No Criticizing The Royalty

Musing a little more on Dan Froomkin’s new independence, DougJ’s post below makes a compelling case that Dan Froomkin did not have an ideological problem so much as he kept stepping on the beat of the Post‘s media critic Howard Kurtz. In fact one should feel at least a little sympathy for Kurtz’s position. When a guy in the lower ranks keeps doing your own job better than you can or will, the only choices are to live with the tension, get better at your job or make the upstart go away. History does not favor bets on options A or B.

For some reason Froomkin’s situation struck me as oddly similar to another recent embarrassment at the Post.

In the wake of widespread refutations on blogs, and action alerts by FAIR and Media Matters, the Washington Post received floods of emails complaining about the inaccuracies in Will’s column, and the Post’s ombud Andy Alexander soon issued a response to a blogger at Think Progress.

Claiming that Will’s column had been subject to multiple fact-checks, Alexander addressed only critics’ concern about Will’s misrepresentation of the University of Illinois’s sea ice research, defending Will by citing a University of Illinois statement that, in fact, actually refuted Will’s claim.

Given that the position of ombud (a person responsible for responding to reader complaints and upholding accuracy at a media outlet) is the closest thing to a system of accountability that exists at newspapers, the Post ombud’s response aptly illustrated the bankruptcy of what passes for accountability at a leading newspaper.

Unfortunately, the erroneous climate change column is not a blip on Will’s record. On the issue of climate change alone, FAIR’s magazine Extra! documents that Will’s history of misquoting data to distort the debate goes back nearly two decades. As FAIR’s senior analyst Steve Rendall recently noted on the FAIR Blog, in 1992, Will so grossly misrepresented a Gallup poll on scientists’ views on climate change that Gallup took the rare step of issuing a written correction to Will’s column. A decade before that, Will made such a glaring factual error in a column published in Newsweek that the magazine took the unusual step of agreeing to publish a letter by Noam Chomsky (Will managed to block the letter’s publication by throwing a temper tantrum.)

Speaking of royalty, you know who was proved fucking right? Judith Miller.

“The thing you’ve got to understand,” a source familiar with both Judy and the inner workings of the Times told me, “is that every big decision that comes out of the Times comes directly from the top. Nobody does anything there without Arthur Sulzberger’s approval. It’s the larger, untold story in all of this — that he now runs the newsroom.”

Sulzberger, who succeeded his father as publisher in 1992 and chairman of the New York Times Co. in 1997, has been friends with Miller for a long time. But that doesn’t seem to be the reason behind the unequivocal stance on Miller. “You have to understand something about Arthur,” my source explained. “He’s always unequivocal. He doesn’t have another setting. You’re either his friend or his enemy. He either supports you in an extreme, almost childish, way or he won’t speak to you.”

Sulzberger has clearly chosen the extreme support path when it comes to Miller. “There are times when the greater good of our democracy demands an act of conscience,” he said after Miller was taken to jail. “Judy has chosen such an act in honoring her promise of confidentiality to her sources.”

Atrios has hit on the problem repeatedly in the last few weeks, if in his usual oblique way, in noting that media figures reflexively appeal to their privileged status rather than expertise or a more objective definition of journalism when they complain about ruffians like Sam Stein from the Huffington Post hedging in on their turf.

If you take the last eight years in one glance, the difference between celebrity journalists and harder working kind could not be more stark. There is a reason why ordinary reporters Jane Mayer and Charlie Savage broke the major news of the Bush era while the protected kind apologized (or didn’t) for one embarrassment after another. In the current news era access to important people inherently and automatically grants status in the newsroom. If you’re a star like Judy Miller or Bob Woodward or Howard Kurtz important people with familiar names will talk to you. For reasons that must seem pretty stupid by now, everyone just assumed that super access would translate into big awesome stories.

Bushies, of course, figured out the weakness in that formula long before news outlets did. As a rule people with household names have the most reason to obfuscate, spin and lie. In particular Bush officials f*cking lied about everything. One could go so far as to say that the Bush team managed this unfortunate system with all the talent that they never showed for crafting policy. A reporter who worships access will re-print any moronic crap you tell him. Better yet, if you make the reporter run enough blatant lies you put her in a position where accounting for the bullshit will wreck both your career and hers. Best of all, the magic that kept the whole system running for so long that Fred Hiatt still hates Iraq war skeptics with the heat of a thousand suns, is how the system automatically placed the easiest reporters to manipulate at the very top of the newsroom food chain.

