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The WaPo’s Omerta on Froomkin

Before I look closely at what OmbudAndy (Andy Alexander) had to say about Froomkin’s firing today, I want to thank Dan for his kind words in today’s post and for the way he went out with a bang. Also, Dan and Jay Rosen will be talking about accountability and journalism on Tuesday at the Personal Democracy Forum (I’ll be speaking at 3:45); I plan to liveblog their conversation.

But onto what the WaPo’s OmbudAndy had to say about Froomkin’s firing. There are two really important pieces of news in his article:

  • No one within the WaPo wants to tell their own Ombud why they fired Froomkin
  • One of the reasons they fired Froomkin is they wanted him to stop doing media criticism

No one wants to talk 

Alexander describes the WaPo’s refusal to explain why they fired Froomkin "ironic:"

Institutionally, The Post is now responding by circling the wagons — ironic for a news organization that insists on transparency from those it covers. Its initial statement on June 18 from spokeswoman Kris Coratti lacked substance (“Editors and our research teams are constantly reviewing our online content to ensure we bring readers the most value…while balancing the need to make the most of our resources”).

I was off much of this week with a minor medical problem. But when I was able to start querying editors yesterday, a wall of silence was erected. Raju Narisetti, the managing editor who oversees the Web site, declined to go beyond last week’s PR statement. Online Opinions Editor Marisa Katz, after talking Thursday with the Washington CityPaper, said she had been instructed not to respond to additional queries. And Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who had previously responded to questions from me and other journalists (including the CityPaper on Thursday), today said he was unable to comment.

I’d say it’s worse than ironic. I’d say it’s revealing. The WaPo apparently has no excuse that can withstand scrutiny, so they’re just keeping mum. I’d suggest, in particular, that Hiatt’s inconsistent silence suggests where the stupidity they’re trying to hide lies.

Stop doing media criticism

And here’s the really amusing part. They asked Froomkin to stop doing media criticism.

Froomkin said his editors were urging changes in White House Watch, and he acknowledged disagreement over content. For example, he was urged not to do media criticism. “I had always considered media criticism a big part of the column, as a lot of what I do is read and comment about what others have written about the White House,” he said.

Which I guess gets us back to issue number one: the WaPo doesn’t want anyone–even one of its own–scrutinizing its actions too closely (or those of others). Golly, god forbid that Froomkin actually point out one of the reasons why the WaPo is losing money at such a clip.

And here’s the related issue:

Some reporters and editors at The Post view Froomkin as a superb, hard-working “aggregator” whose blog needed more original reporting. Weingarten, without expressing his own judgment, alluded to this in his chat: “I can tell you that there has been some disagreement about Froomkin’s column over the years between the paper-paper and dotcom; the issue, I think, was whether he was as informed and qualified to opine as people who had been actively covering the White House for years.”

I guess calling Froomkin an "aggregator" is another way of attacking him for actually looking at the tripe that comes out of the beltway. And if you don’t let him talk about how consistently wrong those so-called experts "actively covering the White House for years" have been over the last 8 years, then it’s a lot easier to impugn his credibility or judgment. 

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