Monday, June 29, 2009

Our Media

QOTD, Commenter TR at BalloonJuice:
Morning Joe is discussing whether or not politicians should resign when they have affairs, and they’ve invited on Rudy Guiliani to pass judgment on the issue. No mention of his own extensive experience with infidelities—just his perspective as “America’s Mayor™.”

Fucking morons.

John Cole: Open Thread

I feel compelled to blog, but I have nothing to say, which, when I think about it, really sums up the history of this website.

I will point out this bit of agreement with BTD over at Talk Left. Right now, I am just done with the Sunday talk shows. Right now, they serve no purpose other than to throw nonsense into the national dialogue, and I watch them and I want to kick puppies. That was ok before, but I have a puppy now, so now it is no longer acceptable.

Also, how long before President McCain is demanding that Obama take a tougher line with the Honduran government? My guess is as soon as one of his staffers explains where it is.

Sully: Hiatt Won't Speak To The WaPo Ombudsman

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.

  • Andrew Alexander
    Many said Froomkin’s dismissal is part of an effort to purge The Post’s opinion section of left-oriented voices. Typical was this e-mail I received Thursday from Bill Ziebell of Eugene, Ore.:

    “I have lost my respect for the Post. It’s obvious that at the very time the country is turning to the left, the Neo-Con movement has taken over the editorial control of the Post. I have been reading the Post for years, but I will now go elsewhere. If I want to hear/see what the Loonies on the right are up to I can take a look at Fox. I don’t want, nor need more neo-con nonsense spewing forth from the editorial pages of what used to be a great’ve managed to become just another package of right-wing fishwrap.”

    Institutionally, The Post is now responding by circling the wagons -- ironic for a news organization that insists on transparency from those it covers. Its initial statement on June 18 from spokeswoman Kris Coratti lacked substance (“Editors and our research teams are constantly reviewing our online content to ensure we bring readers the most value...while balancing the need to make the most of our resources”).

    I was off much of this week with a minor medical problem. But when I was able to start querying editors yesterday, a wall of silence was erected.
  • attaturk: It’s not all Fred Hiatt’s fault

    In the wake of things like the idiotic firing of Dan Froomkin it's easy to say that Fred Hiatt is solely responsible for the wretchedness of Washington Post editorial page. As easy as such criticism is, it ignores the far deeper problem. For the depth of mendacity goes both up and down the chain of command -- after all the Post's creditors will know that.

    I give you Deputy Editor Jackson Diehl:

    One Post staffer with whom I spoke about Diehl damned him as a “young David Broder.” “He’s relentless in pursuit of the conventional wisdom,” said the staffer. “He’s about 50 but he writes and thinks like an old man.”

    He'd make a great sidekick on Matlock.

    And could there be a greater indictment endorsment than this from Hiatt himself?

    “I’m happy to say that I have never worked with anybody more intelligent than Jackson Diehl. He is rigorously honest, and I have never seen him reluctant to engage in an argument to defend his position or to take other people’s views on board”

    So let us know them as they use one-hand to type their editorials, for today Jackson Diehl criticizes the Obama Administration for asking Israel to stop building settlements in the occupied territories -- describing the negotiations over a two-state solution thusly: foolish it would be to squander it over a handful of Israeli apartment houses.

    Just a handful of apartment houses...and if that's the case they serve Israel's vital interest how?

    Thanks for all the "rigorous honesty" Jackson.

Benen: THE CODA....
It's been a few days, and the political world has largely moved on, but the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney asking President Obama a question submitted by an Iranian continues to wrinkle some feathers. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank has played a leading role in criticizing Nico -- Milbank's column on the subject included a series of errors of fact and judgment -- and sat alongside Nico on CNN this morning to discuss the matter.

It led to quite a lively chat.

It's not in the video, but as Howard Kurtz went on to introduce the next segment, Milbank whispered to Nico, "You're such a dick."

I guess he didn't think the discussion went well.

For the record, Milbank again suggested this morning that Nico "worked in collusion" with the White House, and argued that presidential aides encouraged Nico to ask a question "a certain way."

Milbank hasn't produced evidence to bolster his claims, probably because they're false. As Milbank should realize by now, the White House saw some value in answering a question from an Iranian, and knew Nico was in a position to offer one. Obama didn't know the question in advance, Nico didn't work in "collusion" with anyone, and not incidentally, Nico's question was a good one that the president seemed anxious to dodge. (Honestly, if the White House were really going to "collude" with a journalist and encourage said journalist to ask a question "a certain way," wouldn't aides make it a softball?)

It's a shame Milbank is still bothered by this, but his accusations, days later, remain unfounded. It's one thing to be annoyed; it's another to make up relevant details to fit a bogus conclusion in front of a national audience.

  • Matthew Yglesias adds:
    I actually ran into Nico Pitney, destroyer of journalism, last night at a party. Neither of us seem to be on the Georgetown cocktail party circuit, but we’re both on the Green Line accessible beer ‘n Beam circuit. To me, it just brought home the extent to which this controversy is driven by status anxiety. It’s a convention that White House Correspondent for an Important Media Outlet is a highly prestigious and incredibly important job. The idea that a more interesting question might come from a young guy who writes for some website and has been aggregating news out of Iran would upend the whole thing. The case against Nico might make some sense if you could say he lobbed Obama a softball or asked about some pointless trivia. But that’s not the case, so….
  • Dougj: Great wingnut comments

    I try not to nutpick, and I’m not claiming that this comment is typical of anything but this really cracked me up (from the comments on Michael Calderone’s blog, scroll down to 6:19 pm):

    Now why would anybody be dumb enough to believe anything being said on Reliable Sources? Howard Kurtz and ‘friends’ are always liberal Socialists with Marxist bents, all think that Marxist Obama is the Messiah who can walk on water and cure all sicknesses with the wave of his hands, and all tacidly work for the Democrat/Marxist Party in order to create a new (but better, they believe) workers paradise like the former USSR, Communist China, or North Korea. While Fox News informs their listeners on all the news going on without taking sides, the rest of the MSM is nothing more than the Democrat Marxist Parties propaganda arm that will only tell their listeners the Obama and Democrat Marxist-approved news. No wonder they hate Fox.

    My spoofdar tells me this is not a spoof.

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