John Harris Responds to Reader Comments

Washington Post Political Editor John Harris posted a response to readers in the comments area of the preceding post, but we are posting separately here to make it easier to find.

Harris's response follows:

Several of the comments here refer to me, and many others confuse the issues raised by Deborah Howell's column. As the Post's political editor, I'd like to respond, in the interest of being as clear as possible about how we view our own work, and the concerns about "White House Briefing" in the Post newsroom.

The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that. No doubt there are some who enjoy the column for precisely this reason. If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters.

Given that there is such confusion, the question is whether this is a problem. For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions. Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose. Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement. If the answer is no, there is not really a debate: washingtonpost.com 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. We do not want to spike his column--or at least I don't. It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case.

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.

John Harris
National Politics Editor

By Washingtonpost.com Editors |  December 12, 2005; 6:02 PM ET  | Category:  Journalism
Previous: Froomkin on White House Briefing | Next: The Washington Post & washingtonpost.com

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



WaPo- get this straight: this is not about left vs. right, Republican vs. Democrat, or Conservative vs. Liberal.
This is about truth vs lies, and a paper's duty to print the truth. Not spin. Not "anon. sources", not "DC insiders say". Not whatever is fed to you, that you print without verifying source & content as factual. Reporting.
Your attempt to frame Froomkin as "liberal" is a joke. He reports verifiable facts, and, because the facts don't fit your dogma, you make feeble attemts to mimimize him. You know and we know it, so why do you continue making yourselves irrelevant & untrustworthy? All you are doing is making the Enquirer look good.
What happened to the WaPo? Why does this paper shirk its duty to report truth & facts, and stand independent of influence?
Perhaps you shuld be answering this question first, and stop shooting the messenger.

Posted by: Rick | December 12, 2005 06:20 PM

John - It's you who are confused. I hear the cocktails and weenies at those Republican parties can be bad for the mind. You might try laying off them... Maybe your sanity will come back.

Posted by: Richard | December 12, 2005 06:32 PM

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

Wouldn't this be a good thing? God help us, this is from the WP National Politics Editor.

No wonder we've been getting the "Some republicans say A, while democrats complain B."

Whatever did happen to the Washington Post.? It's certainly no longer the newspaper I grew up reading.

Regards,
Ian Coleman

Posted by: Ian Coleman | December 12, 2005 06:35 PM

What is striking to me is that Ms. Howell and Mr. Harris seem to have declared war on Mr. Froomkin without giving him the opportunity to assauge their concerns. If the real complaint is perceived confusion as to whether Mr. Froomkin is a "White House reporter", my question is whether anyone ever broached this subject with Mr. Froomkin or his editors before personally and publicly attacking him, his beliefs and his credibility in the Ombudsmen column of the Post? Mr. Froomkin stated that he was "happy to consider" ways to telegraph that he was not a Post White House reporter. So why was that option not explored before publicly smearing him as someone who "dilutes" the Post's credibility? It would appear that conclusions about Mr. Froomkin and his column were published without much thought or research and were based upon relatively uninformed opinion - perhaps the "highly opinionated" label is more appropriate to those wielding it.

Seems to me that Mr. Froomkin is the only one with clean hands in this. He has remained dignified, professional, and has tried to stay above the fray. He was forced to defend his column, but he has said nothing nothing negative about Ms. Howell, Mr. Harris, or anyone else at the Post. I commend his restraint.

Posted by: gallery place | December 12, 2005 06:36 PM

Reading thru the _hundreds_ of supportive and positive posts for Froomkin... I saw one that you should seriously consider.

Rename your paper: The White House Post

Posted by: Richard | December 12, 2005 06:39 PM

Based on this pathetic attempt at a retort, John Harris should be reprimanded by the Washington Post for an obvious smear campaign against one of the few honest voices at the paper.

Deborah Howell, a recent hire by the WaPo, should fare no better. As a Minnesota native, I'm completely aware of the very conservative positions of her former employer - the Saint Paul Pioneer Press (a.k.a the Washington Times of the Midwest). It appears that this conservative disease within the WaPo, and journalism as a whole, remains unabated. I'll be reading....

Posted by: Matt in D.C. | December 12, 2005 06:45 PM

If you, a boss at the Post, does not realize what has been happening to your once great paper, then we truly are in big trouble. You are being used, plain and simple, by the "master" himself, and you don't see this - not good for those of us seeking the truth. For years, Rove and his minions have been setting you, and other big time news sources, up. When a so-called "reporter" like Woodward sits on important news, so he can later use it in a book, something is wrong, sir. And he is not the only one, as we are learning almost daily now.
Froomkin doesn't play the White House game. Because of this he is considered, by a helluva lot of us out here, your most trusted reporter right now.
We have too many Krauthammers, Bob Novaks, Fred Barnes's, etc. spewing administration propaganda, coming at us from so many media sources. What we need are more Froomkins, more truth without the White House slant on it.
Get back to doing what you used to do - give us the facts, and remember that facts are not "fair and balanced", or always have two sides. The truth can stand alone.
Sincerely, Gary Van Ess, Green Bay, Wi.

Posted by: Gary Van Ess | December 12, 2005 06:49 PM

If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters.

That is the difference -- you presume, Dan reports.

Posted by: neokneme | December 12, 2005 06:52 PM

Wow.

Deborah Howell's Ombudsman column annoyed me - this response by Harris just p*sses me off!

I agree with everyone's email I've read - Froomkin is the very best part of the online Post - I get the print version, and between the addled OpEd, 'Krauthammer', George 'bombast' Will, etc. I occasionally see some truth.. and then I find out that the 'Editors' are angry at Froomkin

And why?

A lie! 'White House Briefing' sounds like 'Blah di blah, WaPo White House Reporter'

This makes no sense

I'm ashamed to say I am a subscriber - I won't be for long

Posted by: Calvin | December 12, 2005 06:59 PM

John Harris is a disgrace to journalism and should be fired!

Posted by: James Snowden | December 12, 2005 06:59 PM

"The confusion Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work.

John Harris
National Politics Editor"

Not if you and your reporters really did their work.

And don't be so presumptuous as to state that if Kerry were in office, Froomkin's readership would dry up. That's a weak assertion and insulting to your readers.

Rather than attack Mr. Froomkin, see how you can create a better paper with him.

Posted by: Mike | December 12, 2005 07:00 PM

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."

??????????

What is your fact basis for that? I look at the commments and there is absolutely a) not a "large share" that seem unaware of the op nature; and b) NO ONE who thought his log was written by "one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters" (everyone refers to is as Froomkin or Froomkin's column).

Personally, I don't care if you change the name. I look for "Froomkin" and not "White House Briefing". But this "response" seems filled with the very kinds of things that make people search out a Froomkin column OVER the reported/edited pieces. What are your numbers? What is the audience for his pieces; what do you define as a "large share"; what are the numbers of responses you have received and where are they compiled to give you the objective basis for stating a "large share" think his column is put together by one of the 3 White House reporters; what investigation was done to determine whether or not those sending those responses are indeed regular readers who were suddenly shocked to discover it was an op piece vs. people who didn't like what his op piece was saying and knowing it to be op, nonetheless were seeking a way to stifle his input?

See - that's what, once upon a time, you would expect a Reporter, much less Editor, to go through before writing. Did you? Or did you instead rely upon your:

"If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled 'White House Briefing' was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters"

own personal opinion and decide to report it as a fact that a large share of Froomkins readers can't distinguish his piece as being opinion bc, if you were not working for the paper YOU might be confused?

"For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions"

Again, this sounds as if the problem is YOURS and not so much the readerships. And that your concern is not so much that there is an inability to distinguish his column from "reporting" but rather that his viewpoint is not your own - it is that "liberal prism".

"Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does?"

Well, let me rephrase you question for you. The main question is, after all, the credibility of reporting done by and for the WP. You are not addressing that main question and you should. If a White House reporter for a major news organization had reported more in the manner of Dan's commentary, would the Administrations lies and incorrect statements been laid bare a few thousand lives earlier? A few hundred billion sooner?

I am not a reporter and do not play one and have been, until the Iraq war, accused at least as often of being conservative (esp. fiscally and religiously) as liberal. But the tissue of lies were so easy to see - so easy to punch through if any effort were made. Cunningham and the Washington Press corps - where were you guys during his years of high flying that were absolutely unsupported by his income levels. How often did major news organizations blythely announce, print, reprint and re-announce that the LA Gov had not contacted the White House for help before the Hurricane? All the info was online forgoshsakes - it is a sad day when The Daily Show does more indepth fact checking than major new networks.

If I hear one more incorrect analysis, that has obviously been regurgitated from a "high ranking source" about why Bush could not have sent troops in to LA due to Posse Comitatus (18 USC 1385) I will bang my head against the wall. Nowhere does anyone ever even begin to say things like, "ummm, wait a minute - then why was posse commitatus suddenly not an issue when he did send out the order to go in?" or "wait a minute, don't we have a national response plan (wowser - there it is, online and everything) that spells some of this out?

Seriously, the response you have posted makes me feel as if you are filtering the whole of the WP's political reporting through a "Harris Prism" and that is one that thinks the way you deal with differing breakdowns of light into its components is to just keep everyone in the dark.

Prove me wrong.

Posted by: Mary | December 12, 2005 07:03 PM

Heaven forbid "that some readers think that Froomkin is a Post White House reporter."

I subscribed to the WaPo in 1973 while working on an Indian reservation in North Dakota. It took 4 or 5 days to get there, but it was well worth the wait to be able to follow in depth the emerging Watergate scandal. The WaPo was then the premier national newspaper for national politics.

Perhaps the problem for John Harris and his fellow politics "reporters" is that more people find Froomkin "credible" than their he-said-she-said "reporting" and "analysis."

Posted by: Bob Gaines | December 12, 2005 07:07 PM

Mr. Harris, sir, no one is confusing an online-only COLUMN that provides links to news and opinion concerning the White House with the work of your team. No one. People may wonder why your work is so less compelling, so less vaulable, but no one is confusing the two products.

I am stunned that you see skepticism, an insistence on truthfulness and a little perspective as a "liberal prism." Sir, a newspaper's work cannot be about the messenger, it must be about the message. You embarass yourself and your great newspaper when you see issues as "us vs. them" rather than assessing truth, merit and benefit. If you see Mr. Froomkin's work as threatening or biased, I submit that you have lost your journalistic compass. Hopefully this exercise will help you get it back.

Posted by: Rick in DC | December 12, 2005 07:09 PM

"People in the newsroom want to end this confusion. We do not want to spike his column ...."

Gee, how very nice of you. Fascist.

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 07:11 PM

Clearly there are two issues here. One is the apparently common confusion of Dan Froomkin with a Washington Post White House reporter. Obviously this should be corrected immediately. The other issue, and this is clearly the one that has the stronger emotional resonance with readers, is the possibility of Mr. Froomkin being "balanced" by a conservative blogger. I suggest that this would be a terrible mistake.

The first obligation of journalism is to the truth, but very close second is to serve the public as a balance against those in power. Whatever his motivations, Mr. Froomkin clearly understands this second responsibility. Lately it has not been so evident that the Washington Post, as an organization, does.

In light of the recent revelations about Bob Woodward, the Post has allowed itself to appear willing to print stories more or less dictated by the very people in power whom they mean to cover. Not, as some media critics suggest, through collusion with sources, but rather through a series of small decisions not to question certain claims and not to connect certain dots. As Joan Didion pointed out in "Political Pornography," this rhetorical incuriousity about leaked information doesn't quite amount to a bias towards those in power, but neither does it make for completely responsible journalism.

What Mr. Froomkin does in his column is to work against the tendencies of "access journalism," by connecting some of the dots, by questioning some of the leaked information. What he does, in other words, is to fill in percieved gaps in the Post's journalism.

Adding a conservative blogger would not "balance" Mr. Froomkin's work; it would negate it. Mr. Froomkin's column is concerned almost exclusively with the executive branch, which is currently Republican controlled. Inevitably, someone taking an adverserial role against that branch is going to seem disposed against whatever party occupies it at the time. It is possible that Mr. Froomkin is liberally disposed, but at the moment that concern is irrelevant -- he is doing what he should be doing, regardless of his political persuasion.

If a Democratic candidate wins the presidency, then Mr. Froomkin's claim will truly be put to the test. If he fails, then by all means "balance" him right off of your website. Until then, I beg you, please let his column stand alone and remain a voice that attempts to speak truth to power.

Posted by: Adam | December 12, 2005 07:14 PM

Am I missing something, or isn't Mr. Froomkin's column located in the "Opinion" section? Is this a recent occurence, or has this always been the case?

I'd also ask that Mr. Harris more fully explain how the misperception that Mr. Froomkin's column is a product of the Post's White House reporters "has itself become an obstacle." I can only assume that this refers to sources in the White House who, disapproving of Mr. Froomkin's column and its title, have created these "obstacles" for the White House reporters to overcome. Am I wrong? Have I misperceived this notion?

Is there any other way to read this comment? If my perception is correct, what lengths exactly will the Post and it's National politics desk go to to ensure "obstacle"-free work?

If sources in the White House ask that the National politics desk jump, is Mr. Harris acting in the best interest of his paper or of journalism to be asking "How high?"

Posted by: Dr. Cb, Not really a Doctor | December 12, 2005 07:17 PM

Mr Harris, it was much easier covering Clinton's sex life, wasn't it?

--

Posted by: Hank Essay | December 12, 2005 07:22 PM

Obviously, Harris' masters in the White House don't like Froomkin and want him ... (what is the word Harris used?) ... "spiked".

Good job, Harris. Good boy. I'm sure the WH will give you a treat and nice pat when they see you next.

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 07:23 PM

Mr. Harris -- Was it your intention to insult the WaPo readers? I certainly understood that Mr. Froomkin is not a White House Reporter. I also believe that truth is not to be viewed through a liberal or conservative prism. Truth stands outside those contrived boundaries. If there was a Kerry White House and Mr. Froomkin chose to expose any irreularities or lies, I would most assuredly be reading those columns. (Look, I still read Krauthammer.)

You don't so much seem to have exposed a problem with Mr. Froomkin or his readers. You have exposed a problem of your own.

Please read the posts following Mr. Froomkin's remarks. I have rarely seen so many thoughtful, intelligent comments about the value that we all place on newspapers. Maybe, then, you and Ms. Howell can put away the long knives and go to work on areas of the newspaper that may actually need fixing.

Posted by: lj | December 12, 2005 07:23 PM

Why are all the comments here libburla biased? Where's the balance and fairness and freedom?

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 07:23 PM

You might consider that one reason your country is in a steep decline, and has burned up a half-century and more of global goodwill, is that people like you are unwilling to put hard questions to power, or even, when you know the answers, to break with inside-the-Beltway solidarity and tell the public what they are.

If you were serious about labelling issues and "prisms" you'd be going after Woodward.
Make him put "uncritical friend of power" on everything he puts in your paper.

Posted by: sm | December 12, 2005 07:26 PM

This response disgusts me. I am gobsmacked that this is the political editor of Washington Post.

"If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does?"

With skepticism and humor -- NO WAY! Ony fawning stenography will do.

"If the answer is no, there is not really a debate: washingtonpost.com 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."

Dan Froomkin is not assigned to cover the news?? Or is the phrase "by the paper" the key here? Getting complaints from Karl?

Posted by: M McCartney | December 12, 2005 07:26 PM

Perhaps the question that should be addressed is whether the WP should consider adding a second National Politics Editor to balance Mr. Harris?

;)

Posted by: Mary | December 12, 2005 07:27 PM

Mr. Harris's comment here is very revealing. As many readers have remarked, apparently the Bush enthusiasts at the WaPo consider truth, honesty, and accountability to be liberal values. And maybe they are these days. The truth about Bush is so bad that even hinting at it makes you a liberal biased kook.

Because he is not a reporter, Dan Froomkin is free to connect the dots and tell the truth about Bush's disasterous administration. He doesn't need to curry favor with White House sources who want to use him as a mouthpiece for their deceptive messages.

Posted by: Brad Corsello | December 12, 2005 07:28 PM

From Dr. Cb
"If my perception is correct, what lengths exactly will the Post and it's National politics desk go to to ensure "obstacle"-free work? "

I have an estimate for you.

2100, at least.

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 07:29 PM

Mr. Harris,
you are a sad, sorry excuse for a...I'm not sure what to call what you purport to be, because you certainly are no journalist.

