POLITICO learned today that the Washington Post has terminated its relationship with liberal columnist/blogger Dan Froomkin. Froomkin authored the "White House Watch" blog and was told today that the blog had essentially run its course.
Washington Post Media Communications Director Kris Coratti tells POLITICO that "our editors and research teams are constantly reviewing our columns, blogs and other content to make sure we're giving readers the most value when they are on our site while balancing the need to make the most of our resources. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes features must be eliminated, and this time it was the blog that Dan Froomkin freelanced for washingtonpost.com."
The nonsensical "run its course" rhetoric has been used before to "explain" why progressive voices are given the boot. I remember hearing the exact same phrase used a dozen years ago when the Washington Postgave the boot to pacifist op-ed writer Coleman McCarthy. Yet, somehow, it just never seems to be applied to any of the scores virtually interchangeable rightwing gasbags. But a progressive who actually reports stuff? Man, that stuff gets old! All those inconvenient facts that just keeping coming, and coming, and coming?
Who needs that?
The same sort of fate has befallen some of the best journalists in modern times. It happened to I.F. Stone, who was remembered this week on Democracy Now! He was so prominent he was on Meet The Press one week in 1949, challenging the editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, who was leading the charge against national health care, and he was gone in a flash, not to appear on national television for another 18 years. It happened to famed foreign correspondent George Seldes as well, first subject to repeated censorship by his publisher at the Chicago Tribune, and later almost silenced by the blacklist under McCarthy. It happened in stages to investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke the initial story on Iran/Contra, and now runs Consortiumnews.com. And it happened to Gary Webb, whose 1996 "Dark Alliance" expose of CIA/Contra involvement in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s was later confirmed by CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz, but that didn't save him from being driven out of journalism. The overwhelming preponderance of this pattern makes it blindingly clear that (a) there's nothing random or haphazard about it, and (b) the media establishment is not about quality newsgathering, it's about ideological confromity, it's about propaganda, it's about hegemony.
The Washington Post fires its best columnist. Why?
One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama -- i.e., someone who criticizes Obama from what is perceived as "the Left" rather than for being a Terrorist-Loving Socialist Muslim. It just got a lot rarer, as The Washington Post -- at least according to Politico's Patrick Gavin -- just fired WashingtonPost.com columnist, long-time Bush critic and Obamawatchdog (i.e., a real journalist) Dan Froomkin.
What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry is that, as Gavin notes, 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. In publishing that data, Media Bistro used this headline: "The Post's Most Popular Opinions (Read: Froomkin)." Isn't that an odd person to choose to get rid of?
Odd? Not in light of the pattern I pointed out above. Only odd if you naively believe the Washington Post is in the business of spreading the news, rather than filtering it.
....The Washington Post does more to advance neoconservative ideology than The Weekly Standard, the American Enterprise Institute and Commentary combined.
But the Washington Post is still counted as one of the pillars of the so-called "liberal media". With liberals like that, who needs reactionaries?
This is why the internet matters so much. It makes it much easier to go around the existing establishment. It was always possible, but it was much, much harder.
Seldes and Stone both had to create their own newsletters in order to keep being heard as they wished. They were already prominent newsmen with tremendous talent and fierce independence, so they were able to establish their own one-man operations reaching a large national subscriber base. How many others were simply gotten rid of before they gained such prominence? Robert Parry was not a "name" journalist, even as he broke the initial Iran/Contra story while working for the AP. Garry Webb even had his "Dark Alliance" series supported online with directly presented source material (visible in archived form at the link provided above). But the internet wasn't regularly accessed by large numbers of people at the time, and so the LA Times, NY Times and Washington Post simply lied about what he had said and done. And people believed them.
Those days are gone. Chances are good that someone--perhaps Salon, Huffington Post, the Daily Beast--will pick up Froomkin's column and keep it going. Of course, it won't quite be the same. It won't have the Washington Post's impremature on it. But Froomkin will almost certainly continue with far less difference and far less effort than Seldes or Stone struggled through.
But we're still fighting at a terrible disadvantage. The Washington Post fired Froomkin, not the other way around. That's something we need to be thinking about. How do we fire the Washington Post? It won't happen overnight. But it' something we all need to put on our individual and collective to-do lists.