This puts into some perspective his notion that all I had to do was call him up to get the truth of what transpired in the firing of Froomkin. From Andy Alexander:
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.
But the insistence that this had nothing to do with ideology is a little too pat. No, there is not an attempt to purge liberals at the WaPo. But the question is whether Froomkin's dogged refusal to move on past the torture regime of Bush-Cheney made him persona non grata among the neocon set that Hiatt advances at every opportunity. In particular, his tangling with the intellectual architect of American torture, Charles Krauthammer, remains unaddressed. Krauthammer dismissed Froomkin as stupid, and Hiatt and Krauthammer are close.
Then traffic: no one has doubted that Froomkin's traffic has dropped. The salient question is: how much has, say, Mike Gerson's traffic dropped in comparison?
The traffic drop is meaningless without a comparison the Post refuses to provide. Gerson was hired to provide a Bush-administration view on the WaPo op-ed page. He offers nothing that Krauthammer, Kristol, or Kagan do. So why is Froomkin fired and not Gerson? Again what we see here is a refusal to be transparent. In this, Hiatt simply does not believe that the MSM should be as transparent as, say, the blogosphere, whose traffic stats are, for the most part, an open book.
Finally: journalistic culture. Froomkin was prepared to tackle MSM blindness, name names and not be a part of the clubby, self-protective mediocrity of large swathes of Washington journalism. This doubtless had something to do with his hiring. Just read the code here in Gene Weingarten's words:
“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.” 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.
So Froomkin wasn't prepared to be a part of the MSM don't-criticize-one-another culture or accept absurd notions that somehow one needs "qualifications" to do media criticism. That's another reason why he had to go.
Now check the ombudsman's pathetic attempt to put the record straight. He cannot get the only relevant data from his own paper to address the substantive critique that the traffic justification was phony. He cannot even get Fred Hiatt to return his calls. He tamely accepts the "not ideology" without addressing again the specific concern that Krauthammer's public denunciation of Froomkin may have influenced Hiatt to fire him. Then he finishes with a flourish that the Post and Froomkin will fare fine without his presence.
I don't think the Post will survive fine without him. I think that what this firing demonstrates is why the Post doesn't deserve to in its current contempt for the blogosphere. It is in thrall to political power, protects its own mediocrities, and remains afraid to take on or leave behind the neocon establishment it did so much to protect and continues relentlessly to promote on its op-ed pages.
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