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 07:29 PM

If you spent half the energy asking substantive questions of the White House as you have bashing Froomkin, your paper would not be in the condition it finds itself in now. You people need a top-down house-cleaning.

Posted by: Chicago | December 12, 2005 07:32 PM

Hoo boy... now you've done it!

It sounds like there are a couple of things going on here.

Conflicts between Post print edition & washingtonpost.com. Between old journalism traditions and blogs. Perhaps even some intrapersonal miscommunication.

It's obvious that WHB is not done by a staff reporter. It says "Special to the ..." right at the top (but then, as a news junkie and lover of newspapers, I always glance at the byline and consider that part of the story).

Why not call the blog "White House Briefing -- Dan Froomkin Special to ..."? A bit cumbersome, but effective for the dunderheads among us.

Journalists ultimately benefit from blog links because it directs us to read their pieces. They complement each other. I imagine the instant criticism is a bit hard to stomach. Get used to it! -- It's the wave of the future.

One advantage that blogs have, of course, is that they don't have to repeat basic info on a recurring story because they assume readers are familiar with the story up to that point. I admit I get a bit bored with the old recaps and quickly skip through them saying to myself: yeah, yeah get on with it...

One of the many advantages reporters have over bloggers is tradition, status, skill, experience, and a known place to call home.

Journalism is not a dead fish. It's evolving and blogs are an exciting part of the whole deal. Will we end up more like the British style press? Perhaps not a bad thing.

Understanding (admitting even) that journalists, like bloggers, have a voice and that voice is part of the story.

As a reader, this is what I think.

PS -- To the online team. Have you thought of adding a Preview feature to the Comments section?

Posted by: desertwind | December 12, 2005 07:33 PM

Good grief- Froomkin writes though a liberal prism? Are you kidding me?

Froomkin may be snarky, but facts are facts. Just because they frequently make the current president look like a boob doesn't mean that Froomkin is writing with a liberal bias.

And for the record, I never miss his column, and I would expect him to be every bit as hard on a democratic president. As for the name of his column, only a moron could read more than 3 or 4 sentences and think he was an actual "white house reporter."

Give us a break. The post's readers are smarter than you think.

Posted by: Lisa Crider | December 12, 2005 07:34 PM

Wow - good grief, Mr. Harris - do try not to patronize us too much. It doesn't take a genius to immediately see that Fromkin puts together a number of reports on a given story, beautifully too. You need to tell us why you and your so-called reporters feel so threatened by this.

I personnally don't care what you call Mr. Fromkin's column - go ahead and rename the thing. I'll still be heading there first. Hell, Fromkin's column is the only reason I come to this site at all.

So, what will you find next to try and shut him up?

Posted by: Mag | December 12, 2005 07:36 PM

Dan Froomkin is taintde, darksided! His entire column is darksided too! Everything's un-Godly! Gargoyles!... Psychics! Get the hell out of my newspaper! In Jesus' name I pray! GET OUT!
I give it up to Bush I'm a Bush WARRIOR!
He is not a CHRISTIAN!
He is tampering in darksided stuff!
His column is tainted- I don't want it! Whatever it is, it's tainted!
I want nothing. I want my God and I want my Bush! I want MONEY!

Posted by: John Harris | December 12, 2005 07:36 PM

Sounds to me like Mr. Harris' initial comments and later response to Mr. Froomkin is an example of bureaucratic territoriality supported by a flimsy argument. No doubt, the solution offered by Harris is for Froomkin to report to Harris so the "problems" can be fixed.

In making his argument, Harris characterizes Froomkin enthusiasts as pro-Kerry (or is it anti-Bush?). Really flimsy. How would Harris characterize the "many, many" who don't understand what "Dan Froomkin, Columnist" means?

Froomkin's irreverence is refreshing, and entirely in keeping with internet nature of his column. His categorization by issue is helpful, and his "scene-setting" of links leads one to articles that would otherwise be unread because of often poorly written headlines.

Froomkin is a real asset for the Post. And the fact that Bill O"Reilly got confused and doesn't like him has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: George Lazovsky | December 12, 2005 07:36 PM

What would Woodward do?

Posted by: sixteenwords | December 12, 2005 07:37 PM

I agree with what "John" from Oklahoma wrote at 7:26:05. The concern I have is not that a well-defined opinion columnist has a column title that only the most cursory of readers would find confusing.

Rather, it is that the reporters with decades of experience and trust - most overtly, Bob Woodward - appear to be leveraging that trust with the readers to tacitly interject the "talking points" of the administration as facts that have been investigated and verified by two independent sources.

This is a far greater injustice to your readership - in print and on-line.

Respectfully,
Dave L.
Madison, WI

Posted by: Dave L. | December 12, 2005 07:37 PM

I have been growing increasingly skeptical of the Post's commitment to quality reporting and to its readers. I have gathered more news from the BBC and media outlets overseas than I have from the Post! Dan Froomkin is not only my favorite columnist, he is the only reason I read this paper at all. I am shocked that the ombudsman can criticize a true professional who gets his information from many sources and who holds this administration accountable. At the same time, this paper gives a wink and a nod to one of its managing editors who is more committed to book revenue and protecting sources for future book revenue than providing information to its readers.
I support Dan Froomkin and the great work that he does.

Posted by: Sara | December 12, 2005 07:38 PM

Gee, why did the Washington Post get it so wrong about the pre-war situation in Iraq?

Because of the credulity and faux "balance" exhibited in the above comments by John Harris.

I'm sure the White House apologized to you for leading you around by your noses. Mr. Harris want sot return to those glory days, evidently, when the front page got nearly every story about Iraq wrong.

Yeah, that's a great idea.

Posted by: Wooster | December 12, 2005 07:39 PM

What happened to people at the Post? Do you really think that your "He Said, She Said" stenography is reporting? None of you seem capable of drawing obvious conclusions if there is the smallest chance that it might look like you are biased politically. Do you have a clue how frustrating that is to readers? I don't trust anything that comes out of your paper until it has been vetted by the blogs.

Posted by: Pat Kennedy | December 12, 2005 07:40 PM

Mr. Harris, please consider that in a few years your job will be about as relevant as that of a foreman in a buggy whip factory, watching all those newfangled automobiles roll by.

Using that as a reference point, please also attempt to analyze why you are further alienating your customer base by dismissing the investment of time we make when consuming your product.

I no longer consume media that treats me with contempt.

Please read the above sentence as many times as neccessary.

This means I have to look to blogs, or the BBC.

I hope at some point I can claim to read your newspaper again, but it will only be when Walter Pincus is on the front page as a matter of course, not accident.

Posted by: Daniel Wade | December 12, 2005 07:42 PM

Froomkin is one of the most readable sections of the Post, because he reports facts as facts. This is done---wonderfully---without the kneejerk attempt to apologize for the politician (calling something 'possibly misleading' when its an outright lie) or "balance" the story because the facts refuse to distribute blame evenly to both political parties.

Pleaes keep the best part of the paper free from interference.

Posted by: JA | December 12, 2005 07:43 PM

WAPO has become an administration mouthpiece. Try quoting fewer 'anonynmous sources' (i.e. government contacts spinning you) and do more real journalism.

Posted by: motarjem@aol.com | December 12, 2005 07:44 PM

oh believe me, there's no way dan froomkin will ever be confused with a white house reporter. he has more integrity than the combined lot of them who sit passively day after day while scott mcclellan lies/spins/evades their questions. please.

Posted by: linda | December 12, 2005 07:44 PM

You wrote: "Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and *adversarial purpose.*" [emphasis added]

For the life of me I can't find the part where Dan admits to an "adversarial purpose." Perhaps you are referring to Mr. Froomkin's admission that he seeks "accountability and transparency" or to his belief that "the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable" or to his view that b) "journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable"? If so, then I have some advice for you: Consider another profession!

In the America where I come from, a journalist holding the president accountable is not being adversarial; it's their ... uhm ... er ... JOB! If you can't see that, then you've definitely lost your way, and the Washington Post is most definitely wasting its money. You need a long vacation, dude. Go home, have a drink and get in touch with your inner journalist. Maybe its still in there somewhere. Then again, maybe not.

Posted by: Ken | December 12, 2005 07:45 PM

"Heckuva job, Harris!"

Posted by: jawbone | December 12, 2005 07:45 PM

"Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose."

God forbid someone covering the administration approach the subject with irreverance and adversarial purpose! Only in the current world of inside-the-beltway, mainstream media access whoring would that be a bad thing. The job of a white house reporter is not just to parrot speeches and news releases, it is to take the administration to task and to hold it accountable for its actions and statements! Especially in today's age where spin is King in Washington.

If you want a reference to what real reporting looks like, take a gander at the recent series of articles in the LA Times about pre-war intelligence.

Grow a pair, and if you are that concerned with staying on the White House A-list, go get a job on K Street where you belong.

Posted by: davvo | December 12, 2005 07:46 PM

Perhaps the confusion that Mr.Harris imagines in his readers says something about what he thinks of their perceptiveness. Most of those commenting above seem to like Mr. Froomkin, recognize that he writes an online blog, and value his perceptions regardless of the forum he writes in.

Posted by: Candace | December 12, 2005 07:50 PM

Rename it. I like "Cooking with Walnuts," as someone else suggested.

Posted by: Tom Lombard | December 12, 2005 07:53 PM

Mr. Harris:

Your paper's credibility is in tatters, and you want to assert that this has something to do with Dan Froomkin's column (and no, sir, your readers are not nearly as foolish as you think they are; we know perfectly well what Mr. Froomkin's writing is, and what it isn't).

Mr. Froomkin is not the problem. You, sir, and Ms. Howell, and all those who mistake access for investigation, stenography for journalism, and deference to power for "balance," are the problem. Mr. Froomkin is part of the solution, and he is perhaps the only person at the Post about whom that can so clearly be said.

With editors like you, I'm sorry to say, the Post doesn't need enemies.

Posted by: Leslie in CA | December 12, 2005 07:55 PM

After reading John Harris's latest screed, I am spinning in my grave.

--

Posted by: Katharine Graham | December 12, 2005 07:56 PM

The Post is jealous that this week's talk of media idiocy is about Time.

Had to do something to grab the spotlight back.

Posted by: jeff | December 12, 2005 07:56 PM

Wow. Someone is "adverserial" to the White House spin, and you guys get all uptight? Unbelievable.

Thanks for underlining the fact that you consider yourself a propaganda outfit.

Posted by: Kos | December 12, 2005 07:59 PM

Paul McLeary: You covered the Clinton presidency for the Washington Post from 1995 to 2001, and during that contentious second term, what was your general take on the mood of the press corps in response to Clinton and his policies?

John F. Harris: The mood of the press corps was oftentimes kind of sour -- sour in both directions. People tend to forget, for understandable reasons because the Lewinsky scandal was such a sensational affair, that 1997 was in its own way a very sullen, snippy, disagreeable year in the relationship between the White House and the press. Most news organizations -- the Washington Post included -- were devoting lots of resources, lots of coverage, to the campaign fund-raising scandal which grew out of the '96 campaign, and there were a lot of very tantalizing leads in those initial controversies. In the end they didn't seem to lead anyplace all that great. But there were tons of questions raised that certainly, to my mind, merited aggressive coverage.

Posted by: Not John Harris (Thank God) | December 12, 2005 07:59 PM

Shame on you, for not seeing how your regular reporters have surrendered their judgment and critical thinking to become, at best, gossip columnists and, at worst, tools for manipulation of public opinion. The entire press corps (with some exceptions - the Mpls Star-Trib and Toledo Blade for example) has been infected with a moral and factual neutrality that is as incomprehensible as it is damaging to our democracy. The Post is hardly the worst offender -- but the Post should hold itself to a higher standsard.

Posted by: Phil Schatz | December 12, 2005 08:00 PM

I,for one, have never thought that Froomkin was part of the WaPo's White House team because he always includes a representative passage of a WaPo story by the paper's reporters on that beat, and sometimes comments on that passage. He would not do so if he were a member of that team -- a positive reference would be seen as self-congratulatory, while a negative reference would make him persona non grata with the team's other members.
It is, however, unfortunate that Mr. Harris does not actually have someone on his team who, like Mr. Froomkin, is not so accepting of White House spin. If he did, perhaps the reputation of the Washington Post's political coverage would not have sunk so low.

Posted by: Richard Leary | December 12, 2005 08:00 PM

It utterly amazes me that the Washington Post reporters cannot find more compelling things to concern themselves with than their perception of a liberal voice in Dan Froomkin's column. And Mr. Harris seems to think he knows how his readers would respond if a Democratic administration were dealt with critically. This is a pretty demeaning and superior position to take by an editor whose paper is under the microscope for allowing a reporter to obstruct justice because he was writing a book on the subject and didn't feel like testifying about what he knew. I find it insulting that the Post thinks I have no capacity for critical thinking and can't see the difference between a reporter's work on a White House story and a column compiled of links to various websites addressing the same subject matter. I agree with my fellow commentors that there is clearly pressure from administration sources on the paper to "deal" with Dan and his honest appraisal of the facts he finds in his research which, with this administration, inevitably shine a light on the various crimes and disasters they have created and perpetuated. As an American Citizen who believes in a free press, I am grateful that someone in the press is not under the thumb of the Rove/Cheney machine and gives me the links I need to make informed decisions about issues. The bulk of the Post is fully dedicated to the Party Line. There is nothing to see here that a little self-examination by the critics won't cure. If Dan is creating a problem for your other reporters, I have to think it is because your administration buddies are getting nervous and angry that the truth is coming out in the pages of the Washington Post, AKA the White House Post.

Mr. Harris, I expect you will be very disappointed if you "spike" Froomkin based on these flimsy excuses, as we in the blogosphere are a dedicated and loyal bunch who are doing some of your reporting for you. I suggest you find a mediator to work with your childish staff and leave Froomkin alone.

Posted by: Tanny Martin | December 12, 2005 08:00 PM

Why is it that reporting the facts is perceived as "liberal"? Conservatives have openly disdained the "reality-based community." Is it because they can't handle the truth?

Posted by: Rachel Sumi | December 12, 2005 08:02 PM

Did you get soem reporters at the Washington Post recently? Because we know there were none in the lead-up to the war. "Weapons of mass destruction..." Get a life, Washington Post.

Posted by: "Reporters" | December 12, 2005 08:03 PM

> 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

In the last 3 weeks (say), how many times has Karl Rove been quoted anonymously in the WaPo? 5? 10? 20?

I would submit that "anomymous administration officials" are what is destroying your credibility, not online opinion columnists.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | December 12, 2005 08:04 PM

Mr. Harris concludes his column here by claiming that Froomkin's column "has itself become an obstacle to our work". However he did not explain how the column is an obstacle, even if it is true that readers were confused about whether Dan Froomkin was a WaPo White House reporter. Does the column prevent the political reporters from covering events, calling contacts, writing sentences, editing stories? Do people in the news say "I won't answer your questions because I'm confused about whether Mr. Froomkin's column is part of the political desk?" Please explain this obstruction.

I find it somewhat difficult to believe that the readers are confused in any meaningful way. Mr. Froomkin does not "report" from the White House Briefing room, nor pretent to author things that are authored by others. I think it's a distinction that makes more of a difference to Mr. Harris' insider world than it does to the readers.

Thanks.

Posted by: halle | December 12, 2005 08:05 PM

"People in the newsroom want to end this confusion."

I think you should spend five minutes in the cold shower of priorities, Mr Harris. We all know that you're worried about losing your invitations to all the best holiday parties in DC, but there is a better way to go about this. And I'm sure they'll offer you some cheese to go with that whine.
On a related matter, are you going to stop Dana Millbank being snarky and irreverent on MSNBC?

Posted by: Nick S | December 12, 2005 08:07 PM

Mr. Harris,

With all due respect, are you kidding? You think that the problem is that readers are confused about whether a column appearing on the Opinion page of the WAPO website is written by a White House reporter because it's called "White House Briefing"? Do you think we are too stupid to notice that we are on the Opinion page? As one poster suggested, if you think that's the problem, rename it "Cooking with Walnuts." We'll read it all the same, and continue to rely on Mr. Froomkin to bring attention to things that your "real" White House reporters can't be bothered with.

I applaud those reporters, at the Washington Post and elsewhere, who have tried to hold this government accountable. We need more of them, and fewer White House stenographers posing as reporters. That's the problem you should be focused on.