This would all be a funny sad story except that the same schmucks still run newsrooms and they still have a lot to lose. The tension between honest reporting and covering of important asses will keep taking the jobs of good people like Froomkin until the schmucks either go away or accept the full scope of their failure.

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45 replies
  1. 1
    geg6 says:

    And thus the meltdown of the MSM and its irrelevance as a source anyone with a brain turns to when they want actual information about the important issues of the day. Hell, even TMZ has had better coverage of the MJ news and broke the story before the hospital made the formal announcement.

  2. 2
    vishnu schizt says:

    The tension between honest reporting and covering of important asses will keep taking the jobs of good people like Froomkin until the schmucks either never go away or accept the full scope of their failure.

    Fixed

  3. 3

    Is it too early to start drawing parallels between national media outlets and the GOP?

  4. 4
    AnotherBruce says:

    There was so much to love about the Obama press conference because he wasn’t afraid to treat their idiotic questions with the contempt that they deserve. I think that this is the reason that the villagers ginned up their pathetic little Nico Pitney controversy, they got their asses handed to them, and are looking for some payback.

  5. 5
    Cat Lady says:

    Great post Tim F. The MSM must die. It’s the only way back to journalism. The Villagers must be destroyed in order to save the village. From the ashes, and all that.

  6. 6
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    the magazine took the unusual step of agreeing to publish a letter by Noam Chomsky (Will managed to block the letter’s publication by throwing a temper tantrum.)

    And there you have it. These publications think absolutely nothing of giving column after column to the most extreme voices imaginable on the right. If someone suggests someone like Chomsky for a truly contrary view to the corporate party line, the response is a temper tantrum.

  7. 7
    Tim F. says:

    @Cat Lady:

    …or, you could pass on neoconservative violent fantasies and just encourage the idea that access is not the most important thing in journalism. Yeesh.

  8. 8
    Cat Lady says:

    @Tim F.:

    That too. Weird, it seems so obvious that’s the right answer, but where in the MSM is that?

  9. 9
    zhak says:

    The media in this country is broken. The Fourth Estate should be comprised by those willing to hold the feet of those in power to the fire. Instead, and I’ve never understood exactly why, the “bright stars” in the media spew the most ridiculous Republican tripe, apparently not realizing how silly & stupid it makes them sound.

    I never thought I’d say this, but it’d be a good thing if our “journalists” were more like those in England.

  10. 10
    Mr Furious says:

    “…or accept the full scope of their failure.”

    Sadly, such introspection is even more scarce among The Village than the Bush Administration.

  11. 11
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Good post, Tim. Sadly, I see things getting worse before they get better. Kinda like the country.

  12. 12
    MattF says:

    And Karl Rove, who made a career out of being a pathological liar, is probably still regarded as a valuable source.

  13. 13
    gwangung says:

    Where the post goes run is the implication that this is a recent occurrence. Au contraire, the mass media has ALWAYS been like this. Reporters with access rarely break the big stories; it takes little guys, reporters far down the totem pole to break big stories (ahem. Watergate).

  14. 14
    flounder says:

    Participating in Kurtz’s weekly chats as I often do, I had noticed that Kurtz was getting even more thin-skinned than usual the last 6 or 8 months. I hope that Froomkin comes out with some nice background on Kurtz and the other WATBs now that he is free from their shackles.

  15. 15
    scott says:

    that was awesome…

  16. 16
    El Cid says:

    @gwangung: Let’s not forget that My Lai was shopped around for about half a year and no big news org would touch it, and it was first published by the tiny leftist Dispatch News Service, but you never hear that from the major news media when they are patting themselves on the back for ‘covering’ My Lai a year after it took place and half a year after it had been published by alternative media.

