Monday, June 22, 2009
Posted at 10:16 am, June 19th, 2009
Dan Froomkin, deputy editor for Nieman Watchdog, has just been fired from his main job as writer of the online White House Watch column for the Washington Post. Dan will do just fine. He is talented, immensely productive, has sharp insight, good ideas and is a total self-starter.
The unanswered question is, why was he fired? He loved his work and developed a very large following.
The Post hasn’t given any good reason. As editor of Nieman Watchdog I’ve worked closely with Froomkin for 5-1/2 years, and I certainly can’t think of one. The paper’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote in his blog Thursday that editors wouldn’t comment and referred him to a PR person. She issued a statement that one of Alexander’s blog readers said was baffling, Stalin-like and Orwellian. It was all of those:
“Editors and our research teams are constantly reviewing our online content to ensure we bring readers the most value when they are on our Web site while balancing the need to make the most of our resources. Regrettably, this means that sometimes features must be eliminated, and this time it was the blog that Dan Froomkin freelanced to The Post’s Web site.”
Late Thursday the Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, issued a statement that Alexander added to his post, saying, “With the end of the Bush administration, interest in the blog also diminished. His political orientation was not a factor in our decision.”
Froomkin is well-known online and his firing drew a quick, shocked reaction. By Friday morning more than 225 readers had appended comments to Alexander’s blog, the great majority of them infuriated with the firing.
Froomkin’s column is slated to run until late June or early July. He mentioned his firing in this morning’s piece, saying, “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the readers who have e-mailed, blogged, commented, tweeted and left notes on my Facebook page. Your kind words and support mean the world to me.”
A Google search shows numerous articles on the firing.
The headline on Glenn Greenwald’s blog in Salon was, “The Post fires its best columnist. Why?”
“What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry,” Greenwald wrote, “is that 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.”
I just wanted to add this quote from Dan, posted by Andrew Sullivan, under the title: Why Dan Froomkin Was Fired:
"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 bullshit, 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 lot more than passionless stenography I’m not sure why calling bullshit 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 bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.
If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit 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 bullshit-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," - Dan Froomkin, presciently describing why he was fired.