Froomkin’s Column Never Liked: ‘It Contains Opinion’

Blogger Jane Hamsher (FireDogLake.com, 6/19/09) thinks that Salon‘s “Glenn Greenwald says most of what needs to be said about the Washington Post‘s firing of Dan Froomkin,” on June 18, but has her own “insight into “the early rounds of this battle” over the left-leaning columnist, having “watched it ferment over the years.”

Hamsher explains that Post ombud Debbie Howell’s characterization of Froomkin as “highly opinionated and liberal” really “was the consensus of the newsroom, where it was believed–correctly–that Froomkin’s writing about the war and U.S. foreign policy were an inherent criticism of the WaPo‘s own coverage and editorial position”:

And so they wanted to make it clear that he was Not One Of Them, nor did he rise to their high standards. Here was [then-executive editor] Len Downie at the time:

We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin’s column because it contains opinion,” Downie told E&P. “And that readers of the Web site understand that, too.”

And here’s [then-national politics editor] John Harris (now chief of Politico):

They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.

But aside from the desire to play access footsie with the White House, Downie and Harris were bristling at Froomkin’s critique of–well, them. While they were fawning over Bush, his war and his codpiece, Froomkin was writing about Bob Woodward’s “unique relationship” with the White House.

Lamenting how “the arrogant presumption that they were carrying on some sort of noble journalistic tradition that Froomkin violated is just baked into the concrete over there,” Hamsher sees that “in the end, the bitter petty people who discredited the entire profession with their coverage of the war and its fallout just did not like the mirror he held up to them.”