  17. 17
    southpaw says:

    I don’t know what is gained by proving Froomkin was fired for ideological reasons, but look. It’s pretty clear from the statements of everyone involved that he wasn’t fired for showing up late or being a perv around the office or stealing staplers. Rather, he was fired for his product–either it wasn’t selling enough or they didn’t want it on their shelves. That narrows the field considerably. And I would submit that any organization that continues to tolerate Ramesh Ponnuru’s Inane Question Space cannot credibly contend that they have an overriding concern with traffic.

  18. 18
    passerby says:

    Nice post Tim.

    Unfortunately, the erroneous climate change column is not a blip on Will’s record. On the issue of climate change alone, FAIR’s magazine Extra! documents that Will’s history of misquoting data to distort the debate goes back nearly two decades.

    Shorter FAIR: George Will has been acting as a neocon propagandist for a long, long time.

    We should lead the charge on using the more accurate term, propaganda, when calling them on their bullshit.

  19. 19
    JK says:

    I wish Howard Kurtz would go hike the Appalachian Trail. His column grows more pathetic by the day.

    John King’s State of the Union with Kurtz’s Reliable Sources embedded in it is so awful it almost makes Bob Scheiffer and David Gregory acceptable.

  20. 20
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    until the schmucks either go away or accept the full scope of their failure

    Or go out of business and into the dustbin of history.

  21. 21
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Chomsky tells the story about Newsweek protecting Will from any correction of his lies here. The amusing part is how when Newsweek asked Chomksy for evidence, he gave them a citation from their own magazine that contradicted what Will had just written. Oops.

  22. 22
    Ash Can says:

    Methinks these media geniuses will accept the full scope of their failure only when it’s very, very long past the point of being of any consequence to us (would-be) readers. Barack Obama is obviously no more amused with their sophomoric antics than the rest of us are. Plus, unlike his predecessor, he’s not (at all!) bashful about holding press conferences, and entirely public ones at that. The big-name stars of the corporate media will continue to draw laughs with their questions and even bigger laughs with Obama’s responses to them, the real questions will continue to come from the people who are actually doing the job that these stars are supposed to be doing (e.g. Nico Pitney), and the public at large will increasingly take notice.

    I can’t help but wonder if what’s going on in the news industry isn’t akin, in a way, to what’s happened with the beer brewing industry in the US. Both brewers and news publications have undergone consolidation, the former in the 70s and 80s and the latter in the 80s and 90s. The result in both cases has been the emergence of a very limited number of huge corporations producing large quantities of inferior product. Subsequent to this, increasing numbers of small producers of varying but often superior products have emerged, and people turn to them as alternatives to the crap they’re getting from the big companies — not enough to put the big guys out of business, but enough to make the Sierra Nevadas and Goose Islands and Huffington Posts and TPMs (not to mention regional, mid-sized hard-copy publications that do a superior job of covering local news) grow into fairly decent-sized concerns.

    As long as there’s a market for crap — and yes, I’m guilty; I like a High Life or Old Style once in a while for old time’s sake — the big guys won’t go away. But if we reach the point where the vast majority of consumers of news/suds recognize the crap as being, well, crap, that would be a major step in the right direction.

  23. 23
    passerby says:

    @AnotherBruce:

    There was so much to love about the Obama press conference because he wasn’t afraid to treat their idiotic questions with the contempt that they deserve. I think that this is the reason that the villagers ginned up their pathetic little Nico Pitney controversy, they got their asses handed to them, and are looking for some payback.

    Yes. The WH Press Corp are a bunch of trained ponies who are not allowed to color outside of the lines while Nico is the maverick who’s not reined in by corporate dictates.

    So, in a fit, they want to break Nico’s crayons–like that’ll show him. Sad little ponies.

    And Thank You Mr. President.

    [And thank you Arriana Huffington for providing Nico with a bullhorn.]

  24. 24
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    the editor mentioned it to Will and he’s having a tantrum

    Well! It would be a shame to lose a columnist who frequently embarrasses your magazine with ignorant, easily-detectable falsehoods!

  25. 25
    passerby says:

    The tension between honest reporting and covering of important asses will keep taking the jobs of good people like Froomkin until the schmucks either go away or accept the full scope of their failure.