And be assured that if a Kerry administration had proved to be as mendacious, secretive, incompetent, and bull-headed as the current administration, a large share of us Froomkin readers would expect and want the same treatment of it.

Posted by: TS | December 12, 2005 08:10 PM

Mr Froomkins column serves up a refreshing and very readable perspective on Washington and the more you (Mr Harris) and Ms Howell try to clarify what doesn't need to be clarified the deeper the hole you dig.
It seems that perhaps you and others are setting up an alibi and plan to dismiss Mr Froomkin or place his writing near the classifieds in the blogsphere? Whatever your reasons for taking a position about a headline, name or title that confuses only the two of you strikes me as "much ado about nothing". And you know it.
I think the irritant to your thinking is that so many read,discuss and refer to Mr Froomkin's work and that interest and buzz is lacking elsewhere in your paper.
After all they don't call your paper the Gray Lady for nothing - now do they?
(Oh that's not you - is it?)

Posted by: Jean Stevens | December 12, 2005 08:11 PM

John,

Considering what tools you and the rest of the folks at the WaPo have been for Bush and his cronies and after all the misleading stories you've printed about Clinton, Gore and Kerry, maybe you ought to try being a little more slanted even if doing so doesn't meet the current professional standards which have stood you in such good stead.

Posted by: Michael Fonda | December 12, 2005 08:23 PM

I'm a casual reader of Froomkin's blog. I've never looked at the issue but never got the impression that he was a WH reporter. It's the job of politicians to get their point of view out by whatever means available, and that it's up to the press to use the "facts" as far as they can be determined to fill out the picture for readers. It seems that tht's what DF is doing. I find it refreshing to see Rep and Dem politicians held to a standard of accountability. Keep DF around to see how he does with the Dems when they're in powwer. I think that his column will be just as informative and fun forr the same reasons..

Posted by: Cleve | December 12, 2005 08:25 PM

I wonder if the WaPo has any additional investigative reporters who might want to loook into the story about who is pressuring Mr Harris into trying to undermine Froomkin?

Why does there have to be balance anyway? Don't we really want truth regardless of the slant?

Posted by: Mark | December 12, 2005 08:25 PM

What obstacles are these reporters pushing through? The fax machine running out of toner in the middle of printing out a White House or Pentagon press release?

Posted by: Merle Haggard | December 12, 2005 08:25 PM

I'm a casual reader of Froomkin's blog. I've never looked at the issue but never got the impression that he was a WH reporter. It's the job of politicians to get their point of view out by whatever means available, and that it's up to the press to use the "facts" as far as they can be determined to fill out the picture for readers. It seems that tht's what DF is doing. I find it refreshing to see Rep and Dem politicians held to a standard of accountability. Keep DF around to see how he does with the Dems when they're in powwer. I think that his column will be just as informative and fun forr the same reasons that it is now.

Posted by: Cleve | December 12, 2005 08:26 PM

I assume you're going to end Dana Milbank's Washington Sketch opinion columns. As confusing activities go, having an opinion column by a reporter is pretty high up there.

Posted by: Brad Johnson | December 12, 2005 08:26 PM

You may want to consider putting Froomkin behind our Times Select Wall. That's how we shut up Krugman and Rich.

Posted by: Pinchy | December 12, 2005 08:27 PM

Can someone remind me why I continue to read this piece of trash paper?

RG

Posted by: Raul Groom | December 12, 2005 08:28 PM

"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"

Lord knows what hard work it is drinking wine with Bob Luskin and vacationing in Aspen with Scooter Libby.

Posted by: DougJ | December 12, 2005 08:32 PM

Nice to have in print that political journalists take a dim view of irreverance towards the President. The Washington Post, like the NY Times, is not a liberal paper, it is an Establishment paper, and god forbid some peon, i.e. regular American citizen, question the Establishment. Where would that bring this country, to democracy, freedom?

Posted by: The Third Policeman | December 12, 2005 08:33 PM

Mr Harris,

You are an editor for one of the foremost publications in the world. As such, I find it mind boggling that you can take the statment, "There is undeniably a certain irreverence to the column," and change it to, "Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose"

"Adversarial?" The only way you could make your argument sound is to add that word where it never belonged. "Irreverence" is a trait EVERY white house reporter should have. What benefit is their to reporters holding the white house in reverence? I can't imagine you got this job without knowing what "reverence" means, but just in case: A feeling of profound awe and respect and often love; veneration. (from dictionary.com).

I think you did know what that word means, though, which is why you felt you had to add the word "adversarial." Of course WH reporters shouldn't be adversarial. But they can certainly be irreverent and demand answers and hold them to accountability without being adversarial.

Your use of this word is terrible reporting.

But you had to use it, or else your entire argument would fall apart.

Thus your allegiance was more to your argument than to good reporting. Thus you chose advocacy over reporting.

To say nothing of your attempts to marginalize the opinions of those of us who enjoy Froomkin's column, claiming that we wouldn't like it as much if he questioned a fictious president Kerry. While you are certainly right about some of the readers, the column would collect just as many weak-kneed conservatives.

However, since most of the readers enjoy, above all else, being informed, your shot at us is cheap, undeserved and insulting. I enjoy having a government that is rigorously questioned and held accountable. No matter what party is controlling the government, it works better when they are honest.

I used to tell people to read the Post because I thought it was better than the NYT, and I thought Kurtz and Froomkins columns were great resources. Now you've made me lose respect for your entire paper.

Thanks for everything.

Posted by: Doug Hastings | December 12, 2005 08:35 PM

It's true Froomkin gains a certain cachet from being associated with the august Washington Post.

But, you don't seem to understand how much cachet Froomkin lends to the Post. It is very, very cool (and, everyone wants to be near "cool", right?) that washingtonpost.com is savvy enough to give the guy a shot.

Posted by: desertwind | December 12, 2005 08:35 PM

Gosh,

All I can say is, I'm so glad that the Post's content is now for the most part available for FREE since it is quickly becoming not worth a dime if the columnists must either pass a litmus test for administration loyalty or have their columns wear a scarlet letter so that the wingers don't take offense.

Dan doesn't try to find equivalence where there is none (like Howie for example) but it's a huge stretch to infer that he is misleading anyone (with half a brain) merely by the title of his column.

How low must the Post go?

ugh

Posted by: Thomas Martin | December 12, 2005 08:35 PM

Go ahead. Change the name of the column from "White House Briefing" to FROOMKIN.

I'd be delighted to see Dan Froomkin's name all over the Post. I want to see FROOMKIN on the front page, where it belongs. Dan's a star among First Amendment groupies.

Moreover, by eliminating the limiting heading of "White House Briefing", the Post could give Froomkin greater latitude to cover more kinds of issues.

Of course, that would mean giving him his own staff, more publishing space, greater editorial discretion-- all of those indicators of a free press.

More space, more topics, more insight, more FROOMKIN!

How soon do you think we can expect to see these changes?

Posted by: Ereshkigal | December 12, 2005 08:36 PM

Let me straighten Mr. Harris out about one thing:

If John Kerry were president and he lied America into a war and then lost the war, killing over 2000 American soldiers and 30,000 civilians (as Bush acknowledged today!) and horribly wounding tens of thousands more, there is no limit to the punishment he would deserve for that.

And I would want the truth, I wouldn't hide behind lies and self-hypnosis like the dwindling number of Bush supporters.

Posted by: Brad Corsello | December 12, 2005 08:37 PM

I didn't have time to read through all the comments, so if someone has already posted similar sentiments above, my apologies.

Has it occured to Harris and Howell that a sizable chunk of the Post's online readers visit the site every day only because of Dan Froomkin? Along with Josh Marshall, Atrios, Laura Rozen and a very few others, he runs what amounts to one of the web's must-read political blogs. I'm sure if Dan decided to set up his own shop and keep doing exactly what he does now, his extremely loyal reader base would go right along with him. He might just make a few more dollars doing it, too.

Come to think of it, if the Post doesn't want Dan, I'd encourage him to make the leap. He's a unique resource and a marketable quantity. Let them try to run a site with Howie as their star blogger. Because goodness knows, there are just so few rightwing windbags on the web whose stock in trade is complaining about the MSM and making tired Hillary jokes.

Posted by: John Pinson | December 12, 2005 08:42 PM

Call it "Froomkin" if you like. I don't care. I'll still read it before I read anything by the Post's Air Force One joyriders.

Fact is, he's far more of a brand name than any other online feature of the Post. He's currently the second subheading in a google search for Washington Post, after comics. If the Post can't figure out how to monetize that, they've got bigger problems than just Bob Woodward.

And I second the comment about Dana Milbank's opinion journalism. Rein in your supposed news reporter first, then we can talk about "balance" in the opinion section (hint: from here, the Post looks a lot like the Washington Times)

Posted by: theo | December 12, 2005 08:44 PM

It seems pretty obvious that the reason WH reporters are getting upset at Froomkin is because the folks out here read him, and we know that he's good.

Froomkin is eating their lunch. Wapo can go ahead and "spike" his column, I'll read him wherever he goes.

Maybe WaPo should replace him with Jeff Gannon. Now THERE was a WH reporter.

Posted by: mojo | December 12, 2005 08:45 PM

I am aghast at Mr. Harris' reply.

First, there is the suggestion that, had Kerry been elected, those who are writing in support of Mr. Froomkin would not be so happy with his presumably sharp criticism of a Kerry administration. Let's say that is true. Would there not have been an equally fierce response from a different set of people quite happy to see Kerry receive the Froomkin treatment? In short, why is it a problem that anti-Bush people support Froomkin? Don't pro-Bush people support George Will and Charles Krauthammer? There's nothing wrong with a columnist having a particular political point of view. Most do. Yet, the clear message from Mr. Harris is that an anti-Bush position is somehow intolerable.

Next, there is a clear threat. "People in the newsroom don't want to spike his column-or at least, I don't." Is Mr. Froomkin now supposed to follow the party line, or else?

Finally, all this stuff about the name of the column strikes me as camoflage. Who cares what the name of the column is? Why not call it "Bushwatch" or "Froomkin on Politics" or whatever the hell you want? I doubt Mr. Froomkin cares all that much, as long as you let him publish what he wants. Oh, he may be irritated (or more) that there is a plan afoot to rein him in, and feels that he has to fight even a trivial thing like the name of the column, but is that really what this is about?

Coming on the heels of the LA Times firing Robert Scheer, your heavy-handed treatment of Dan Froomkin is curiously timed. Has the Washington Post been leaned on?

Why does every columnist in every paper in the United States have to be conservative? I say this only half in jest: Is this a new secret law we haven't yet heard about, an addendum to the Patriot Act?

Would you tell us if it were?

David Derbes
loki@uchicago.edu

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 08:49 PM

Froomkin adds credibility to the WP, he doesn't detract from it. You did that all by yourself with the run up to war and keeping Woodward on the payroll. And your new omsbudsman, frankly I think her bias is already showing.

Posted by: Sara B. | December 12, 2005 08:53 PM

Hey John, you are doing great. Don't let those liberals get to you. You've set the stage to 'spike' Froomkin, which is what we want, and I know that you want what we want, right?

By the way your seat on Air Force One is being reserved for your next ski trip.

Keep up the good work for the Bush 'disinformation campaign'. Tomorrow's talking points will be faxed within the hour.

Karl

Posted by: Karl Rove | December 12, 2005 08:58 PM

I think you should get rid of Froomkin, John. That way, when he gets picked up by one of the myriad of superior newspapers in this country, I won't have to visit this decaying rag to read his column (I've already bookmarked robertscheer.com).

Posted by: buddhistMonkey | December 12, 2005 09:03 PM

Here's another vote for calling Dan's column "Cooking with Walnuts". It'd be nice if all that's at stake here is a simple name change, while the column itself is left alone. As Mr. Froomkin is soon to take a leave of absense of indeterminent length because of an addition to the family (congrats to you both!), and fair and balanced discourse is thus re-gained at the newspaper and the website, I think Mr. Harris and Ms. Howell should use the time to read or re-read some of these messages and recognize the sadness and outrage coming from its readers who see a lot more at stake at the Post than the fate of one columnist/column. Expressed here is an ardent wish for the return of a nation's faith in the objectivity and courage of the American media/press as a communicator of truth, instead of what is perceived as its current pre-occupation with "access" and the possibility that doing so will somehow make their jobs harder by making "anonymous sources" less eager to talk. If Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein could do it under similiar constraints created by a hostile administration, then surely the current version of the Fourth Estate can do it too, provided they have both the will and the gumption to do so.

Posted by: Mark Lewis | December 12, 2005 09:03 PM

I really need to know the obstacles faced by your paper because of his column.

Here's are my obstacles to yor papers's credibility:
1.when I read the paper I know Vandehei is married to an ex DeLay staffer and yet your paper kept him on Ambramoff for a long time. Everything he writes reads like an axe to grind.

2.Bob Woodward. Why did he go on TV and debase Fitzgerald and only apologize for that AFTER he was busted? Why was he not shut up before his Bombshell. Pathetic.

3. WMD WMD WMD WMD

I used to love you, but it's all over now.

Posted by: Lauren | December 12, 2005 09:08 PM

mr.harris apparently believes his job is to be bush and company's lap dog and to lap all the offal they dish out. for shame.

Posted by: roger hurwitz | December 12, 2005 09:09 PM

Wow. The Post's National Politics Editor and its Ombudsman have clearly established their irrelevance (not irreverence). They clearly have lost sight of good journalism.

The true editors and ombudsmen of The Post are people like Kevin Drum, Duncan Black and John Amato. I don't go to the Washington Post anymore as a primary source. It doesn't have professional editors anymore. This post is Exhibit A. The truly talented editors and ombudsmen are now the top-tier blogs. No wonder you Establishment journalists are so scared of blogs!

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 09:09 PM

John Harris,

Are current occupants of the whitehouse so weak in character, that even an attempt in a single online column to hold them accountable drives them to have friendly journalists "spike the column"? Is the potemkin village that is run out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave so paper thin that one column calls for this level of complaining? Doesn't this whitehouse whose spokespersons regularly school their Nixonian forebearers in language parsing deserve a little irreverent coverage? Doesn't this white house: that lied us into war, waged an internal campaign against our defense and intelligence infrastructure, instituted massive torture policies, and then lost a major american city to a preventable disaster deserve some critical commentary?

Take a step back and look at what you are saying, John Harris. You have an editorial board at the Post that is a rabid and ridiculouly overzealous supporter of a President's policies which are now UP to nearly 38% approval. And you are complaining that Froomkin is disengenuous? Please!

Stop complaining, John Harris, and have your staff do some real reporting. Please hold this obviously totally dishonest whitehouse to account. Or if the President is too big a target, try looking at the Senate and the House where the most recent times graphic of only the most popular corruption claims, shows the republican machine was a financial target of Abramoff by a 2:1 margin. Any hope that we'll get some political columnists leading this charge for transparency at the Post rather than following the blog world?

How can you John Harris make any claims to bias when you, yourself, took such a sizable part in the endless scandal mongering of the Clinton Era?

Disgusting is what your belly aching is. What value are you supplying as journalists if all you can do is complain that an online colimnist is making the print ones look bad?

Posted by: patience | December 12, 2005 09:13 PM

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

Back that up with a fact and we might call you a journalist. Have you done a poll maybe you could share with us? Or do you have intelligence the rest of us don't know about?

As it is, you're just a lousy mind-reader, with little insight into the minds you're trying to read.

You might not passionately care about the truth, but I guaruntee YOU that I do, and that's why I read Dan Froomkin's columns and chats. I absolutely believe that he'd be holding Kerry accountable if Kerry were President. Check out that whole Neiman Watchdog organization and you'll see that they believe truth and accountability are the job of the press, and they bring that belief to everything they do.

And I gotta say, having read you in chats, I don't believe that about you.

Posted by: Sarah | December 12, 2005 09:16 PM

Mr. Harris, you should be ashamed of yourself. I don't understand why this issue could not have been solved internally. Honestly, your paper barely has any integrity left after the Woodward scandal. You guys suck.

Posted by: Nate P. | December 12, 2005 09:20 PM

Mr. Harris,

If you want the least bit of credibility here you need to stop being so darn vague.

You say, "The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."

Tell us about these "many, many examples" cuz I'm not seeing anyone confused here.

Then you say "People in the newsroom want to end this confusion."

Who are these people? Give us the names. Are they confused? Should we help clarify for them? Or is the problem something else? Lets be specific here.

