Tuesday, July 07, 2009

HuffPost puts Dan Froomkin in charge of its Washington coverage


Now that was journalism, more or less -- from Billy Wilder's 1974 film version of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's classic 1928 play The Front Page.

"People are obviously hungry for the type of real journalism [Dan] Froomkin practices."
-- Glenn Greenwald, on Salon.com (see below)

by Ken

Glenn Greenwald has the story of the Huffington Post's hiring of Dan Froomkin, whose shocking (but maybe not surprising) firing from his washingtonpost.com "White House Watch" column enraged me and a lot of other folks. Among those who responded similarly, apparently, was HuffPost editor-at-large Nora Ephron, who (Glenn reports) --
emailed Huffington with a one-line note: "I hope we're hiring him." Within hours, Huffington called Froomkin, met with him in Washington last week, and a deal was finalized this week.

According to Glenn, "Froomkin will oversee a staff of five reporters and an Assistant Editor, guide The Huffington Post's Washington reporting, and write at least two posts per week to be featured on its main page and Politics page."

Glenn has some interesting reflections on Dan's firing by the Post (for links, click through to the on-site version):
Though the precise reasons for Froomkin's firing by The Post remain unclear, there's no question that his penchant for aggressively criticizing establishment media behavior escalated tensions. In recent months, The Post spiked columns of his that contained pointed media critiques. In the wake of his firing, Post defenders misleadingly focused on (and then rebutted) the obvious strawman argument that Froomkin was fired for being "liberal." But that, in fact, was something virtually nobody claimed. Instead, it was Froomkin's practice of exposing the corrupt practices of establishment journalists (both by his words and deeds) that made him such a unique presence at The Post. Pioneering press critic Bob Somerby put it this way:
Dan Froomkin criticizes the press corps. In the press corps, if you’re a liberal, that just isn’t done. . . . If there’s one thing you’ll never see [E.J.] Dionne or [Eugene] Robinson do, it’s criticize their cohort—the coven, the clan. . . But in the mainstream press corps, liberals don’t discuss the mainstream press. That’s the price of getting those (very good) jobs. It’s also the price of holding them.

Indeed, nothing eliminates the possibility of establishment journalist jobs more quickly or decisively than criticizing the establishment media as being too sycophantic to political power, manipulated by the Right, and, in general, slothfully devoted to doing nothing other than uncritically repeating what "both sides" say (by stark contrast, the tired right-wing grievance about The Liberal Media is not just permitted but welcomed; Bill Kristol spent years depicting The New York Times as an anti-American, Terrorist-loving beacon of left-wing bias, only to be hired by them as a full-time columnist, while right-wing polemicists who voice similarly trite claims about the media -- Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Bennett -- are routinely heard in the very venues they attack).

In all sorts of ways, this new position for Dan is a brilliant fit, and a win for all concerned, not least HuffPost readers, of which there will be, I suspect, many more, and many more serious ones. Still, with his customary thoroughness, Glenn voices concerns. Dan has had no hesitation in calling out the Obama administration where it calls for calling out, and Arianna Huffington herself has a network of people in high places whom she may not be happier to see slammend than, say, the editors of the Washington Post were. Having spoken to both parties, Glenn comments: "Both Huffington and Froomkin insist that he will have full editorial freedom, though that commitment is often more easily embraced in theory than in practice. "

The good news here is that Dan had a bunch of offers when the Post, instead of finding a way to integrate their best reporter into the newspaper itself, banished him from its website. Actually, "inundated" is the way Glenn describes the shower of "expressions of interest" and actual offers that came Dan's way. This tells us that a heckuva lot of people noticed the job he did at washingtonpost.com those six years. It also tells us, as Glenn writes, "People are obviously hungry for the type of real journalism Froomkin practices."

The bad news is that not just the Post, which is clearly determined to be a sort of newsletter of the Villagers, by the Villagers, and for the Villagers ("the house organ of the Village idiots" is how I put it, I believe), but the Infotainment News Media in general have little, and in fact apparently diminishing, appetite for "real journalism." It seems to give them indigestion.

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At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

I had Greenwald's apprehensions, as well. It will be interesting to see how he manages in a power position within an environment of Liberal Lite. Not that I doubt for a moment Arianna Huffington's sincerity, but their goals aren't the same.


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