December 13, 2005

All Lathered Up with Nowhere to Go

It is fascinating to sometimes simply watch liberal bloggers in their "reality-based" environment, and how they reflexively strike out against anyone who would change the fragile balance of their self-imposed isolation, even if that change is minimal.

The absolutely incoherent frothing by many in response to this post Sunday by Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell is an excellent case in point.

Howell noted that the Washington Post newspaper and Washington (Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive, or WPNI) are two separate entities, and that White House reporters from the Washington Post are against WPNI writer Dan Froomkin's column being titled “White House Briefing” when he is not, in fact, a White House Reporter.

Howell writes:

Political reporters at The Post don't like WPNI columnist Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing," which is highly opinionated and liberal. They're afraid that some readers think that Froomkin is a Post White House reporter.

John Harris, national political editor at the print Post, said, "The title invites confusion. It dilutes our only asset -- our credibility" as objective news reporters. Froomkin writes the kind of column "that we would never allow a White House reporter to write. I wish it could be done with a different title and display."

Harris is right; some readers do think Froomkin is a White House reporter. But Froomkin works only for the Web site and is very popular -- and Brady is not going to fool with that, though he is considering changing the column title and supplementing it with a conservative blogger.

Howell and Harris are of course correct. A columnist should never be confused with a reporter. By blurring that line, Froomkin's opinion column was intruding on the credibility of the Post's print journalists. Changing his column's name and recognizing the fact that his bias is left of center should not even be an issue. Adding a complementary conservative blogger to balance out WPNI's political blog coverage would seem to be an entirely justifiable move.

Yet liberal readers and bloggers created such a tempest in a teacup that Harris felt the need to clarify the Post's position once more:

…there is not really a debate: should change the name of his column to more accurately present the fact that this is Dan Froomkin's take on the news, not the observations of someone who is assigned by the paper to cover the news.

People in the newsroom want to end this confusion…

In his comments, Dan pleads with reporters to stop complaining about him and start doing more to hold the White House accountable. The reporters on the Post's White House and political teams every day push through many obstacles and frustrations to do precisely this kind of accountability reporting--as I'm sure Dan would agree. But these are the very same reporters who are raising objections to "White House Briefing." The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work.

Reporters should report the facts of the story as best they can, and columnists are free to state their opinion about what those facts mean. It seems to be a simple enough division to separate facts from opinion, but the left-side of the blogosphere is getting riled up all the same, including some people that should know better.

The usually sharp Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine completely misses the boat:

What a terrible insult and slap at a colleague who writes a very good, respected, and journalistic column for online. What a slap from a newsroom snot. But that is what newsrooms are like.

Jarvis is wrestling with a strawman, and losing; the argument isn't about whether or not print or online is better, it is about separating reporting from commentary. As off-focus as Jarvis is in this post, his commentary is still far more coherent than most of the liberal blogs.

Lean Left is absolutely hysteric, announcing in its headline "The Defeat of Journalism." For renaming a column? Hyperbole, much? The Huffington Post is no better, with Marty Kaplan trying to justify the blurring of Froomkin's commentary as journalism, and perhaps predictably, blames Fox News (and Karl Rove?) in the process.

Why is the left fighting so hard to keep the title of Froomkin's column as "White House Briefing" if deception isn't their intention?

One might start to think that among the "reality-challenged" community, a little stolen credibility is better than none at all.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 13, 2005 06:41 PM | TrackBack

"It dilutes our only asset -- our credibility"

How can you dilute what you don't have?
This shows the MSM are reallity challenged as much as the leftie BLOGS, they have no credibility especially the Washington Post and New York Slimes

Posted by: Joe at December 13, 2005 06:51 PM

The problem is, of course, the fact that most of the Washington Post's paying subscribers are actually liberals themselves. It's a liberal bastion. You get a few people making sane comments, and the lefties go nuts. The sane people get told by the money people in the paper to keep their mouths shut.

The end result is that the MSM will keep saying that we are losing the war when the facts on the ground say otherwise.

Posted by: BC at December 13, 2005 11:21 PM

Well said.

Posted by: brando at December 14, 2005 10:06 AM