And finally you say, "The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

Give us examples. What are you referring to? Are these folks to scared to speak for themselves? I mean it almost sounds like you are speaking to some "former hill staffer" or something.

Lets get real shall we? Froomkin is a much bigger asset to your paper today than Woodward is. Tell your Ombudsman to go poke around in his backyard. Maybe you should do the same. Froomkin is doing a great job. Keep up the good work Dan!

Posted by: suzkin | December 12, 2005 09:22 PM

Now, now everybody. There is an easy way to handle this. Mr. Froomkin just needs to add a subtitle to his column: "I AM NOT A WHITE HOUSE REPORTER--I AM A MEMBER OF THE REALITY-BASED COMMUNITY." Fair compromise?

Posted by: Some Dude | December 12, 2005 09:25 PM

It is with no pleasure that I find myself posting a comment to you. The reason is that I never thought that I would have to write to the Washington Post on this kind of matter. I have never felt myself qualified to write a letter to the Editor on any subject that could potentially add to the debate in a responsible way. So I am surprised at myself that I would feel worthy of commenting.

However, I think I speak for those of us day to day folks who are working at warp speed in the private sector in small start-up seat of the pants alternatice energy enterprises in a country with no national energy, but who remain more than interested on the debate, I offer the following.

I begin to look for Dan's column every single day starting at noon. He is the only one that actually tells us what he sees and hears regarding this administration. His interpretation of what he sees and hears appeals to those of us who look to the behaviour of others to evaluate the motives of those with whom we come into contact, whether for business or pleasure.

Further, Dan links to the major articles of the day which saves me alot of time. (He is normally right on point). I look at as much as I can on both sides of the debates(s) as part of my own personal integrity check. As an adult progressive, I believe that it is my duty to fully explore all sides. I will leave out any comment on the obvious actors, at least with respect to those elected leaders who are now at the helm.

Dan enables me to stay in touch with my country while I am living abroad.

I truly belive that he would cover John Kerry in the same fashion had be been elected. Dan is one of the few columnists in the 'MSM' (given Derba Howells' explanation today that describes the current management reporting system that you have in place) that actually tells it like it is. Yes, as he sees it, but that is the point. And these days, the dearth of truth creates a strong and forgiving demand for writers like Dan Froomkin.

If you must turn another cheek, please do it in favour of writers like Dan Froomkin vs our fallen hero, Mr. Woodward, as much as I used to admire him. Make your editorial decision when the pendulum has swung back to a more comfortable place for you. Your loyal readers will wait. That is how serious we are.

Respectully yours,
A citizen living outside of the U.S. right now but who wants to come back to a country that remotely represents the country that is was what it did the year that this President was elected.

Posted by: Clark | December 12, 2005 09:27 PM

Digby links to this interview with Mr. Harris regarding the Post WH reporters' coverage of the Clinton administration:

John F. Harris: "The mood of the press corps was oftentimes kind of sour -- sour in both directions. People tend to forget, for understandable reasons because the Lewinsky scandal was such a sensational affair, that 1997 was in its own way a very sullen, snippy, disagreeable year in the relationship between the White House and the press. Most news organizations -- the Washington Post included -- were devoting lots of resources, lots of coverage, to the campaign fund-raising scandal which grew out of the '96 campaign, and there were a lot of very tantalizing leads in those initial controversies. In the end they didn't seem to lead anyplace all that great.But there were tons of questions raised that certainly, to my mind, merited aggressive coverage."

Hmm. So because the mood was "sour", it was okay to be aggressive in reporting campaign stories that didn't lead anyplace, okay to be aggressive about reporting about the president's sex life-- hey! We might even call that "adversarial!" We might also call it "trivial" along with the vast majority of the American people. But okay-- tell me, Mr. Harris, why was it okay to be adversarial against Clinton, even if most of the scandal stories you admit went nowhere, and it's not okay for Froomkin to be adversarial with the current administration?

Do you really think the president's sex life is more important, more newsworthy, than his warmaking? No? Then you should be giving your reporters Froomkin's column and saying, "Why don't you guys analyze like that? And why not ask Scottie a followup question sometimes? And didn't you NOTICE that guy Jeff Gannon sitting next to you at the WH press briefings?"

The truth is, Mr. Harris, that the Post really isn't doing generally great journalism. And often the really great journalism (Walter Pincus on the run up to war?)is buried on page A18. Your readers deserve better, and we certainly deserve better than you and Ms. Howell venting your spleens about some intra-Post rivalry-- and without even mentioning the names of the carping reporters. Oh, wait a minute. Did they insist on confidentiality too?

It's not about partisanship, and you just don't seem to get that. It really isn't, and if you care about the truth, you'll get beyond that knee-jerk complaint and look at what we're really saying. We're saying that we like analysis. We like context. We like reporters who fact-check. We like reporters who think the truth is more important than "access". We like reporters who report rather than spending months and years refusing to report on news issues because they've gotten entangled in them. We like links to differing opinions so we can check for ourselves. We like having our intelligence and skepticism valued and not derided.

We like Froomkin, and wish there were others like him.

Posted by: Petra | December 12, 2005 09:28 PM

I used to read the WaPo daily, but had to stop cause I couldn't stomach the constant up-sucking to the nefarious Bush administration. I will read Froomkin because it seems as though there's a live human being in there who actually gives a crap about our cultural discourse, but I dont' read a single WaPo columnist anymore. There is simply no variety of perspective at this "newspaper" - other than Froomkin. He doesn't come across to me as a "liberal", just as a live human with a functioning brain.

Posted by: itsbenj | December 12, 2005 09:28 PM

"The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

This sentence is from an _editor_ at the Post?

Posted by: K. Ron Silkwood | December 12, 2005 09:31 PM

With the notable exception of Dan, Dana, Walter and a few others, the Washington Post has become indistinguishable from the New York Post (for those among your readership who can't tell the difference between Dan and a White House reporter, I hasten to explain that that's not a good thing). Of course your White House courtesans, er, reporters would resent Dan Froomkin. He writes. They type.

Posted by: Gibfish | December 12, 2005 09:33 PM

My apologies for not spell-checking.

Posted by: Clark | December 12, 2005 09:34 PM

"The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

Mr. Harris, this makes no sense. What in Froomkin's column is an obstacle to your reporters reporting the news? I'm wondering if sources are saying, "Keep publishing Froomkin, and we'll take our story to the Times." That's a story in itself, and maybe you should report on such an source effort to throttle your independence.

If that's not the case, then how does the column pose an obstacle? Does Howard Kurtz's column on the media (much of it on the White House media) cause you an obstacle too? Do letters to the editor pose an obstacle for your reporters?

What I'd suggest is that you sit your reporters down and say, "You have a great job. Great benefits, great working conditions. Topflight technology too. Now all you have to do to earn all that is to do your job, and if that guy Froomkin's column title poses an obstacle, hey! You can show him what-for by being an even better, more skeptical, more analytical, more fact-based reporter than ever before! That sure will show that Froomkin guy!"

And you know what? Froomkin would be first in line to congratulate your reporters on their improved work-- because he doesn't see good reporting by someone else as "an obstacle". Maybe you shouldn't either.

You know what? We'd read his column if it were just called "Froomkin", because he has interesting things to say. Something to keep in mind when you sit your WHITE HOUSE reporters down and tell them that their job is covering the White House, not complaining when someone else does it better.

Posted by: alouise | December 12, 2005 09:36 PM

I'd see you are a bunch of useless scum, except that you have perfected the example of the worthlessness of the golden means fallacy. Perhaps you are worth a footnote in future journalism classes. I mean, yeah, you killed some huge number of people to get to this point but I guess there may be an upside.

Posted by: Ed Marshall | December 12, 2005 09:38 PM

Mr. Harris,

Without a doubt this is the single most ridiculous and indefensible journalism piece that I have ever read. The only thing that makes sense is the comment "If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled 'White House Briefing' was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporter." The poor logic of the rest of the article validates the assertion that the you the author would presume such a foolish conclusion. Assuredly most of the rest of us would not.

As for the final comment "The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work", I have seen more maturity demonstrated by children playing in a kindergarden sandbox than what is being ascribed to the other WP reporters.

Just today, before reading this, I was musing about how would today's WP have covered the Watergate scandal. It was my sad belief that today the WP editors would have pulled Woodward and Bernstein (just city desk reporters) in favor of national reporters with "better access". After that Watergate would have gotten buried in a week's time.

Posted by: Ben Bradlee [not] | December 12, 2005 09:39 PM

Please revisit the Dan Froomkin "issue" only after Bob Woodward refunds the advance on his next book to the Washington Post as a penalty for egregious and destructive moonlighting.

Posted by: Puzzled in Atlanta | December 12, 2005 09:42 PM

I stopped subscribing to the Washington Post print version after 20 years because I was sick and tired of seeing only male writers on the Op Ed page. They don't seem to be able to find even one woman who is qualified to consistently give her opinion on newsworthy events, despite the fact that women make up more than 50% of the population.

Anyway, if I hadn't cancelled the subscription already, I'd do so now.

This attack on Froomkin is a disgrace. Attacked for having the "liberal" values of accountability and truth-telling.

I'll take that over "compassionate conservatism" any day.

Posted by: tinfoil hattie | December 12, 2005 09:43 PM

The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

This sentence is from an _editor_ at the Post?

You know I blew mine, but I've had a few beers. What the hell excuse does the editor of WaPo have? This really is sad, what sort of utility are they providing over and above this sorry display?

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 09:45 PM


I think it's clear, Mr. Harris, that renaming Froomkin's blog isn't the issue here. If the Post political reporters (who I also read avidly) feel it's misleading, add a disclaimer in big red letters. Rename it. Whatever.

But 'liberal' and 'conservative' mean something. They do *not* mean 'disagrees with the President' and 'agrees with the President.' Dan Froomkin can pull punches because he doesn't have to call Karl Rove the next day and request and interview on the Next Big Thing in the news cycle.

No one is suggesting (or at least I hope not) that confusing Froomkin for the Post's political staff is acceptable or even desirable. I believe I join in many writing here, however, to say that I am saddened to see such a senior figure in the political news media tossing around 'liberal' like the slur word the current Administration has always hoped to make it.

I would greatly appreciate a follow-up post containing specific examples of Froomkin's 'liberal prism.' You come from a much deeper background than most of his readership so perhaps we miss what you catch? Please, don't perpetuate the tossing about of such labels; back up your words.

Posted by: James D | December 12, 2005 09:46 PM

I take it the memo came down from the WH that the Washington Post wasn't doing its patriotic duty loud enough? That if it didn't get louder about attacking WH critics its THREEE WH reporters would start having MORE problems arranging "off-the-record briefings" and "Deep Background" interviews?
Did the memo come directly from the WH or was it delivered by a Republican coalition of advertisers?

Posted by: Ray Beauvais | December 12, 2005 09:50 PM

I'm with Harris.
I luv Froomkin, but reporters don't have the editorial luxury to write like Dan does.

Dan doesn't do original reporting, it's easy to be hard on the WH if you don't have to talk to anyone at the WH.

I like blogs too, but blogs mostly react to stories that newspaper reporters (at the WaPo and at hundreds of paper) did the original work.

You guys (other commenters) don't get it. Froomkin and blogs can't exist without the MSM. Your anger at Harris is misplaced.

Posted by: wapo reader | December 12, 2005 09:50 PM

I'm sorry to say that it really is your own integrity and reliability that is now in question, Mr. Harris. It is now you should defend and support your actions.
You owe Mr. Froomkin and your readers solid examples of when he has displayed liberal bias. Mr. Froomkin is critical and questioning of the President, but unless you can show that it stems from ideology and not simply the belief that the government must be held accountable for its words you owe him an apology.

Confusion of questioning and criticism with "liberalism" is *extremely* disturbing coming from a person with authority in what is -- and rest assured I believe this -- the most important paper in the world. I beg you to consider whether you have internalized the unfliching right wing campaign of screaming "liberal media" at every turn. They are your media generation's challenge, they are today's McCarthy, and they aim to discredit you no matter what and shut down the people's only direct means of accountability. If you are intimidated, we are the ones who lose.

Posted by: JL | December 12, 2005 09:51 PM

Okay, listen...

Froomkin's and Kurtz's columns are not blogs. Blogs are collaborative in nature and support user feedback (like poor old John Harris and Deborah Howell are seeing right here).

Regardless, Froomkin's column is the best political chunk of daily news on the WaPo site or in its paper. Also, I'm willing to bet that guys like Harris are getting nervous in general about the progress of journalism (on-line and off).

Mr Harris, you words really reveal a lot about you

Posted by: rockin' dave | December 12, 2005 09:51 PM

"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."

Call me silly, but if *I* were a big-time reporter, I think I'd have my story right there. A whole series, even.

*Tell* us all about those obstacles. Tell us exactly how you're being pressured and frustrated and manipulated and spun. Tell us what happens to reporters who stray off the reservation. Tell us how all these political figures, all the administration departments, all 537 electees' press operations treat you.

Because image management is the biggest issue of our time, this is the biggest story of our time.

Yet it's the one story I haven't seen any of the regular press do. Even though I can see some of this on C-SPAN with my own eyes and see just how frustrating the White House beat can be, and even though I've watched the most blatant, obvious, shameless, open leading around of media people over the last decade or so that I think the world has ever seen.

Are you afraid of losing "access?" Well, I seem to remember that I. F. Stone did a whole lot of very solid reporting without talking to many sources. He just seems to have thought a lot about what he was seeing.

What people are trying to tell you here is that they think your real job is to tell readers what's being done with and to their lives. Not what the people who direct our lives want us to hear.

Try listening.

Posted by: Another Harris (no relation) | December 12, 2005 09:52 PM

I read the other day that one of Chris Cizilla's blog posts on Washingtonpost.com had been edited to put in more "balance." It included the addition of a corrupt Democrat from the recent past in order to make the current crop of corrup Republican congressmen seem so lonely. And it didn't add similar corrupt Republicans from the recent past. So in an effort to appear balanced, you became unbalanced as far as actually giving an evenhanded account of where the corruption lies.

I think your "liberal prism" is more mistaken pseudobalancing. Simply put, you are letting some sort of Platonic ideal of journalism that is designed to shield you from complaints of the powerful prevent you from actually doing journalism. Froomkin, Pincus and Priest are why I continue to read your publication.

How did this column become an obstacle to your work? Does it leap out at your reporters and nip at their heels? Or have the powers that be voiced their displeasure? And why did you pull Millbank off the White House beat anyway?

Posted by: benton | December 12, 2005 09:52 PM

Mr. Harris,

Time to come down from your editorial pedestal. Back to the trenches and churn some copy, maybe on the crime beat.

Posted by: lynda | December 12, 2005 09:52 PM

As for Froomkin's column title -- who gives a cr#p? Yes, he only hits on Republicans -- because only Republicans are in the White House! This is a red herring, the issue is that you marginalize him by calling him "liberal" when his column consists almost entirely of excerpts from other articles...

Posted by: JL | December 12, 2005 09:55 PM

I really like this Harris guy.

Posted by: George W. Bush | December 12, 2005 09:55 PM

Please please please fire Froomkin!!

I never want to give your website another single click, and if you fire him, he'll make gobs of money doing real journalism somewhere else (maybe his own place, hint hint, Froomkin), and not have to duck scowls from you and your ilk in the editors' room as your paper sags into irrelevance under the weight of its criminal incompetence.

Oh, and if you need polish for your "Hearst Award for Abetting Illegal Wars", call the NYT - I hear they have plenty.

Posted by: John | December 12, 2005 09:56 PM

Mr. Harris points his finger in the wrong direction. The Post itself has put out mea culpas regarding its burying of stories which pointed to the conclusion that there were no WMD's in Iraq, and its most celebrated reporter was found to be knocking an investigation of a crime to which he may be a witness. There is no question that the only person who is willing to stand up and call things like they are is Dan Froomkin. The Post's Political Editor has much to answer for in his paper's failure to live up to its own reputation as a teller of truth. Instead it has, in the name of maintaining access, become little more than a conduit for the opposing viewpoints of the parties, while preserving a slant towards the party in power. This has empowered lies and corruption. That's not what this paper is supposed to do.

Posted by: Rob W | December 12, 2005 09:56 PM

As a long time subscriber and reader, I have to say, the Washington Post has failed its readers and its own standards repeatedly and pathetically over the last five years. There are much much larger problems here than Froomkin.

