Friday, June 19, 2009

The WaPo fires Froomkin

The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin, one of my favorite writers on Wow, what a bad move. Glenn Greenwald has a great takedown on the sheer stupidity. That just boggles my mind. I loved reading his posts.

The first problem with this is that the Post apparently expects us to believe that this is because Froomkin wasn't generating good numbers in terms of traffic. I don't buy that for a second. Why? I have no idea what Froomkin's numbers were. But I don't buy it because I have long believed that I should be skeptical of claims from those in power. I believe this particularly because of the experience of two Washington Post reporters. Apparently Fred Hiatt, WaPo editor, didn't learn the lessons of Woodstein as well as some of the rest of us.

Another reason I am skeptical is that this looks like a blatantly political move. Again, why? Because Froomkin was a highly opinionated political writer. To justify firing someone like him, there has to be clear and substantial evidence of either egregious journalistic misconduct, personal problems, or clear evidence of his failure to generate business. I haven't seen anything of the kind. There has not been any allegation of any kind of misconduct, personal or professional, and if he wasn't bringing in the numbers, let's see those numbers. But back to the political: this looks political because he was a political player. When you fire someone who is a key player in the nation's politics, it is going to look political. That's how the game works. If you don't want it to look political, you damn well better have your cover story airtight.

The final reason I think this is stupid because Froomkin can, and probably will, move to another media property. He has a wide and loyal constituency, and this firing instantly gives him a certain degree of credibility. To say nothing of lots of publicity. If anything, it makes him more valuable. The smart thing would be for the NY Times to snap him up. If he's successful at The Times, that will expose the WaPo's cover story as nonsense. He could easily set up his own blog. He could easily go on a speaking tour. He could work for The Atlantic, or TPM. Josh Marshall would love to have him on board. If he drives traffic to any of those sites, the problem will clearly be with the WaPo, not him.

I've been reading the WaPo for well over 20 years. I have very fond memories of reading it when I lived in DC. I have particularly fond memories of the contests in the Style section. I used to read David Broder and actually learn something about politics. I've been clinging to my faith in it despite the criticism of the Washington press corps from bloggers. I used to visit at least once a day, if not more. I've been frustrated by the site, because I think it just pales in comparison to But now I have one less reason to visit it. Actually, two. I have two fewer reasons to visit The first reason is that one of my favorite writers is no longer there. The second reason is that I no longer trust it as well as I once did.

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