    Though Froomkin may have lost his job, the publicity he’s receiving pretty much guarantees him even more exposure. I won’t be surprised if he finds an even better medium through which he can get his views read.

    In firing him, the Post gives Froomkin an aura of martyrdom while exposing themselves as the tone deaf, information gate-keepers that they are.

  26. 26
    hal says:

    He either supports you in an extreme, almost childish, way or he won’t speak to you.”

    Even if your the probable future President…

    Shortly after 3:00 p.m., Sulzberger opened the meeting, attended by more than 20 board members, editors and Times columnists including Dowd, Frank Rich, and Nicholas Kristof. Sulzberger told Obama that he heard the candidate was underwhelming at his first interview, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. An awkward pall descended over the room for a moment, though Obama took the exchange in stride…. About 20 minutes before the meeting ended, Sulzberger got up and left the room. (A Times spokesperson says, “It is wrong to suggest any question Arthur posed was flippant or done as a joke.”)

  27. 27
    lawnorder says:

    Word!!!

    The people who brown nosed the liars of the Bush administration so publicly HAVE to keep on lying. Their only “salvation” is to either redeem GW or to pretend they believed this shit in the first place.

  28. 28
    Ked says:

    Growing up after Watergate (born in 1975), I’ve always been attracted to the Woodwardian mythology, and the last few weeks of criticism of his legacy (both here and elsewhere) has brought me to the point where I need to put my thoughts down to sort out how I feel about things.

    Yes, yes, the Villagers are poisoning the well. The culture of access has bred a new aristocracy, whose requirement for entry is not gentle birth but who leaks in your notebook. Yes, the Anonymice have destroyed most of the trust I have in front page reporting, since they’ve learned to manipulate the system. (I would argue this happened around Iran-Contra, but won’t insist on it.)

    The truly shameful thing is this – it doesn’t have to be that way. Woodward’s own trajectory illustrates the glories and perils of access reporting. Watergate was, in all senses, a triumph of anonymous sourcing, used in service of hard news reporting. The output went straight to the newspaper. It was held to strong internal standards. It was skeptical – not just rushing from politicians’ mouths to the page. I’ll admit that the book(s) were ultimately self-aggrandizing, but they put flesh onto the bones that had already been reported, and serve as a primer in how to do this stuff well.

    …but. The third book, the one that most people don’t remember, marked Woodward’s transition from a true news reporter to what might best be referred to as confessorial historian. I don’t understand what impulse drove seemingly everyone in the Nixon administration to spew every last detail of the final year there to the reporter who (was perceived, at least, to be the one who) took them down. But they did. I’ll argue that that “The Final Days” represents an act of journalism, just on the basis that Woodward and Berstein couldn’t possibly have known what they were getting into, and couldn’t possibly have shoehorned it into the daily paper format.

    But no farther. By the time Woodward was plugged into his third or fourth administration (not to mention the Court book, the Greenspan fap story… the list isn’t pretty), he’s not researching news. He *IS* news. And the generations of journalists who learned to idolize him think that he’s the model of how their job is supposed to work.

    I recently read State of Denial, the third Dubya book, where Woodward tracks down just how Iraq got fucked up so badly. Never mind that he’s “reporting” this three-four years after the actual fucking up happened and he was so busy lionizing George and the gang in his last book to notice. Woodward actually steps out into the narration of the book, to whine about how he personally felt about a mildly insensitive bit of nonsense that fell out of Rummy’s mouth, as if he were legitimately part of the story. And that’s how reporters seem to think news works these days. That it’s about them, and how well they’re doing their jobs of transcribing what their sources and the powers that be are saying.

    (And I should note the trend, most obviously on CNN but also elsewhere, where so-called journalists are transcribing what anonymous internet posters are writing to them. As if the simple act of transcription and presentation is a virtuous, worthy act of reportage. My god. Go take a fucking poll or something.)