Posted by: john | December 12, 2005 09:56 PM


Mr. Harris has been thoroughly and deservedly boxed about the ears for his entirely disingenuous and inadequate explanation.

Here's what I believe happened: The White House is getting annoyed with Froomkin who daily calls attention to the deceptions so eagerly lapped up by other Washington Post political reporters.

So the White House sends three willing Washington Post reporters to the Sunday talk shows to complain about Froomkin's column, giving an opening for the Washington Post ombudsman to write a column that publicly attacks him. When the two public attacks aren't received well by Washington Post readers, the so-called political editor types yet another disingenuous attack.

It is heartening, however, that the whole smear job has been done on the web where people can comment. I have rarely seen such intelligent and thoughtful comments than those which follow Harris' attack.

There was a post above that demanded your evidence Mr. Harris. I second that demand. Where is it?

Posted by: Cathleen | December 12, 2005 09:57 PM

Mr. Harris,
With all due respect, you are truly a wanker. What a pathetic confused prattle that was ! People might confuse you for an editor, or a reporter. I'm not advocating spiking your job, I just think you should step down.

Posted by: ch2 | December 12, 2005 09:57 PM

"If [Froomkin] were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement."

Nice work John. You just won yourself another insider scoop. Say hi to Bob and don't forget to mention the aspens.

Posted by: Karl | December 12, 2005 09:58 PM

Mr. Harris, you have indeed been "as clear as possible about how we view our own work."

However, no clarification was needed. It has been apparent for some time that the Washington Post is in the tank for this administration.

Trifle with Mr. Froomkin's column at your peril. Increasingly, Mr. Froomkin is a reminder (a painful one, for those of us who remember what the Post once was) that good journalism abhors "spin" and obfuscation.

As for your contention that Mr. Froomkin's column betrays a liberal bias, it's laughable. It is you, Mr. Harris, who are biased; you and your entire White House and political staff. Your bias is in favor of of a meretricious "balance" fostered by punctiliously situating your coverage midway between the truth and White House lies, which leaves you and your employer in the middle of nowhere.

Keep your hands off Froomkin's column.

Posted by: Thomas Cassidy | December 12, 2005 10:00 PM

Well, Mr. Harris, I for one say thank you. Thank you--and thanks to Ms. Howell--for pricking the nerve of a huge reality-based community out here that has had enough and isn't going to "take it any more."

The unanimous and eloquent chorus of smackdowns in response to your pathetic and disingenuous post is extremely heartening. Folks, I say this should be just the beginning of our finding our voices and raising them loudly and clearly both against attempts like this one to squelch real journalism and to call out the "fair-and-balanced" crowd every time it fails to do the job it is supposed to do.

Dan, I hope you too take heart in knowing how many appreciative fans and supporters you have.

Posted by: Reader J | December 12, 2005 10:03 PM

If Mr Harris said that Froomkin wrote from a politically partisan perspective, I'd accept his comment as a disinterested "I'm just concerned about the integrity of the paper" response. It really sticks in my craw that he identified the problem with Froomkin as being "too liberal".
Should a reporter be balanced? No. A report SHOULD be fair. It's not required that a reporter give so many column inches to truth and so many to lies & spin. It IS critically important that when the White House makes a good point or raises a legitimate concern, that their point be presented fairly.

Posted by: Rich | December 12, 2005 10:05 PM

Mr. Harris - I add my voice to the hundreds here (that likely represent hundreds of thousands more) - you need to take a serious introspective look at your fundamental purpose as a journalist. I don't read the Washington Post (or Washingtonpost.com) for a regurgitation of either side's talking points. I read them for facts and critical analysis. "Balanced" journalism doesn't require that you present the Flat Earth Theory every time someone mentions that the Earth revolves around the Sun. It requires that you ask what the motivations are of the Flat Earthers.

You and your cohort have lost your way. At this point? You've become utterly worthless. Congratulations on killing a once noble profession.

Posted by: MB | December 12, 2005 10:08 PM

At the top of the comments page you will see a link that allows you to email the Post to report offensive comments. The Howell and Harris comments are appalling, and appalling is close enough to offensive to qualify. Email away.

Posted by: Caesar | December 12, 2005 10:08 PM

it seems to me that the only confusion that can be justfiably ascribed was caused by the NEWS reporters themselves who have allowed their partisan perceptions to skew their reporting to the point of crossing and then obliterating their journalistic ethics.

Posted by: chris from boca | December 12, 2005 10:10 PM

Mr. Harris

You know what's really sad?

You've got one of the most honest, gifted and admired journalists in america working for you, and you want to stifle him.

Your journalistic credibility has been nearly non-existent for years, and this little tantrum of yours has finally exhausted what little crdibility you have left.

I, for one, would like Mr. Froomkin to go free-lance. Why, you ask?

Because then I wouldn't have to wade through the slime pit that the Post has become in order to read his work.

Take the hint, Mr. Harris. You could not be any more on the wrong side of this.

Posted by: Stranger | December 12, 2005 10:10 PM

I for one am not angry at Harris. I just think he should realize what is clearly being demonstrated by the number of posts. The public desires that in addition to the rehashing of talking points, that someone take them to task when the talking points and reality don't match. Right now the only source for that is people like Froomkin and that is probably why his readership is so loyal.

Posted by: Chris | December 12, 2005 10:10 PM

I love Dan Froomkin's column, and was (I'm ashamed to admit it) annoyed when I learned last week that he would be taking time off when his wife has their baby.

Mr. Harris, do you not understand the value of the loyal readership that Mr. Froomkin has garnered? Does that mean nothing? And my final question is this: Who from the Dark Side called and pressured you into taking this stand? Name names. Or is it something else entirely--perhaps the WaPo has already been bought and paid for by the far-right politicos who believe that if the real news doesn't suit their purposes, you can just hire people to make stuff up.

Posted by: Vicki | December 12, 2005 10:14 PM

I am truly disgusted to see what was once a fine newspaper sink so low that the Political Editor doesn't even recognize that political reporting means finding out the truth of what the government is doing and then telling the readers what that truth is.

Every White House reporter you have and the political editor are clearly incompetent and should be fired immediately. I would suggest that Dan Froomkin would make a suitable replacement as he actually understands what is it that reporters are supposed to do.

It means that when the admistration is made of liars and cheats and immoral men masquerading as "Christians", then the reporter's job is to point out that the emperor has no clothes on, not to tell us what the emperor's talking points are.

Posted by: HLGEM | December 12, 2005 10:17 PM

Left/Right bias is NOT the issue: Access reporting is the issue.

This isn't about the name... it's about Froomkin making sources for the WP writers upset. We know the senior administration officials love to work the refs... and the WP folks are knee deep in senior admin officials to whom they're indebted.

Stomping on Froomkin won't bring back the old Woodward.

Posted by: Eli Brennan | December 12, 2005 10:17 PM

Thanks for reminding this DC-Area resident why he doesn't subscribe to the post.

Posted by: Nick | December 12, 2005 10:18 PM

Well, at least now we know why any time Dan Balz or Dana Milbank gets to write something half decent, it's labeled Analysis.

Posted by: Vienna local | December 12, 2005 10:18 PM

Sara B on the other comments page made an interesting observation. Why has this critism of Dan's writing come out at this particular time?

I don't know how long this opinion column has been on the web, but from the comments it seems to have been up for a while. So why the critism now?

Posted by: Curious | December 12, 2005 10:21 PM

Mr. Harris;

May I suggest a couple of simple title changes which might go a long way toward clearing up any confusion about where the parties stand on White House coverage issues.

You and the two other reporters should adopt the title 'The White House's Reporters' and Mr. Froomkin's web column could be retitled 'White House DeBunking'.

These new labels would create a clear picture of who's who and what's what.

Posted by: Vidor Bob | December 12, 2005 10:28 PM

Let me get this straight. After blowing its credibility eight ways from Sunday, John Harris and the Post's editors go after Froomkin?!? The one man whose reporting (and yes, there are others at the Post) bears a close resemblance to reality and integrity?

Mr. Harris, your actions are the epitome of scapegoating. And that is a dangerous tendency in these times. It was one thing when you stood idly by, commenting inanely and without depth as Bill Clinton was lynched, on personal grounds. Such a lack of political acuity married to your refusal to get to the meat of the issue, was by then par for the course.

But to go after Froomkin, when it is much of the rest of the Washington Post that lacks journalistic ethics, professional distance from the halls of power, and any editorial discretion or honor whatsoever -- that is just too much. You go too far.

We've got 2100 dead American friends and neighbors, and have squandered the wealth and honor of the country, largely because Len Downie buried the public evidence that put the lie to Bush's WMD claims on ppA34 and A28. And because Dana Milbank seems to think the WMD story and its Downing St Memo eruption wasn't news, then or now. Spenser Hsu actually had the gall to claim 'there was no reason to doubt the White House background sources' he cited that claimed Blanco and Nagin were responsible for the Feds' slow response to Hurricane Katrina: a blatant lie, and one Hsu and anyone who can read knew was false, on the face of it, at that time.

Yet the Washington Post offers a red herring by questioning Dan Froomkin's integrity??!

At long last, John Harris, have you no decency? No integrity whatsoever? There's no confusion about the ugly game being played here.

Just one question: Why does Bob Woodward still have a job? Why did Woodward betray his readers? The Post? The country and its servicemen in uniform?

Guess that's more than one question that John Harris will need to sort out -- before proceeding to finish off the scapegoating of Dan Froomkin -- and utterly, completely patronizing his readership. Though I think he's already managed that last task over the past 5 or 10 years.

Season's greeting, everyone! You sure need it.

Posted by: RichardF | December 12, 2005 10:29 PM

Froomkin's column is abundantly clearly identified as opinion, and never once as pool reporting. How many ways do you feel your paper needs to say it, Mr. Harris, before you feel your readers will understand? I count four ways.

EG, on Froomkin's front page, it says: "Check here weekdays at midday for _my read_ on the most interesting items about the president."

The column is linked through the OPINION section.

It is linked from Post's front (web) page frequently (oh, say, today, for example) under the heading OPINION.

There's also a pull-down menu called "Today's Editorials, Opinions, Columns" that contains the entry "Dan Froomkin: White House Briefing."

In light of that, the Ombudsman's labeling him as "opinionated" is worth a chuckle.

Posted by: John | December 12, 2005 10:30 PM

This is the email that I wrote to the post's ombudsman:


I quit taking the Post this year after 15 years. THe last 4 years of Harris's kind of political reporting and the Post's burial of news on Iraq on page A18 finally got me. Amazing that Harris thinks he needs a conservative blogger after all the stenography that the post has done for Bush. The swing in the post was visible to me with the repeated strange headlines that favored Bush at all costs and were barely related to the stories. Truly a sad decline for a once fine newspaper, sic transit gloria mundi.
You should be happy that you have Froomkin. If you jettison him, an action for which your piece seems to be laying the groundwork, then you will just drive many of us even farther away.
But I think that the Post has chosen the side of the Washington elite and has decided that access is most important to it despite the fact that the access results in Woodward's not actually telling anybody what he knows . My guess is that the post will continue to hide the real news and let Krauthammer continue his bizarre diatribes and have Diehl, Ignatius, and Mallaby continue in their roles as Bush apologists and war cheerleaders..
I am sure that the Post could care very little whether subscribers such as I leave or not, so in the end my note to you is of no importance, but the selling out of our press to the right wing of this country is a travesty.

Posted by: virginia cynic | December 12, 2005 10:31 PM

Mr. Harris
I am shocked at how these namby pamby liberals are slandering you and your fine newspaper. Its about time the Post slapped down that leftist scumbag Froomkin. I fully agree with the Post editorial board that criticism of our Dear Leader and 'God's Own Party' is treasonous and must be stifled. Please keep the Post a bastion of Right Thinking True Christian values. Do you think you could get Ann Coulter and Bill O'Rilley on board to give a bit more balance? After all that pinko Krauthammer did write for that leftist rag The New Republic.

Pretty soon the Post will gain the same high level of journalistic prestige as the Washington Times or even News Max.

Good work Mr. Harris

Posted by: Bill G | December 12, 2005 10:32 PM

I am old enough to have read Woodstein word-for-word during Watergate. I recall the Post in that era with enduring respect and even fondness. Katherine Graham, Bill Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein - they made the Post the best newspaper this side of the moon; as integral to my day as that first cup of coffee.

I walked away in the early 80's. It was a tip from a friend about Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing" that brought me back to the Post over a year ago. Through him, I have come to admire Walter Pincus, Dana Priest, and even the right-leaning Kurtz. The rest are pretty much indistinguishable from the pap that has so marked the MSM since the Reagan years.

Loads of us didn't believe the hype about WMD in Iraq. We didn't believe Saddam had links to Al Quaida. We didn't support our president's war of choice. With grave misgivings, we saw our young men and women sent off to a war that should never have been fought; that would not have been fought if the press had done their job even passably. It was easy to support the kids fighting George Bush's war... but far more difficult to support He-Who-Started-It and Those-of-You-Who-Helped-Him put one over on us.

Leave Dan Froomkin alone. Or better yet, recognize the fact he has lessons to teach that others of the profession have long ago forgotten.

Posted by: Sheri Rogers | December 12, 2005 10:33 PM

Americans aren't just sick of the Bush Administration. We're sick of Democrats who don't stand up, and we're sick of so-called reporters who do nothing but parrot lies.

This is what happened on the right during the 1960s, and just as then the WaPo is missing the story.

Posted by: Dana Blankenhorn | December 12, 2005 10:38 PM

Froomkin clearly is offering a "white house briefing" to his readers--that is to say, he is offering all the available intelligence from all the available sources about the goings on at the white house. Moreover, he does an excellent job of it! Perhaps there are some reporters that are so enamored of their access to the white house that they want to monopolize all use of the term. Of course, that would be inane and infantile.

Posted by: ken mc | December 12, 2005 10:44 PM

Mr. Harris,

Mr. Froomkin is not biased because he is reporting the facts and the truth! If he reported that Bush abuses children, then you would have a point. If he reported that Bush runs around drunk in the White House and smells from alcohol, then you would be right about him being biased and wrong about facts. But he DOESN'T do that!

It is not Mr. Froomkin's fault that things are not going so well in Iraq. It is not Mr. Froomkin's fault that many Americans are being laid off from their jobs every day while Bush stands smiling during a speech stating how good the economy is. Your anger is misguided.

These things, although not always pleasant need to be reported no matter who the President is!

Why aren't you asking tough questions of the President and his Press Secretary? For example, why aren't you asking him how he can say the economy is going well when airlines are laying off thousands, GM laying of thousands, Ford laying off thousands? Call The President on this! But you don't.

Why don't you ask the President why he allows Republicans to blast Howard Dean for saying the war on terror can't be won when Mr. Bush said the EXACT SAME thing to Matt Lauer in 2004? But no, you won't ask that either.

So please take a look in the mirror before bad mothing an honest man like Mr. Froomkin who tells it like it is.

Posted by: Mary (New York, NY) | December 12, 2005 10:44 PM

what an incredible bunch of articulate and well-thought out responses to mr. harris.

i can guarantee that his reaction will be "they all came from left wing blogs and said the same thing just like AFA does on the right" followed by "people used bad language and it was shocking and i cried and was very sad."

anything to get away from the fact that with 100% of precincts reporting, people have voted for froomkin. and just to add insult to injury, against harris.

Posted by: Robert Green | December 12, 2005 10:47 PM

Mr, Harris,

Apparently the coffee at the WaPo has been replaced by Kool-Ade.

You sound as though you feel that the current administration is worthy of some degree of respect. What is it about incompetence, corruption and lies that you admire so much?

What is it about a journalist calling attention to incompetence, corruption and lies that bothers you? Isn't that what journalists were supposed to do before 2000?

Posted by: Charles Kelly | December 12, 2005 10:51 PM

Mr. Harris, I hope you and the other political recorders have fun at the Christmas parties with Rummy, Cheney and all. Your paper is going down the toilet and you are worrying about the title of a column.

Posted by: Frank | December 12, 2005 10:59 PM

I'm glad to hear that the Post isn't considering spiking Mr. Froomkin's column. I consider it daily must-read material, along with Howard Kurtz, to hack through the dizzying amount of spin that passes for media in America.

The name of the column is a reflection of the irreverent and adversarial nature of Froomkin's perspective. Both, I might add, are sadly lacking in American journalism. I like the title, but I can see how some could make the mistake cited.

Would it be sufficient to add a clarifying sentence to the White House Briefing box on the politics page?

