First, it’s not about ideology. My original Omblog post quoted Hiatt as saying Froomkin’s “political orientation was not a factor in our decision.” In my discussions with Froomkin, he has not cited ideology as the primary reason. And several veteran Post reporters have dismissed that as the cause. In an online chat this week, Post Pulitzer-winning columnist Gene Weingarten, who expressed “respect” for Froomkin and regret that White House Watch was ending, said: “I don’t know why Froomkin’s column was dropped, but I can tell you that the diabolical conspiracy talk is nuts. Froomkin wasn’t dropped because he is too liberal; things just don’t work that way at the Post.” It’s also worth noting that The Post hired Ezra Klein, a liberal political blogger, within the past several months.
Much of that is true, but I still don’t think it’s quite right. Imagine if the Post employed a blogger seen as conservative who had written a respected, substantive (whether one agreed or not) blog/column that was critical of a Democratic president and coverage of the president.
Is there any way on earth that blogger/columnist would have been fired? Of course not.
Froomkin wasn’t fired for being liberal. But he would not have been fired had he been conservative.
Papers like the Post are deathly afraid of being accused of “liberal bias”. And they make a lot of decisions accordingly. This is one example. The bizarre defense of George Will’s global warming claims is another. (Can you imagine such a defense being mounted on behalf of a liberal columnist making liberal claims? Of course not.)
Andy Alexander’s willful naivete about this issue is not surprising, but neither is it constructive.
Update. Michael Calderone makes some interesting points about the Froomking firing:
Interestingly, before management decided to finally pull the plug, editors chose to spike a few Froomkin columns because they fell more on Howie Kurtz’s turf.
It’s strange that a White House columnist — especially one with a unique audience — would be discouraged from writing on the WH press corps. Not to mention, it’s not so out of the ordinary to cross over the two beats: Indeed, Post White House correspondent Michael Shear has a media-related item up today.
And here’s some more from Eric Wemple (who has a lengthy piece on this that is well worth reading):
Froomkin and his editors clicked from the homepage onto other portals of conflict. Media criticism was a good one: The columnist considered commenting on how the media were portraying the White House a significant part of his job; his editors felt otherwise. “They told me they didn’t want me to do media criticism. I could never quite figure out how I could avoid it,” says Froomkin. The friction produced a series of spiked Froomkin columns, which generally got published on the Nieman Watchdog blog, including the columnist’s takedown of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.