    The MSM, quite frankly, can kiss my ass. I can see the bias and spin in everything coming down from AP these days. There are some useful reporters at the NYT, but the newsroom is corrupt. The Post is a complete joke. There’s a few papers left out there who I’ll listen to yet, but they’re all from second-tier cities where they’ve been lucky enough not to have been bought up by the Wall Street crybabies. (Ever-increasing profit is not a reasonable expectation for ANY business, let alone newspapers. Cutting costs doesn’t actually improve anything. Idiots.) Fox belongs to the Republican party (and not the smart bits of it). MSNBC… well, when Tweety is the paragon of fairness and integrity at the network, you’re in trouble. I think everyone at CNN has been smoking lead this last decade, because you can see their IQ falling.

    …god, now I’m depressed. Anyway, to summarize – access used in the name of real reportage is good. Access used to increase the size of your schlong, not good at all. MSM dead, Wall Street destroying nation, need to go hide under a blanket now.

  29. 29
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Ash Can: Okay that’s definitely a comparison I had never thought of.

    Seems about right though, in terms of something like Budweiser and CNN, both are colorless, tasteless, and the only evidence that you’ve ingested anything is that you feel like peeing for an hour afterward.

  30. 30
    Mike G says:

    “You have to understand something about Arthur,” my source explained. “He’s always unequivocal. He doesn’t have another setting. You’re either his friend or his enemy. He either supports you in an extreme, almost childish, way or he won’t speak to you.”

    Another immature, spoilt trust-fund asshole like Bush who had everything handed to him by daddy. Too many of our national institutions are run by self-entitled mediocrities like this.

  31. 31
    Brachiator says:

    If you take the last eight years in one glance, the difference between celebrity journalists and harder working kind could not be more stark. There is a reason why ordinary reporters Jane Mayer and Charlie Savage broke the major news of the Bush era while the protected kind apologized (or didn’t) for one embarrassment after another. In the current news era access to important people inherently and automatically grants status in the newsroom. If you’re a star like Judy Miller or Bob Woodward or Howard Kurtz important people with familiar names will talk to you. For reasons that must seem pretty stupid by now, everyone just assumed that super access would translate into big awesome stories.

    News is a product and the newspapers and other media outlets figured that they could best insure profitability by “branding” their product by use of well-known reporters and columnists. Of course, this has nothing at all to do with who can best cover a story,

    People like Kurtz understand this and obviously work it to their benefit, since they can claim that their rich list of sources justify their superstar status.

    Some of this is self-correcting. As newspaper revenues continue to decline, the salaries paid to superstar reporters and columnists will no longer be sustainable.

    But the mindset — of reporters wanting the status of being part of the establishment — this is never going away. The best you can ever hope for is a core of reporters who don’t care about this crap who are able to be heard.

  32. 32
    Zach says:

    FWIW, I don’t really blame Alexander for the Will nonsense. I don’t think he’s particularly happy that the Opinion page and its contributors are sacred cows at the Post. I contacted him about some inaccuracies in an opinion piece (after submitting a letter refuting them) and he basically said it’s not his business and go contact Hiatt instead.

  33. 33
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Ked:

    Watergate was, in all senses, a triumph of anonymous sourcing, used in service of hard news reporting.

    If you read Woodward’s book about Mark Felt AKA Deep Throat, it shows that access and currying favor with insiders was Woodward’s prime skill from day one. It’s just that the insider he had access to was at war with the Nixon White House at the time.

    It explained a lot to me, reading that book. Also just fascinating to hear the story.

    I think there were a lot of factors that led those two reporters to take on Nixon, too long to go into here. However the idea that this was true to form for the old Washington Post, that they were mostly liberal watchdogs to a conservative establishment but now in recent times have lost their way, has been debunked pretty thoroughly.

  34. 34
    geg6 says:

    Mike G: Seriously! This is what I truly do not understand. Why are these trust fund dimwits 1) so stupid? Is there DNA so whacked from inbreeding that we go from brilliant entrpreneur to excellent but careful manager to total f-ing spoiled brats whose egos are inverse inproportion to their IQs? And 2) why does anyone anywhere with an ounce of brains take them seriously? This is what I adore about an Obama presser and makes me happy I voted for him, even if he sometimes pisses me off royally. He is showing the rest of us how we should regard these assholes.

  35. 35
    freelancer says:

    Carl Zimmer over at Discover somewhat got the ball rolling with the whole Will, Ice debaucle, and his coverage of the Post is riveting.