By the way, I've read Chris Cillizza's blog since it started, but have yet to know how to fix anything. Shouldn't he stick to DIY home maintenance and such, with a title like that?

Posted by: simianbrain.com | December 12, 2005 11:03 PM

Washington Post, listen to these readers! All I can think is maybe it's the advertising dollars that's driving this supposed "balancing" trend. Is this tied to the ever-increasing propaganda dollars our government is spending? You are losing--if not lost--the trust of your readers. You need to deal with the stenographers--Pulitzer Prize winners or not. Froomkin gives us the truth--that's what we want!

Posted by: v thomas | December 12, 2005 11:07 PM

Mr. Harris,

There is no confusion about Dan's role re
The White House. The confusion has been
manufactured in your head to cut down to size a columnist who is outperforming your
sorry writers.

Posted by: bld | December 12, 2005 11:08 PM

john harris:

"the title invites confusion. it dilutes our only asset -- our credibility."


translation:

froomkin is being disloyal.

his column column points up our deficiences in reporting and reminds readers that there are othere credible sources available to them apart from articles by our political reporters.


statement:

apart from pincus, the washington post political reporters and columnist have no credibility with me whatsoever.


how could anyone take harris' complaint seriously?. what kind of reader would be coonfused for more than a minute or two. and if confused momentarily , what could possibly be the negative consequences?

oh, i get it. karl has been complaining to harris.

has harris ever confused readers by, say, omitting relevant facts he knew that a source would be unhappy or an editor might lodge a complaint?


sophistry, like this from harris, is the common stuff of internal organizational debates and is intended to diminish and discipline an individual member of the organization. you see the same sophistry in corporations and universities.


with political reporting especially, the behavior of editors like harris has had disasterous consequence on the acuity and crticial nature of what gets reported, especially from this white house.

having "disciplinary actions" like this hanging over your head is precisley why the washington post political reporting staff engages in the mushy, timid, butt-sniffing political reporting they do.

and it is why the post increasingly fails to serve the public need for critical information about government.


this matter, of course, will be resolved by conflict-avoiding editors who will sever the baby's body and declare the problem solved.


i would add:

it speaks very poorly for the new wapo omnsbudsman that she would support this kind of undermining of froomkin.

Posted by: orionATL | Dec 12, 2005 6:43:10 PM

Posted by: orionATL | December 12, 2005 11:10 PM


Is Mr. Harris actualy suggesting that reporters should be uncritical and reverent when covering the White House? Apparently his definition of White House Briefing is similar to the President's: "A presentation wherein all previously held beliefs are confirmed."

Perhaps Mr. Harris should stop focusing on the mote in Mr. Froomkin's eye, and talk about the logs in the newsrooms of America. Starting with his own incredibly talented reporters.

Posted by: Bullsmith | December 12, 2005 11:11 PM

Mr. Harris, you damaged your credibility on your own. Your use of Froomkin as a red herring is obvious.

Even if your assertions about Froomkin were correct, you have much bigger problems. Why don't you concentrate on them?

And as far as balance, isn't that "The Fix" guy (appropriate title by the way) balance enough? He gets his talking points right from Fox and the RNC.

Posted by: | December 12, 2005 11:11 PM

My goodness. I had no idea the primary purpose of WashPo was to bolster the fragile self-esteem of their White House reporting staff. Apparently you've decided to do that at Froomkin's expense. Too bad.

Back when I was an editor, when a politician tried to intimidate me or one of my reporters, we wrote about it. Seemed to calm them down considerably - you might want to try it.

On the other hand (and we know how much your paper lives by that sentiment), it's not as if your paper has much of a reputation left to lose. Either way, it's a win for WashPo!

Posted by: Susie from Philly | December 12, 2005 11:12 PM

Sorry for another follow up post, but why is it that information on the Hadley/Rove leak-discussion is just now coming from VandeHei and on Hardball - not in the Post?

And is being flitted in as if it had been reported on mulitple times previously?

See - that is the kind of non-reporting that makes the Post look bad and lose credibility. What gives?

Posted by: Mary | December 12, 2005 11:13 PM

Ombudsman,

Thank you for clearing things up for me with your column. Previously, I believed that holding the President and his staffers accountable for what they do and say was not only apolitical, but journalism at its best. Now, thanks to your column, I realize that it is actually liberal -- and that, by implication, unaccountable political power is conservative. I won't make that mistake again!

Sincerely,

Kevin Jon Heller

P.S. I also foolishly believed that Mr. Froomkin's compilation of quotes from various blogs and newspaper articles made it reasonably clear that he was not a White House reporter. Thank you for clarifying that real Washington Post reporters who cover the White House do not actually do their own research. I'd always suspected as much -- especially post-9/11 -- but I appreciate the independent confirmation.


Kevin Jon Heller
Assistant Professor
University of Georgia School of Law

Posted by: Kevin Jon Heller | December 12, 2005 11:14 PM

That "liberal prism", its called "reality".

Its no wonder it seems strange and confusing to you.

Posted by: feckless | December 12, 2005 11:19 PM

Boo-hoo. I'd say Woodward is a bigger threat to your reporters than someone writing a column who wants to hold a president accountable.

Posted by: Pat | December 12, 2005 11:22 PM

Just look at these comments. It's about a billion unhinged liberals and almost no rational conservative voices.

This is proof Mr. Harris, that you are right on target. No need to read any of these. Plenty of evidence should you wish to look at it this way, that you can dismiss the whole lot as just whining.

By the way, I hope to see you at this year's Christmas party, and I am waiting for your Opinion page editorial concerning the horrible horrible war on Christmas.

Posted by: Lee Atwater | December 12, 2005 11:27 PM

Fire John Harris. Find someone more interested in doing the job. I cannot believe that someone with such a position--one of the most enviable in American journalism--can write such malevolent tripe.

Has it escaped the Post's attention that it shamed itself as a newspaper in the runup to the Iraq war?

Is shooting the messenger the way to improve the paper?

When readers read an item by "Bob Woodward," are they likely to make the mistake of believing that he's a reporter rather than a sycophant? Maybe y'all should fix that too while you're at it.

Posted by: Andy Lowry | December 12, 2005 11:27 PM

Three questions:

1) Did ANYONE contact Dan Froomkin prior to the omsbudman ambusing him in print on Sunday and ask him to change the name of his column?

2) What "obstacle" does WHB create for White House reporters?

3) Will the omsbudsman write again in public next Sunday about how 99.9% of the responses to her original column and Harris' response were withering criticisms?

Posted by: Joy Jacques | December 12, 2005 11:30 PM

Three questions:

1) Did ANYONE contact Dan Froomkin prior to the omsbudman ambusing him in print on Sunday and ask him to change the name of his column?

2) What "obstacle" does WHB create for White House reporters?

3) Will the omsbudsman write again in public next Sunday about how 99.9% of the responses to her original column and Harris' response were withering criticisms?

Posted by: Joy Jacques | December 12, 2005 11:32 PM

i am reminded of the doonesbury comic wherein redfern is asked (paraphrasing) 'what the post has been doing since overthrowing the president.' he replies, 'dunno; sports, i think.'

indeedy.

Posted by: craig | December 12, 2005 11:37 PM

I find it intriguing that Mr. Harris is so sensitive to the "misleading" nature of the column's title in question when it is the Bush Administration that has mastered the art of "misleading" such that "White House reporters" appear to have lost their capacity to challenge it.
In relation to Ombudsman: Meriam-Webster's definition is: "one that investigates reported complaints (as from students or consumers), reports findings, and helps to achieve equitable settlements." Ms. Howell appears to have either lost sight of whom she is representing and/or has become a pawn in the Post's own political machinations.

Posted by: Jeff | December 12, 2005 11:43 PM

"...Dan Froomkin's take on the news, not the observations of someone who is assigned by the paper to cover the news".

Maybe his observations and your observations are not the same or was he just supposed to have an "attaboy" column to glorify the WH reporters? Is that the problem?

I think this whole thing has been totally blown out of proportion. I come to this website to read all kinds of articles. I read the regular reporters pieces and I read the opinion pieces. I enjoy a wide variety on this site. I enjoy Priest, Milbank, Pincus, Froomkin and others.

I just don't understand all of the hysteria over one lone column. I don't understand how Dan Froomkin is making it hard for WH reporters? In what way is he making their lives miserable? If they really are complaining then it seems to me it is they who have the problem not Mr. Froomkin.

I hope that Mr. Harris posts another comment that tells the readers what role he feels WH reporters have in reporting the news and how the readers misunderstand this role because of Froomkin's column.

Posted by: pmorlan | December 12, 2005 11:45 PM

Mr. Harris, after reading the amazinly rapid and devasting comments and critiques of your post I hope you will begin to return to reality. These are the Washington Post's audience talking to you.
There are serious problems with the Post's political reporters and their editor --- you have lost sight of the role of the journalist in holding government accountable.

You wrote:

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"

And your readers response here is that whatever these "team's "many obstacles and frustrations" they have failed terribly to "do . . . accounatability reporting."
Your bizarre post leads one to the conclusion that the failure of your professed goal of accountablity reporting lies as much with the editor as with the reporters.

You assert:

"The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

You are blaming "Dan's column" as an "obstacle to [your] work." In truth, the dismal failure of your WH and political "teams" to hold the Bush administration accountable has everything to do with the quality of journalism they practice and you --- and absolutely nothing
to do with Dan Froomkin or the title of his commentary. Any confusion about roles is yours.

Posted by: Patrick McG | December 12, 2005 11:46 PM

I read Froomkin because he reminds me of the Post as it was with Dick Harwood, Bill Greider, Peter Milius, Haynes Johnson, George Lardner and any number of other people who were just awfully good newspeople. Nice to have a bit of a nostalgia trip once in a while.

Posted by: Buce | December 12, 2005 11:50 PM

Do us all a favor, take a two week vacation, then retire.

Where did all the real journalists go?

All I see are Bush apologists, who take every excuse and justification for terrible policies by this administration as fact, especially if they are anonymously sourced.

Hey Mr. Harris, do you notice how many negative responses you have? Not a single person supports your attack on Froomkin.

You are just another cog in the noise machine.

Posted by: Your Conscience | December 12, 2005 11:53 PM

Mr. Harris -

So, it finally comes to this - you are using some pretense to end the truth telling of Mr. Froomkin and at the same time fully support and continue the employment of Mr. Woodward. If only Ms. Katherine Graham were still alive. Journalism is almost dead in America and you are going to ensure its death with ending Mr. Froomkin's reporting. Perhaps if history is left to the Dan Froomkin's it will be written about these shameful times and the compromises of character and integrity made by the major "news" organizations during this era of "horribilus" in America.

Posted by: Maria | December 13, 2005 12:01 AM

Dear Mr.Harris,

Would you please let us know exactly what are these "obstacles"?

Thank you.

Posted by: Steve J. | December 13, 2005 12:03 AM

The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that.

Ridiculous. Only someone who is not paying the slightest bit of attention while skimming Dan's column could make that mistake.

I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions.

Equally ridiculous. Since when has pointing out the simple reality that the emperor has no clothes become "new through a liberal prism"?

Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement.

You should be asking yourself whether it is OK for your WH reporters to be bending over backwards so often to act as shills and apologists for the administration. You should be asking yourself why Bob Woodward still has a job at the WP.

The best you can say for some of your reporters is that none of them are nearly as disgraceful as those over at the NY Times. In fact, some of your reporters, such as Dana Priest, Dana Milbank, and Walter Pincus, are still outstanding. Tell the complainers to shut up and do their jobs for a change. Tell them that that their job is to inform the American public, not to make life easy for the Bush administration.

The elite Washington reporters at the Post, the Times, and on the talk shows all seem to think that there is news for the elite insiders -- themselves and their administration source -- and the prole chow they feed the rest of us.

As long as you are accusing Dan of bias, why don't you come out in the same article and accuse Howard Kurtz of conservative bias? That charge has a lot more basis to it.

Your responsibility is to us, your readers. Not to your administration sources. Tell that to Woodward.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 12:03 AM

Mr. Harris. If you wish to reestablish the credibility of the Washington Post White House reporters, do one simple thing. Ask the President of the United States to define what he means by torture? This one issue has so severely damaged the credibility and standing of this country. But no one in the White House Press Corps has had the guts to ask the man to define his terms. Simple question - bet you can't get an answer.

Posted by: T Brown | December 13, 2005 12:10 AM

Let's see. I get to Froomkin's column from the washingtonpost.com home page select his name from a list titled "Today's Editorials, Opinions, Columns", under the section 'Blogs". When I have it open, I see a header image that says
"White House Briefing
Dan Froomkin, Columnist"
The byline reads "By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com" The top of the page has links clearly indicating that I am in the "Columns" section of washingtonpost.com.

I'm only an occasional reader of Froomkin's column, but it's pretty hard not to notice from even a casual glance that his column is in fact a column.

If Mr. Harris really thinks Post readers are stupid enough to be unable to ditinguish a clearly marked column from a news article, it goes a long way to exzplaining why I feel that the quality of the Post has declined in recent years. I am a long time subscriber, but I am starting to wonder if it is worth reading a paper whose target audience is apparently incapable of comprehending the meaning of "Columnist".

Posted by: sw | December 13, 2005 12:14 AM

This is one of the funniest threads I've ever read. When you guys aren't defending Dan Froomkin's non-liberal truth-telling, you're calling down anathemas upon John Harris for sucking up to Bush McChimpy.

And what can poor Dan Froomkin do? I mean he only has a column at a website that gets eight gazillion hits a day. If only he had a voice.

Posted by: Christopher Fotos/PostWatch | December 13, 2005 12:16 AM

I have to just laugh at this. Harris is worried about the title of Froomkin's column when one of his so-called "ace" WH reporters just admitted on Hardball THIS VERY NIGHT that he knew HADLEY was ROVE's source on Plame! Guess it wasn't idle reporter chit-chat like Rove claimed and was oft repeated here. Guess it wasn't limited to the VPs office either. I smell another Woodward situation. Did VandeHei tell you about this, John? Did he not think it was important?

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 12:21 AM

I think this is ridiculous. John Harris comes off sounding like a fellow traveler for the Bush Administration or a fluffer for a bunch of wingnuts.

Posted by: Steve Snyder | December 13, 2005 12:23 AM

Debra Howell said: "[WP web site executive editor Brady] is considering changing the column title and supplementing it with a conservative blogger."

Brady already has a conservative blogger. His name is Howard Kurtz. Does the WP have to be like the talk shows, where "balance" means one moderate, two conservatives, and three foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing blowhards?

And why is Bob Woodward still working for your paper?

Posted by: nemo | December 13, 2005 12:26 AM

Harris et al. v. Froomkin

Judges: Hon. Readers of the Washington Post, presiding

Decision:

Froomkin - 191 Votes
Harris - Zero Votes (yes, ZERO)

Verdict:

Harris is to serve as Froomkin's butler for one year.

Posted by: John | December 13, 2005 12:27 AM

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that".

Really? Well I certainly have my doubts after seeing the comments posted today because I sure don't see many, many examples that indicate this fact. Could it be that this "large share" of readers really don't read the column after all and that maybe Mr. Harris was the unwitting recipient of an organized smear attempt to torpedo Froomkin and his column? Hmmmmmm? Where are these readers?

Posted by: pmorlan | December 13, 2005 12:39 AM

Would the WaPo reporters who object to Dan Froomkin's Whitehouse Briefing please stand up?

Who are these reporters? What are their specific complaints? What are their proposed remedies?

The WaPo political reporters have done a poor job of investigating and reporting on malfeasance by our elected officials. The current culture of corruption in the federal government has exploded on John Harris' watch. Why? Because WaPo political reporters have failed to relentlessly pursue accountability.

There's nothing partisan about promoting accountability. That should be the paramount objective of the political reporter in a democracy.

The WaPo has been derelict in its duty in this regard.

As for the "confusion" re Whitehouse Briefing, I find it impossible to believe. At every turn in Froomkin's column and on-line chats he makes it clear he is not a Whitehouse beat reporter and is not employed by the WaPo. Froomkin has been complete transparent on these issues. The only people I've ever heard of who were "confused" were the alleged WaPo reporters who allegedly are complaining. Until these brave souls stand up and identify themselves and their complaints, I won't take their spurious allegations seriously.

Posted by: Apollo 13 | December 13, 2005 12:44 AM

Mr. Harris,

You already have the right-wing mirror to Dan Froomkin in your paper. His name is Howie Kurtz. He approaches media reporting with a certain irrelevance which is adversarial to effective reporting.

