiate with the Iranian regime

* Bush CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden: warning that America will be in danger if CIA officials involved in torture continue to be criticized and questioned about what they did

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Ah, that liberal media bias strikes again!
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