    Last week, on Real Time, Maher stated that we have two parties, a Center-Right party, and a party in need of a mental institution. It got a laugh, but it is literally something not to be dismissed. When one party is spine-less, feckless, and can’t unite behind any of the major issues it campaigned on, and the other party is made up of bullshit artists, science-deniers, and paranoid conspiracy theorists, it does everyone a disservice.

    I’d like to consider myself a member of the online skeptical community, and one of the rarely spoken tenets of science or a skeptical worldview is that it’s apolitical and not-partisan. For the most part, skepticism doesn’t dabble in religious matters either, save for when people of faith make testable claims about reality.

    This being said, the talk radio conservatives of today, along with Fox punditry, Pat Buchanan, and the other Knights of Greater Wingnuttia are becoming further and further enmeshed and enveloped into the wacko anti-science communities of UFOlogists, Flat Earthers, those who believe in the Illuminati and the New World Order, and timecubists.

    I wish this were an exaggeration, but Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan constantly bark about worldwide fascism, and our freedoms disappearing under our eyes. Jesse Ventura, while on his whirlwhind media tour to denounce torture, was on Alex Jones’ Infowars radio show, and said nothing to dismiss Jones’ claims of 9/11 as an inside job, and Obama being chosen by the NWO.

    Hell, this is Buchanan on MSNBC from this morning.

    But more and more scientists are coming forward to say this is a hoax and a scam which is designed to transfer wealth and power from the private sector to the government sector and from the government of the United States to a world government.

    At this point, given the serious nature of the perpetually wrong, I’m in favor of a scorched earth campaign to reclaim the media.

    If the pope can be pressured by the public and the media not to appoint Holocaust deniers to high positions in the Vatican, is it not possible to have publically accountable ombudsmen policing the media?

  36. 36
    freelancer says:

    Also, to complete my point, Dana Milbank can DIAF.

  37. 37
    Brian Griffin says:

    @freelancer: “Maher stated that we have two parties, a Center-Right party, and a party in need of a mental institution” — I’ve never been a fan of maher, but he’s right about that.

    I used to joke that we’d see a challenge to the dems from the left before we got a solid one from the right. since all the sane people are leaving the gop, it will inevitably push the dems right as those former gopers become dems. I’m starting to actually believe it.

  38. 38
    Brachiator says:

    @freelancer:

    If the pope can be pressured by the public and the media not to appoint Holocaust deniers to high positions in the Vatican, is it not possible to have publically accountable ombudsmen policing the media?

    No.

    The public doesn’t have a long enough attention span to hold anyone accountable for much of anything. And ombudsmen are merely apologists for media outlets.

    Here, for example, is the NPR ombudsman appearing on KPCC’s Patt Morrison talk show, explaining to the unsophisticated little listeners out there exactly why NPR reporters have been instructed not to use the word torture, when talking about what American interrorgators have done to prisoners (Calling a Spade a Spade: Use of the Word “Torture”).

    NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard would make Orwell weep as she ultimately tries to justify using weasel words to substitute for calling torture what it is by noting that they are just following the New York Times lead. I note that the host of the show, Patt Morrison, who is also an LA Times reporter, meekly goes along with the okey doke. The only person brave enough to call these people on their cowardice is another guest, Geoffrey Nunberg, professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley, who also appears as a commentator on the Terry Gross program, Fresh Air.

  39. 39
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    The MSM will never completely bounce back from the toadying they did during the buildup to the Iraqi invasion. Almost no one ever asked an in-depth question, did any investigative reporting or did more than rah-rah a really questionable policy. Gutless, one and all. This includes all the networks, unless someone can remind me of any early resisters. The first I remember was KO just laying Bush out on all his lies, but that was around 2005. I thought he’d get canned for that, but he started the local chapter of the Naked Emperor’s Club instead. That’s why, even on days when Keith sounds as if he needs to get his meds adjusted, I am a great fan. He had guts, when no one else seemed to. As for the White House press corp, they were utterly useless. I hate to see newpapers destroyed, but if sucking up to power is all they are around for, perhaps they can’t be saved.

