Especially when Post editors stonewall the ombudsman when he asks uncomfortable questions? Isn't that the whole point of having an ombudsman--to get answers on behalf of readers?
Yet there's the Post's ombudsman this weekend, reporting that when he tried to find out more about the firing of Dan Froomkin, the ombudsman was basically told to buzz off by Post editors who refused to address his questions:
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... 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.
As one online Post reader asked:
What good is an ombudsman if he gets a "wall of silence" built around him every time he asks a tough question? Are you just window-dressing, Mr. Alexander, or what? What's the point of your job?
Eric (and Bob Somerby) makes the point that the Washington Post's decision to get rid of Dan Froomkin is a reminder that among "mainstream" reporters, media criticism from the left is not allowed. Keep that in mind as you read and watch Howard Kurtz in the future. His work may be "balanced" in the sense that he often seeks comment from both conservatives and progressives - but much more often than not, he adopts a conservative media critique as the basis of the conversation.
That's why I've previously written that the Post's hiring of Greg Sargent was so important -- he is willing to criticize the news media, the Post included, and he does not do so from a conservative point of view. It will be interesting to see if the Post allows him to continue.
OK, the whining from Village reporters about Nico Pitney's question at last week's White House press conference is well beyond ridiculous at this point. This morning, David Gregory used valuable airtime to grill David Axelrod about the question, as though there aren't more important things he could ask a top White House aide about.
Here's the thing: Nobody is actually claiming that Obama knew what question Pitney was going to ask. The allegations of "coordination" and "staging" are premised on the idea that the Obama folks knew what topic Pitney would ask about - Iran.
Well, it isn't all that unusual for a president to have a pretty good idea what topic a reporter is going to ask about. If you call on a reporter from Stars & Stripes or Army Times, you'll probably get a question relating to the military. Call on a Washington Post reporter, and you'll likely get a question about steroids in baseball or haircuts. Call on a New York Times reporter, and there's a pretty good chance he'll ask what enchants you about the White House. Call on a Huffington Post reporter, and they'll probably ask something a little more substantive.
But here's where the complaining gets really ridiculous. David Gregory hosts Meet the Press. Do you know what happens when Gregory and his staff book guests for Meet the Press? Much of the time, they tell guests what topics they want to discuss. That's right - they coordinate! The whole thing is staged! Quick, someone convene an ethics panel!
And it's not just Meet the Press. I'm pretty sure Dana Milbank knew what topic he was going to be asked about when he appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources opposite Pitney today. Ohmygod! Dana Milbank and Howard Kurtz coordinated! It was staged! What will the Iranians think?!?
Enough of this nonsense. Pitney has serious journalism to do; Milbank has his play-acting to get back to. Time to move on.
Connolly then asked me why progressives were picking a political fight on the public option, as opposed to another issue. I guess the fact that it's the #1 domestic issue of the day -- one that affects millions of American families -- wasn't explanation enough.
I figured she was looking for a quote summarizing the political stakes, so I though for a moment and said, "The public option has become a proxy for the question of whether Democrats will stand on principle and represent their constituents."
I was quite proud of that answer. It summarizes what a lot of people are feeling -- the public option is the "line in the sand" issue for Democrats, something Chris has written about here on OpenLeft several times.
Connolly's take on that quote:
Green, in an interview, was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan but said that it "has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents."
WHAT? Connolly asked me a question on the politics, and when I gave her an answer on that, she said I didn't answer on the substance? Did I mention Ceci Connolly is a r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s reporter?
FLASHBACK: In December 1 and December 2, 1999, Post articles, Connolly misquoted then-Vice President Al Gore, falsely claiming that he said he had discovered the Love Canal disaster. On February 17, 2000, Slate.com editor-at-large Jack Shafer wrote that New York Times reporter Katharine Q. "Kit" Seelye and Connolly were responsible for creating the false Love Canal story: "[I]t's Seelye's fault -- and the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly's -- that folks think Gore claimed credit for Love Canal in the first place. Which he didn't" [emphasis in original].
Dan Froomkin criticizes the press corps. In the press corps, if you're a liberal, that just isn't done.
Duh. We've explained this bone-simple point for years. If there's one thing you'll never see Dionne or Robinson do, it's criticize their cohort—the coven, the clan. Dionne established this point quite brilliantly all through Campaign 2000. Of course he knew that his cohort was talking all manner of bullsh*t about Gore. (On one or two very tiny occasions, he even tinily said so.) But in the mainstream press corps, liberals don't discuss the mainstream press. That's the price of getting those (very good) jobs. It's also the price of holding them.
UPDATED: Note what WashPost ombudsman Andrew Alexander reported this weekend:
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.
UPDATED: How angry do Beltway scribes get when liberals critique the press? So angry that one scribe called a critic a "dick" on TV.
NPR's On The Media ambushes the ambusher:
In the past few years, "The O'Reilly Factor" has adopted an old tradition from "60 Minutes"-era TV journalism: the ambush interview. We talk to John Cook, investigations editor for Gawker, who says that Bill O'Reilly uses the ambush to settle personal scores. Plus, OTM producer PJ Vogt describes shadowing Cook as he tried to ambush an ambusher.
Give it a listen.
Or, alternate headline: The WSJ supports the impeachment of Mark Sanford, right?
Do conservative media double standards come wrapped with more neon than this one? I suspect not. It's almost comical to watch the Journal's right-wing editorial page, which crusaded and cheerled for Bill Clinton's impeachment for years, suddenly turn a blind eye when the Republican governor of South Carolina admits an extramarital affair, and then remain mum even after reports surfaced that the governor used taxpayer money to travel to see his girlfriend in Argentina.
Based on the intellectual standard (and I use that phrase loosely) the Journal established under Clinton, Sanford absolutely, positively MUST be impeached from office. Yet not only hasn't the Journal's editorial page made that claim, but the Journal's editorial page hasn't written one word about Sanford.
It's obvious Kurtz, the Post's media critic, thinks the pre-emptive right-wing attacks on the show were bizarre since nobody actually knew what the content would be. But as I previously mentioned, Kurtz never actually wrote about that in the Washington Post itself. In fact, the Post newspaper has barely covered the controversy; a controversy, I think, that showcases right-wing media critics as loons.
Kurtz is back online today to make the same point; that it made no sense to attack a news show before it even aired:
My point is that if you don't like what ABC aired, criticize away. But the media-political culture that denounced the special beforehand is all too typical of today's partisan warfare of shoot first, lose interest later.
But note the language. It's a "media-political culture" that led to the attacks. It was just another symptom of our "partisan warfare." Pretty general stuff. i.e. Everybody does this kind of nonsense.
Wrong. The loopy war that was declared on ABC News carried with it all the hallmarks of an irresponsible right-wing crusade. That's not something the left engages in. And before the emails start coming in, recall that the pre-emptive campaign against ABC's "The Path to 9/11" in 2006 was based on the fact that the final script contained obvious factual errors.
Kurtz seems to be awfully careful not to offend conservatives even though he thinks their attacks on ABC were baseless and pointless.
UPDATE: Kurtz did include this nugget, which is just more proof that right-wing bloggers and their errant stabs at media criticism provide more comic relief than anything else:
ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider tells me the network offered three prime-time specials to the Bush White House: on Iraq, school violence and No Child Left Behind. ABC was turned down each time. Those scoffing about the All Barack Channel might keep that in mind.