The Froomkin Affair: A Roundup of ‘Terrible Disappointment’

Here’s the official reason for White House Watch blogger Dan Froomkin’s unceremonious dismissal from The Washington Post, courtesy of Washington Post Media Communications Director Kris Coratti (to Politico’s Patrick Gavin):

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 washingtonpost.com.

So. Froomkin was the victim of journalism’s increasingly zero-sum game? Many in the blogosphere aren’t so sure, treating the contract termination instead as a politically motivated firing: Froomkin, they argue, was guilty of nothing more than BWL—blogging while liberal.

Andrew Sullivan:

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.

Andrew Sullivan (2):

The MSM is bewildered and in some cases angered by how some bloggers have shown up their eagerness to placate those in power. Froomkin had the feel of someone saying what he believed, wthout wondering what others thought. This violates Beltway convention. And so, in the end, they violated him.

Wonkette’s Jim Newell:

Everyone give it up for your capital city’s hometown newspaper, the very liberal Washington Post, which has abruptly fired its only liberal pundit, Dan Froomkin, who in past years did more than the rest of the Post op-ed staff combined to show how our beloved leaders George W. Bush and Richard “Dick” Cheney were careless law-breaking criminals from Hell.

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan:

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)…Translation: the Washington Post has to be even more conservative now with Obama as president or else they won’t be taken “Seriously,” by assholes.

TalkLeft:

The Washington Post has given columnist Dan Froomkin his walking papers. What a stupid, myopic decision. Froomkin is the best columnist the paper has…. The Post says his column has outlived its usefulness. Is that another way of saying Obama is so popular there’s no need for a journalist who seeks to hold him and others in the Administration accountable? Do they really think because Bush is gone, the problems are over? Just wait a few more months…the restless stirrings by interest groups are already there, criticism is just around the corner.

The Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins:

I have to say that I greet today’s decision by the Washington Post to fire blogger and columnist Dan Froomkin to be both sad and alarming. Froomkin has been a leading light in examining the issue of state-sanctioned torture, and most importantly, has been the rare voice in the heights of traditional media to actually say that torture is torture. While the rest of the world soft-foots the matter with dumb euphemisms like “enhanced interrogation” and “intense questioning” — deployed for no other purpose than to signal “Nothing to see here, folks! Not a big deal at all! Attention need not be paid” — Froomkin refused to play that game. His loss is a big one.

The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen:

I haven’t seen official confirmation of this, but 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.

If the report is correct, I’m sorry to see him go.

DailyKos’s Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle:

I don’t have much to say besides a bunch of stuff that probably should be printed here(yes, I do mean an expletive filled rant). Yeah, Dan’s White House Watch page is still up. I don’t know whether that means today is the last day, or whether he’ll continue to the end of the month, or some other arranged time. But this just further shows that the WaPo isn’t the paper of the Watergate-era. They loet Froomkin go but keep Bill “William the Bloody” Kristol on? Did Froomkin piss off poor whiddle Charles “Kraphammer” Krauthammer?

So I say f—k them!! If E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson had some stones, they’d resign in protest. The only reason Froomkin was fired was because he was telling the truth.

Glenn Greenwald:

One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama — i.e., someone who criticizes Obama from what is perceived as “the Left” rather than for being a Terrorist-Loving Socialist Muslim. It just got a lot rarer, as The Washington Post — at least according to Politico’s Patrick Gavin — just fired WashingtonPost.com columnist, long-time Bush critic and Obama watchdog (i.e., a real journalist) Dan Froomkin.

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?…

The Post’s inability to articulate a coherent, credible explanation for what it did speaks volumes.

TPMCafe’s truthseeker77: “I am not visiting their website until Froomkin is re-hired.”

And, finally, here’s Froomkin himself:

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.

Update:: WaPo editorial page editor Fred Hiatt pushes back against the it-was-political reading of Froomkin’s ouster: “With the end of the Bush administration,” Hiatt told the paper’s ombud, Andy Alexander, “interest in the blog also diminished. His political orientation was not a factor in our decision.”

Update 2:: Here’s The Atlantic’s James Fallows reacting to the Froomkin news:

Negative 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.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.