(Apologies to the divine Ms. A for tromping on her turf)
I’m not sure how many times I can say this, but…
Dear Fred Hiatt:You blew it. Again. I had hoped that maybe given the outrage over the announcement that you were dropping Dan Froomkin’s White House Watch blog from the Washington Post.com editorial pages, you might change your mind. (I know, I know, fool me once…etc.) But no, Froomkin’s officially gone from the WaPo as of last Friday, and you have managed to retain your title as the dumbest editorial page editor in the history of journalism (narrowly edging out the NY Times–Ross Douthat?Really?–and my local paper, which for years published letters to the editor on a weekly basis from a woman named Lillian whose letters were a series of incoherent riffs on “Get off my lawn!”) Congratulations. You just took one more step towards making what used to be a great newspaper into something I wouldn’t use to line my birdcage (yes, I know, it was the online WaPo. Call it my virtual birdie.)
In reading Athenae’s many righteous rants on journalism in the last several years, there’s one theme that keeps sticking in my mind about journalism, and I do include editorials in that category (and Froomkin especially, since his was a cross between editorial and investigative journalism). In my opinion, good journalism makes the reader–and often the subject–uncomfortable. A good journalist will ask the questions that people aren’t willing to ask for themselves, or might never have the opportunity to ask (I’m looking at you, Dana Millbank, you dick). A good journalist doesn’t just let the politicians spout their talking points or hand out a press release for transcription. A good journalist finds the stuff the politician or the businessman doesn’t want people to know.
Froomkin did all that for the WaPo, particularly with regard to the Bush administration, which I’m sure made many people uncomfortable. But here’s the thing–he was still doing it over the last five months with the Obama administration, too. And that’s the thing that infuriates me most about Hiatt. All the anticipation of blogger fury over this seemed to focus on the idea that we’d be pissed because Froomkin had been so good at exposing the Bush era lunacies. But I’m pissed because I don’t thinkany president deserves a free pass from the press, and Froomkin still seemed to be one of the better voices in the MSM in pointing out where Obama wasn’t all that and a bag of chips.
Fred, honey, lambchop, love crumpet, I don’t care if the Washington Post is right, center, left, up, down, strange or charmed. I want you to do your frakking job. And when it comes to the editorial pages, online or off, that means publishing the people who keep the folks in charge honest by calling them on their bullshit honestly. It does nobody any good at all to have people like Krauthammer and Will saying Obama sucks, because we know that’s like Neil deGrasse Tyson saying space is cool, just as it didn’t really do us that much good to have Huffington or Schultz saying Bush sucked. What does do us good is when people likeKrugman or Waas or Hersh orMarshall and Co. orWheeler or, yes, Froomkin, say Bushor Obama suck. Why? Because they have the goods to back it up.
There’s a certain level of cognitive dissonance in the right. On the one hand, they believe in small government, that government is dangerous and we should always remain vigilant to keep it from sucking out our babies’ brains with a straw. But the right also seems obsessed with shutting down people like Froomkin. If you believe premise A, why wouldn’t you want Froomkin saying, “Hey, that guy’s going to suck out your baby’s braaaaaiiiiinnnnn!!!!”
Seriously, Fred. It doesn’t matter if the emperor is liberal or conservative if he’s naked. And as long as you keep saying the emperor’s a latte-drinking liberal because he’s wearing Armani, I’m going to keep calling you frakking stupid.
Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eye on Dan Froomkin. I’m sure somebody’s going to end up hiring him to keep doing White House Watch. Who wants to take bets on whether it’ll be old media or new media?