He is not limited to the online edition of the washingtonpost.com but also has a 'straight reporting' gig in the print version.

He consistently pushes the wingnutosphere musings and (like Drudge) is able to move the story of the Right Wing Attack Squad off the right-wing blogs and into the mainstream.

It would be nice if the Post recognized that HK is not a reporter and that his column is opinion-filled and moved him, as they did recently to DF, onto the Opinion area.

Froomkin is the best of the online Post.

One thing that needs to be stressed: He doesn't write things he knows aren't true. Mr. Harris, can you say the same about the Political Reporters at the Post?

I make it a point to read his stuff.

Posted by: Mike | December 13, 2005 12:48 AM

I would never mistake Dan Froomkin's column for that of a White House reporter. It, frankly, has too much content and asks the proper questions. That can't be done from inside the White House briefing room, where the order of the day involves yukking it up with Scotty and nary raising a brow when uncredentialed male prostitutes are called upon. Would that the Post's White House press corps members provided even half the utility of a Froomkin from his lonely perch outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mr. Harris should realize the view that seasoned newspaper readers across the country take these days of his and other so-called newspapers of record. It isn't pretty, and it certainly doesn't involve the perception that much of the news is reporrted through a liberal prism. Indeed, the problem is that the news isn't being reported much at all, at least in any coherent way. If it were, we wouldn't be slogging through that quagmire in Iraq right now, because the Washington Post might have thought to report on all the counterindications to the claims for weapons of mass destruction before the war--or at least more than twice, on page 18. I certainly knew about these facts before the war, but not from you. We denizens of the Internet and subscribers to multiple publications have access to lots of bits and pieces of information, and we write our own stories from them. They are neither liberal nor conservative, but firmly rooted in the plain truth of it all. Which is more than we get from your White House correspondents, who mostly just rattle off the administration's talking points of the day (which we have already viewed on C-Span) or else spend their time at power breakfasts at the major hotels trying to think up new ways to keep their unnamed White House sources confidential.

Piffle. Call Mr. Froomkin's column whatever you like. Call it "Musings from the Sentient" or "What the White House Correspondents Aren't Really Talking About" or "The View from My Desk (which has a hell of a better view than the one from the White House briefing room)." But please, Mr. Harris, take your priggish indignation somewhere else. And stop treating us like we're stupid. Bob Woodward was living inside the bowels of the White House for the last 5 years, and look what kind of information we readers got from him. I'll take Froomkin any day, under any title. At least his lack of access leads to real reporting.

Posted by: Madame X | December 13, 2005 12:59 AM

Mr. Harris,

Why do I get the sinking feeling that if John Kerry was indeed president, and Dan was writing (as I believe he would) the same type of irreverent, biting columns, you wouldn't be so publicly bitter and unhappy, you would, in fact, be loving it.

You and your pal Bob Woodward are Republican lapdogs - why don't you just admit it?

And if you won't admit it, can't you at least comprehend, just from the responses to your childish outbursts, that's how many, many people see you, and mourn the declining standards of a once-great paper.

Posted by: JBK | December 13, 2005 01:00 AM

Nobody would ever mistake Froomkin for a Washington Post journalist. Froomkin is a real journalist, not a sycophant. He writes the only column worth reading here. Spike him, and we can all ditch the Post and get our "news" from whitehouse.gov.

Posted by: Karen | December 13, 2005 01:01 AM

Since I've known Dan since he was five, I may well be biased. But I will say that only Dana Milbank's byline on something in the *Post* raises my expectations more than seeing Dan's byline on something.

I do have to say that there is something creepy about John Harris's comment. Harris doesn't want to kill Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing--but others, whom he does not name, do want to kill it. Harris thinks Dan Froomkin's column is biased--or, rather, he doesn't think that but only that Dan is "not trying very hard" to avoid being perceived as biased. Harris thinks that readers are "confused" because they think Dan is "one of the [print *Washington Post's*] White House reporters"--but he doesn't care enough about clearing up "confusion" to name even one of his three (they are Jim VandeHei, Peter Baker, and Michael Fletcher, none of whom makes my "top 100 journalists" list).

Posted by: Brad DeLong | December 13, 2005 01:02 AM

Mr. Harris you give yourself away with this statement,

"People in the newsroom want to end this confusion. We do not want to spike his column--or at least I don't. It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

Politics in this country are corrupt. It just so happens at this time the most corrupt happen to also be the ones in power. The fact that you can't differentiate between bias and an attempt to parse out truth is unfortunate.

I am tired of being fed spin. "Fair and Balanced" is code for biased and with Dan I truely know I am in "A No Spin Zone"

Posted by: Sandra Granich | December 13, 2005 01:05 AM

"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".

And I am Napoleon.

Posted by: shingles | December 13, 2005 01:24 AM

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

The title dilutes your credibility? I'm sorry, but this is beyond belief! After your bang up job on WMD, after Woodward, I suppose next we'll learn you were leaked to before Bob. Do us all a favor, find another line of work, better yet go walk the streets of Bagdad and tells about all the "progress" we're making there.

Posted by: Dean | December 13, 2005 01:24 AM

I don't read Froomkin, but this article by Harris is pathetic. It's filled with assumptions (what readers think, what they'd think if Kerry was in, etc) and poorly thought out conclusions.

The fact that it is representative of modern American journalism is too depressing for words.

Mr. Harris, you are harming America.

Posted by: Kevin Lyda | December 13, 2005 01:44 AM

"Why has this critism of Dan's writing come out at this particular time?"

It's curious, isn't it, that we also got Brian Williams' obsequious 'Day With The President' on NBC? As in, the same network on whose cablenews sibling several Washington Post political reporters appear very, very regularly?
Oh, I know. But it does seem as if the White House is making a list, checking it twice, and gonna find out who's naughty or nice...

Posted by: Nick S | December 13, 2005 01:46 AM

Mr. Harris,
Just one request:Take the time to thoroughly READ the comments from the (mainly) thoughtful Washington Post readers. Since you have patronized us with your remarks, may I condescend to you and say that you need a vacation from your environment. Forgive the comparison, but your remarks strike me as ones that would come from a whining member of a high school "in-crowd" who is frustrated that there are others who care not so much about your egocentric and egotistical views.

Posted by: Dianna Richardson | December 13, 2005 02:09 AM

One final note of tangential interest:

The White House 'holiday reception' for the press? Later this week.

Posted by: Nick S | December 13, 2005 02:14 AM

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

This is EXACTLY what people say when they want to squelch a university professor who chooses to express her or his views in public.

They say: "People will get confused and think that you are speaking for the university if they know you are a professor, so DON'T IDENTIFY YOUR TITLE if you are speaking on anything controversial."

And here the message is plain: As long as Froomkin writes on the Washington Post website, there will be people who are "confused" and that think that he speaks for the Post.

This is where things are actually leading.

Read this again: "If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters."

Now change that slightly: An outsider might presume that a feature written by one person (Froomkin) in the Washington Post was written by, or reflected the views of, others at the Washington Post. We can't have that, can we? The solution, then, is to stop Froomkin from writing on the Washington Post website. All confusion will end.

The handwriting is on the wall, Dan. And you don't even have university tenure to protect yourself.

You are history and your National Editor is using logic that leads to only one place:

Bye, Dan.

A University Professor

Posted by: A University Professor | December 13, 2005 02:37 AM


Open Letter to John Harris:


Shame on you. Shame on you for attacking Dan Froomkin's column, when it is the very best thing that the Washington Post has to offer. So, the Post's political reporters are unhappy with Dan's column? The only reason they are unhappy is that the comparison of their work with Dan's column shows just how poor their reporting is. I am so sick of this "he said, she said" stenography that now passes for reporting. If Ida Tarbell limited herself to such pablum, she never would have gotten the story on Standard Oil. Where were the Post's political reporters when the Administration was pushing hard to invade Iraq? Where were the Post's reporters when the Administration repeated its false claims, over and over, that there was a link between Saddam and Iraq on the one hand and Osama Bin Laden and 9/11 on the other hand. Where was the fact-checking?

The point of the Fourth Estate is to hold the government accountable. The point is not to sit on the sidelines cheerleading, like your paper did in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Are we safer now? No. But don't just take my word for it. The 9/11 Commission says so, too.

The bottom line is, if your political reporters actually did their jobs the way they are supposed to--in the best and finest investigative journalism tradition (think Watergate, before Bob Woodward went on the White House payroll)--then they would not be unhappy with Dan Froomkin. They are upset with him because they are embarrassed and they know he is right. And if they are not embarrassed, they should be. My advice to them and to you: get back to doing your job, and leave those who do a fantastic job of asking the tough questions and doing the fact-checking that is an integral part of the job, alone.

Don't mess with Dan Froomkin and the White House Briefing.

P.S. I know that Dan Froomkin is not a White House reporter (it seems like the only ones "confused" about that issue are you and your political reporters), but I get more facts and truth from one of his columns than I ever get from the rest of the Post on a regular basis. He is a daily must-read for me. Keep up the great work, Dan.

Posted by: tahoma17 | December 13, 2005 03:47 AM

Hate to double post to a comment list, but am struck by the uniformity and clarity of the comments.

Everyone objects to Harris comment, with its implied attack on Froomkin's job security, and its underhanded criticism of Froomkin's "departure" from officially sanctioned Post "interpretation" of events.

Many express frustration with the Post's coverage and the general stenographic media climate of the last five years.

Conclusion: There exists a clear and alarming disconnect between the ownership /upper management layer of the Post and its readership. The Post's selection and presentation of material for the purposes of advocating the positions of the management/owners has angered the public. The readership feels starved for legitimate news.

The Unspoken Bottom Line:
What the Post and others are selling, no one is buying. How much more money and man hours are going to be spent layering the lipstick on this pig? Will there have to be a physical revolution in newsmedia or are there enough collective brain cells left at the top to realize now is the time to change course?

The internet brings more awareness and focused intelligence to any given problem than would otherwise be possible. Will this reality be embraced or fought? Given that every organization has more brains outside than inside, if the Post or others resist can they really win?

Posted by: patience | December 13, 2005 03:48 AM

Wow, wonder if Mr Harris reads this stuff? But, at the least he comes across as rather silly, self important, and humorless.

Posted by: Michael | December 13, 2005 03:58 AM

Truly excellent thread. Mr. Harris got hoisted on his own petard and really should be ashamed of himself. His eagerness to morph the WP into a Fox News clone is scary. This notion of "fair and balanced" (code for tilted toward the right) is the scourge of modern journalism, pressuring reporters to spend more time and effort in "balancing" their stories as opposed to telling us what happened. Believe it or not, Harris & Howell, commenting on the corruption of Tom Delay or the ineptitude of our war in iraq does not constitute bias. It constitutes journalism. When you feel you need to hunt down a corrupt Democrat to "balance" a story on corruption carried out by Republicans, it's not jounalism, it's journamalism.

Posted by: Richard | December 13, 2005 04:09 AM

Everyone else said it here, eloquently.

I'll just add this:

Surely you are aware of all the writings of Thomas Jefferson about the absolutely essential role of a vigorous, challenging press to the life of a democratic republic. Without such a press to challenge those in the seats of power, a democratic republic cannot long survive. Jefferson and other founders deeply feared a citizenry captive to any sort of automatic "reverence" toward the Executive.

You cannot be unaware of the administration's championing of what is often called an "imperial presidency," an extremely powerful executive branch with virtually no checks or balances to interfere with its will. Why did we have an American Revolution, if we are to end up with another King George?

You are helping to kill a once-vibrant democracy. You are a handmaiden to an administration which has repeatedly and consistently shown contempt for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This makes you an enabler of the dismantling of all that's been good in this nation's history.

Are you proud now?

Posted by: Mrs. K8 | December 13, 2005 04:49 AM

Mr. Harris,
I, too, find your comments shocking and patronizing. Didn't anyone tell you to think before pressing that "Post" button?
Those who have gone before me asked important questions. I hope you will answer them.

Posted by: TuiMel | December 13, 2005 05:21 AM

But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case.

This is exactly where you are wrong, and it is at the heart of this problem. Political reporters have this notion that everybody's interest is ideologically colored (except, of course, their own). I realize that there is evidence of this. It seems every chat session includes two people taking an unreasoned and opposing position wrt WaPo bias, for example.

Opposition to corruption and deceit crosses party lines. An administration and Congress that systematically engages in corruption and deceit is a challenge to your "balanced reporting" model. I've read editors who say they get concerned when there are three or four consecutive negative stories about the administration, and so seek to balance them with a positive story.

When will you get the idea that the administration knows that this is how reporting works, and is exploiting it?

Evaluating your success as a reporter by whether there were an equal number of negative stories is like an umpire evaluating his success by whether the called the same proportion of pitches balls or strikes for both teams.

And now you've got a pitching staff who knows that is your criterion for success. Not getting it right. Making it come out even.

Posted by: JayAckroyd | December 13, 2005 05:37 AM

Mr. Harris, your job is to speak truth to power on behalf of your readership. Period.

Froomkin does that. Your staff, by and large, doesn't.

Instead of complaining about Froomkin's column on the most transparently contrived basis, you and your staff ought to be learning from it.

Posted by: Lex | December 13, 2005 06:12 AM

I think Harris' real problem is that Froomkin has a "reality" based bias. I for one don't consider myself a Republican or Democrat. Call me weird but I like capable politicians who don't try to treat the electorate like idiots. Froomkins column primarily uses links and quotes to other sources -- I don't think he spends even a quarter of the time editorializing as the so called reporters (most of us seem to agree that they are more like talking points stenographers).

What is becoming painfully obvious (time for the business folks to pay attention) is:

- The post is loosing its appeal to many readers because of lousy journalism (other than Froomkin)
- Their is a huge untapped market of people willing to pay for insightful analysis
- Their have been many comments of people willing to pay to read Froomkin

Here is my suggestion. In addition to the free Froomkin column why don't you give him another contract to write additional articles which require a subscription. Call it Froomkin plus for all I care. Money talks and then hopefully Harris walks.

Posted by: Mark Pratt | December 13, 2005 06:28 AM

Personally, I don't care if Mr. Froomkin's column is called "White House Breifing" or "Dan's Cavalcade of Whimsy". I do strenuously object to the assertion that demanding accountability from an administration is either liberal or conservative.

I read the column every day. I know Mr. Froomkin's position on openeness in government. I know his position on whether the President should hold more press conferences. I know his position on whether the Presidents events should be open only to hand-selected loyalists. I have no idea what his positions are on Iraq, abortion or taxes. Is that liberal?

Posted by: Bo | December 13, 2005 06:41 AM

Bo: Demanding accountability from government is a trait liberals and conservatives share. However it is not a trait modern Republicans or the modern press seems to share.

Posted by: Kevin Lyda | December 13, 2005 06:47 AM

When I read Ms Howell's column on Sunday I fired off any angry letter in which I said that as far as I am concerned the Froomkin business is a nonsense. I have stopped going first to the Post or NYT because I have lost faith in many of its journalists and op-ed types. I read Froomkin's response and yours. Sadly you have confirmed my low opinion of most main stream journalists.

You should tell us what is happening at the White House, not what the White House wants us to know.

Mr Harris: read the responses to Mr Froomkin and to you and weep.

Posted by: Bala Pillay | December 13, 2005 06:54 AM

John Harris's complaints about "White House Briefing" are little more than sour grapes. It reflects the "Bob Woodward" attitude of viewing your readers as receptacles for whatever passes nowadays for Washington Insider Conventional Wisdom, incapable of undertaking any critical analysis on our own. Fine, change the name to "Potomac Fever Briefing" or "1601 Pennsylvania Avenue Briefing" or whatever, but anybody who actually reads Mr. Froomkin's column is perfectly well aware that he is not a regular White House reporter -- the fact that he doesn't regurgitate White House spin machine talking points in allegedly "balanced" "on the one hand and on the other hand" stories proves that. Bob Woodward has undermined the newspaper's credibility with its readers, not Dan Froomkin. If John Harris still doesn't understand that, he needs to spend more time talking to the Post's readers and less time inside the Washington Conventional Wisdom Echo Chamber.

Too many people at the Post have accepted the right-wing propaganda mantra about liberal bias in the media, to the point where unnamed political reporters at the Post are complaining about Froomkin being "highly opinionated and liberal". Is it only OK nowadays to be "highly opinionated" if you're a conservative. If that's not what they mean, shouldn't they be chiding George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Jim Hoagland, too?