  40. 40
    Qbert says:

    This is a very good post, but it shares a blind spot with Atrios’ and others. You assume that the media’s negligent coverage over the last X years is a bug. It’s not. It’s a feature. The media exist to shape opinion in ways that are congenial to the people who run the country. When it hypes stories like Judy Miller’s, it hardly matters whether they are true or not. It’s what our rulers want to be true. Proof of this comes by contrasting Judy Miller’s protected status with what happened when Dan Rather took the TANG story higher-profile than it was supposed to go. In the words of Ned Beatty in Network, he fucked with the laws of nature. And he was destroyed.

    As with the Democrats predictable failures to deliver on their progressive promises, the constant dereliction of the major media is more simply explained by Occam’s Razor than by appeals to sustained failures of imagination or perspicuity. Incompetence is why they exist. And they both perform those missions quite well.

  41. 41
    El Cid says:

    @Qbert: Exactly.

  42. 42
    chrome agnomen says:

    it seems, much in the way that pertained to the banks and insurance companies, that the big time media pundits are too big to fail. unless they are so negligent of their ‘craft’ as to espouse a left ward cause.

    i suppose that, besides the obvious reason, that they are club members, there is also the name recognition factor, which cannot be dismissed as regards the still significant number of people who get their ‘news’ from the networks. attention spans may be measurable in fractions of seconds, but long term learned behavior is another thing. many are still watching who clearly remember the old cronkite/chancellor/huntley and brinkley/ utley days, when, if the stories were given fairly short shrift, they at least seemed presented in a relatively unbiased manner. what clearly has been forgotten, and is in large part missing, is the civility that was shown towards rivals in the field.

  43. 43
    Batocchio says:

    The main objection to Froomkin was that he was doing quality work that showed up the hacks. But yes, he was seen as liberal by the establishment, and right-wingers worked the refs as always, including their buddies at the Post. Froomkin was never very ideological – he was just for accountability and transparency – but that is seen as ideological in the Beltway. Froomkin almost always linked and promoted major stories written at the Post in his columns, but he also called out Krauthammer, Will and others. As a few of us commented in the DougJ thread, Wemple makes a number of good points, but also makes several unsupported claims, and trashes Greenwald while ignoring the substance of Greenwald’s many recent posts on Froomkin. While your post above is quite good, as is DougJ’s, you’re getting a bit caught up in semantics if you view your takes as a “compelling case” or a significantly new take. That same angle has been covered by most every blogger who’s written about this – it’s very much in line with the previous criticism of Froomkin’s firing on other blogs, including those Wemple disingenuously attacks. (Perhaps you feel that angle’s been underemphasized.) It’s a mistake to believe that the reasons for Froomkin’s firing have to be mutually exclusive. Of course there was a turf war. Of course there was generic business stupidity. The old guard (many of them neocons) didn’t have any loyalty to Froomkin personally, but also didn’t like the content of what he was writing – hence Krauthammer calling him “stupid” in a print column and many other neocons attacking Froomkin by name. Froomkin ably (and fairly civily) rebutted all of them. Is it plausible that neocon and proven liar Fred Hiatt, who become Froomkin’s boss, didn’t care about any of that? Despite showing himself to be remarkably pissy in the past, Hiatt didn’t care about the history of right-wing and establishment whining about Froomkin’s work? Even when that whining came from his own stable of hacks? For them, as Steven Colbert put it, “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Froomkin was reality-based, and damn good at what he did. Part of canning him was definitely “ideological,” just not in the sense the Post defenders mean it.

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    NYT says:

    I always wondered if the No Child Left Behind initiative enacted early in the Bush administration was the Bushies way to get leverage over the Post. The Post was one of the few major news organizations that was independent and had the weight to investigate the White House.
    But once NCLB was passed, the federal government and its rules became critical to the profitability of the Washington Post company, via their Kaplan subsidiary. And Wapo decided that they would go along with the Bushies and would never investigate any of they many Bush scandals with the minor exception of the Army hospital on its doorstep.
    I don’t have any other explanation of NCLB – in eight years did the Bushies ever even attempt anything which had the welfare of its citizens as a consideration.

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