I think too many people at the Post likewise are far too thin-skinned about criticism, which can only be regarded as highly ironic in view of what journalism is all about. John Harris and his cohorts have fired over a warning shot over Froomkin's bows with their trumped-up charge of readers confusing Froomkin's plainly labeled column with "news". So change the column's name, by all means, but keep your cotton-picking hands off the column's content. And tell John Harris to stop feeling sorry for himself and to start recognizing that this Administration's attempts to control and manipulate information to an unprecedented degree is at the heart of the real story, and is very much "news".

Posted by: DeWitt Grey | December 13, 2005 06:57 AM

This sounds like a garden club dispute!

For the record, I never thought that "The White House Briefing" was written by anyone other than Dan Fromkin. How do I know that? I can read for myself and that is what the byline says.

Oh, maybe you don't want to me and others to presume that Dan is a part of your little White House reporting team. For the record, this the first time that I knew just who is on that team, and to tell you the truth, I could care less. Why? Because I can't trust any of you to be able to discern when a source is being truthful and when they are using you and other journalists to spin their propaganda.

John Harris, it is time for you and your colleagues to GROW UP and to stop acting like high schoolers trying to run with the in crowd, while snubbing the 'nerds' (ie, those who can and do think for themselves).

Happy Holidays.

Posted by: DW | December 13, 2005 07:34 AM

I started counting the number of faulty, unproven assertions that John Harris makes in his piece, but ran out of fingers after 3 paragraphs. Not to mention poor writing(the last sentence sounds like it came from one of Rummy's speeches), and not-so-veiled threats about anonymous figures who want to spike Froomkin's column.
It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers (at least the ones who care enough to provide feedback) do not agree with you, Mr. Harris.

Posted by: Karin | December 13, 2005 08:16 AM

It's hard to add something new to so many well-argued points, but an additional one occurred to me this morning: Is the role of a paper (or news channel, for that matter) to be what the producers of that product think it should be, or what the consuming public wants it to be? *This* is the underlying point here. Clearly, the readers and admirers of Froomkin's work -- me among them! -- have spoken through our comments that we would like more of his fact-checking style, both in the WaPo.com website and the mainstream media in general.

Froomkin represents to me a new type of journalistic style which nonetheless possesses all of the classic hallmarks that used to be the draw for the Post's loyal readership. With any luck, Harris and the rest of the WaPo will recognize that their readers are growing quite weary of the product they've been selling them as the "new" Washington Post.

Posted by: D Kerstetter | December 13, 2005 08:16 AM

What a great way to build credibility with readers - gratuitously insult their intelligence! Fantastic idea, old chap.

I'd like to know how this issue came about. Deborah Howell, ostensibly the reader's representative, didn't cite a single reader in her column. Mr. Harris cites "based on many, many examples" of readers' supposed confusion but doesn't cite one.

For all we know, this is an in-house spat spurred on by professional jealously. If you want to build credibility, Mr. Harris, explain what's really going on here.

Posted by: Grant Dunham | December 13, 2005 08:21 AM

So change the name, who cares what you call it. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", or if you don't like his column "BS by any other name would still stink".
Seems like it's just a semantic issue that only seems to matter to "journalist" that don't like his column.
Most blogs that link to him say "go read Froomkin" not "go read White House Briefing"

The good news for those of us that like Dan is that changing the name won't bother us or cause us to quit reading him.(i.e. Dans column will still be a breath of fresh "sweet" air)

The bad news for you that dislike him is you still won't like that he points out Bush's crap. (i.e. Bush's BS will still stink!)

Posted by: Irene Left | December 13, 2005 08:34 AM

Mr. Harris,

With all respect, do you really believe this is a serious issue that creates an "obstacle" to your work? That suggests you think readers aren't smart enought to know the difference between a column and a newspaper story. The many comments above certainly don't indicate any confusion about the nature of Mr. Froomkin's work.

What the comments do indicate, however, is a deep loss of faith in American journalism generally, and in the Washington Post specifically. Many readers no longer believe that your paper is interested in facts, accountability, and the truth.

No doubt you disagree. But I would think you'd want to reflect more on that loss of faith--why it happened and how to address it--than worrying about a bogus issue like the name of Dan Froomkin's column.


John Duffy
Notre Dame, IN

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 08:42 AM

Mr. Harris: Surely you recall that the classic formulation for the brand of character assassination you have attempted upon Froomkin and his column should begin: "I have in my hand a list of many, many readers who are confused / WH reporters who are annoyed... "

If you're going to play McCarthy, at least have the courage to quote your late master directly.

Posted by: Anne Laurie | December 13, 2005 09:30 AM

"The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

In other words, they're going to lose their access. Boo freakin' hoo.

By allowing the government's (regardless of party) natural tendency to obfuscate and, yes, sometimes lie, go unchallenged, your sycophancy has undermined the credibility of the NATION. You are the fourth estate. Froomkin seems to remember that. Others have apparently forgotten.

The government should be afraid of you, not vice versa.

Dave Traub
Alexandria, Virginia

Posted by: Dave | December 13, 2005 09:31 AM

Over the past few years I have found myself becoming so dissatisfied with the political reporting at the Post that I have begun seriously considering dropping my subscription. Sad, considering that when I moved here 15 years ago I counted being able to get the Post delivered to my door daily as a benefit of the move.

After I read Mr. Harris' posting I now understand what has happened to the political reporting I used to value. That Mr. Harris and his gang of trusted political reporters are afraid of having Mr. Froomkin's writing compared to their own tepid stenography explains so much.

Perhaps Mr. Froomkin should be cut loose from the Post so it can be free to continue sinking into irrelevance.

Posted by: E. Randolph | December 13, 2005 09:32 AM

Wooo Weee!

Hey, Mr. Harris, don't you just LOVE actually hearing from your actual readers? Sort of a whole new-fangled "Letters to the Editor" thing.

You wrote:

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."

Really Mr. Harris? I just read all the comments (yes, its a slow morning) to Froomkin's response, and your original post. Now I'm here reading through comments in response to you. Please, tell us Mr. Harris, where are all these "examples" you speak of? So many, in fact, it is "beyond any doubt". And yet, in all these hundreds of comments I've read only one or two that validate your remarks.

C'mon Mr. Harris! Come clean. You made it all up! Or, at best, you've been having cozy corner office conferences with people who have entirely too much money...

No wonder no one likes you very much, and increasingly don't trust your reporters. You, my friend, simply are not honest.

But gosh, your readers sure do like Froomkin! That must hurt!


No doubt there are some who enjoy the column for precisely this reason. If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters.

Given that there is such confusion,

Posted by: hello | December 13, 2005 09:39 AM

My, my! There does appear to be a lack of comprehension between the Post and its readership. But it obviously doesn't originate with Froomkin.

Posted by: Nikki Jardine | December 13, 2005 09:44 AM


Just so I understand --

Washington Post Reporters feel that they OWN the words "White House."

And here, foolish me, I thought the people owned the White House.

Frankly I was smart enough never to be confused that what D. Froomkin writes is in any way related to the meager stuff that the WaPo reporters write. In fact, your reporters gain credibility by association with Dan.

PS -- Who was it again that first broke the story of the Fitzgerlad Web Site -- thereby indicating the imminent release of indictments?

Posted by: Immanentize | December 13, 2005 10:01 AM

In the midst of this Froomkin matter, please don't forget that snarky column political reporter Dana Milbank wrote about the hearing of John Conyers regarding the Downing Street Minutes. It was the only story that ran in the paper that day. In case you forgot, the gist was what a joke and sham it was to have fake hearings in the basement. He made fun of Mr. Conyers. In my opinion, the real story is why are the Republicans refusing to have hearings about the apparent false basis for the war in Iraq. Milbank's defense of his advocacy journalism is that he wasn't writing as a reporter, but as a columnist. Thing is, that story, did not appear on the op ed page, but in the regular part of the front section of the newspaper and no one bothered to mention that he was no longer being a reporter.

It is a shame that there are so few voices of journalism out there that seek to question the power establishment of the Bush Administration, and anybody who tries to question the official story is brought down.

Posted by: Bob S. | December 13, 2005 10:04 AM

Mr. Harris:

The many. many readers you cited as confused over the title of Dan Froomkin's column ARE confused -- about reality, not just the title of a column.

Why capitulate to the 30-40% who dtill think the Bush Administration is doing a good job?

With few exceptions, your staff already gives them overdoses of what they want.


Leave Dan Froomkin's WH Briefing alone!

Go bother someone else...

Posted by: rdrover | December 13, 2005 10:08 AM

Like so many others who have already expressed their opinion, I look forward to reading White House Briefing every day it is available - I miss it on weekends and take it as a personal affront when Mr. Froomkin takes a weekday off.
I also believe he provides a valuable service by highlighting issues raised on websites and in blogs, and often adding to the debate over such issues fresh insights and information which the resources of the Post make available to him, but which might otherwise be unavailable to the average news and opinion reader.
Please allow Dan to continue doing what is a fine, and nowhere replicated service.

Posted by: Robert P. Ewing | December 13, 2005 10:14 AM

There can be only one explanation for the response from the newsroom: the White House reports' gigantic egos.

The Post has become such a disgusting shell of its former self. If it didn't have a Sports section and comics for the kids, I would cancel my subscription. I get virtually all of my news from the web because the Post is now nothing but Republican stenographers for reporters and an editorial page packed with right wing kooks.

Posted by: Terp | December 13, 2005 10:18 AM

"An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained
intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve
that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and
a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in
time a people as base as itself."

__________________________

"Our republic and its press will rise and fall together."
--Joseph Pulitzer

Posted by: jen | December 13, 2005 10:19 AM

I Love Froomkin's column and I'm a former journalist. I think the editor's disingenuous distortions are disgusting. I find Woodward's behavior sickening and completely unethical. WaPo's credibility erodes daily; certainly it does with me, and judging from these replies to the editor, I'm not alone. Dan Froomkin's column is actually the one of the last vestiges of journalism in the pages of the Post.

Posted by: Tennessee | December 13, 2005 10:23 AM

"It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that." Wow. That's exactly how my kids argue when they don't have facts to back them up but just really, really want me to believe them. Mr. Harris, you seem to think President Bush gets bad press because the press is liberal. It seems to me he gets bad press because he's a bad president.

Posted by: Maggie C. from Dayton, Ohio | December 13, 2005 10:29 AM

The fact that a man in Harris's position could write such an inane screed is proof that my opinion will fall on deaf ears, and explains why the reporting has become so tepid. How sad. I used to love the Post.

Posted by: Brautigan | December 13, 2005 10:32 AM

I have a journalism degree, and I'm married to a reporter (who will be working in D.C. soon). The average reader has no idea how many truly stupid e-mails and phone calls a reporter or editor gets on a daily basis. The amount is staggering.

That said, a good journalist would be skeptical enough to realize that for every schnapps-addled e-mailer there are a hundred (or a thousand) clear-eyed readers who are, indeed, smart enough to figure out that Dan Froomkin isn't a WaPo WH reporter. Indeed, he seems to say this frequently in every weekly chat and often mentions it in his column. Harris (et. al.) seem to assume that readers can't, well, read.

I agree with the many readers who observe that the "real" WaPo editors and reporters are reacting more to Froomkin's implied (and sometimes straightforward) criticism of them in his chats and columns than they are to the supposed ideological content of his work. One of my wife's editors once referred to journalists as "neurotic overachievers." He's right. I know hundreds of journalists and have never met one with a thick skin--though I'm sure one or two exist somewhere.

Froomkin's somewhat icy response to the ombudsman's piece is proof that he, too, can be cut. And unlike the "some" reporters in the ombudsman's piece, he can speak out publicly and get some love from the masses. "Regular" reporters can't.

My wife was the subject of an ombudman's piece at her current paper, and all she got was hate mail. A lot of it. It sucks. But playing in the big leagues means taking some brushbacks without whining. And Harris, et. al., sound like crybabies to me. So their egos get bruised. So what? Do a better job next time.

Froomkin has the unique talent of being able to write about a dreadfully dry subject (the inner workings of administration politics) and make it interesting and even funny. His forum isn't "traditional," but that's okay. A hundred years ago, the tradition was that newspaper magnates tried to manipulate the news whenever they could. New things are okay, and Froomkin is better than that.

Mr. Harris, stop your whining.

Posted by: Out in the hinterlands | December 13, 2005 10:34 AM

The credibility of the Washington Post, NYTimes and Wash.DC reporters is crumbling more day by day. I do not trust the majority of reporters who are more concerned with protecting government lies, their access and their cocktail gossip sources than they are with informing the American people and keeping gov't accountable. Mr. Froomkin is about the ONLY must-see column in the Post because I can trust his reporting and his personal integrity.

Posted by: marjo | December 13, 2005 10:39 AM

John Harris: "The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work." Well, I do have some problems in undeerstanding this sentence. Isn't something missing here? But if I get it right, it is another glaring example of all that is going wrong at WaPo nowadays. Instead of understanding Froomkin's column as a helpful guide for checking response to WaPo articles as well as finding topics that may be missing in the paper, the deitors and reporters see it as an obstacle for their work. One may be suspecting several selfish reasons behind this, but this isn't the most important point.

The main point is that WaPo's mission should be to deliver to the readers needs and wishes, not simply creating a newspaper and website that the staff likes to read. This is evidence that the desire to retreat into the shell has reached the highest levels. Almost noone seems to care about customer preferences anymore, this isn't a company in search of excellence, but driven by the wish of its employess to lead a comfortable, prestigious life without being annoyed by negative response.

Just look at Harris answer to the readers, "I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts", if John Kerry would be president. Yes, instead of believing that it's honest what the majority of commenters say, that they want more acountability and critical coverage, he simply sees partisan motives at work. Imho it is a sign that a company is rife for collapse if its staff is publicly complaining about its customers.

Of course, this is a sign of decadence and it sure is a recipe for business failure too. WaPo is doomed unless all employees who are basically working for themselves instead of for the customers are fired. Start with John Harris, Deborah Howell, and don't forget Mr. Woodward.

Posted by: Andy Ludwig (a.k.a. Gray) | December 13, 2005 10:40 AM

Mr. Harris and the WaPo editorial staff would do well to note that -- as many, many commenters here have pointed out -- it is the responsibility of reporters to report the truth.

Mr. Woodward's influence on your paper's reportage is beginning to show in true form. It was he who said that his job was to print everyone's point of view. And that may be true, for a book author not held by the scruples of journalism.

However, when he says this while holding an editor's title, he does far, far more to destroy your paper's credibility than Mr. Froomkin ever could.

Posted by: wordcruncher | December 13, 2005 10:47 AM

"If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement."

Can you argue, with a straight face, that an adversarial approach to White House reporting is unacceptable while obligingly passing on White House spin is perfectly okay? On what basis could you possibly make that argument?

Posted by: Tom Hilton | December 13, 2005 10:50 AM

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."

Seems...large share. Based on what, exactly? And how relevant is it?

Not really, it seems, since the real issue reveals itself to be one of presumed bias, as indicated by the rather insulting notion that only Bush antagonists would support Froomkin's work.

Posted by: Rafael Glazier | December 13, 2005 10:51 AM

Mr Harris,

There are true "Emperor has no clothes on" moments in most people's lives and this is the mainstream media's moment. Attacking Mr. Froomkin's column is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the fact that you and your colleagues in the media have failed as the Fourth Estate. You have become the allies of the corporate and political establishment rather than the watchdogs of the powerful.

In Kurtz's article on the Post's coverage of the Bush Administration's WMD claims, an anonymous editor admitted that he was afraid of being branded unpatriotic if he challenged the White House. I can only wonder if your comments indicating the attack of Dan Froomkin is reflective of this fear and timidness that has been prevalent in your newsroom.

At this point, the Post and the NY Times have so little credibility that I recommend you focus less on balance and reporting "officials said" or "name witheld" and more on investigating the actions and abuses of this Administration and Congress in order regain much of the respect that you have lost over the last 5 to 10 years.

Sincerely
Simone

Posted by: Simone | December 13, 2005 11:01 AM

Dear Mr. Harris:
You are right about one thing; WaPo has lost credibility.....through YOUR comments. They are stunning and chilling.

You make assumptions about Wapo readers (Note to John: always a good idea to insult the intelligence of the customer) then you attack Froomken for your assumptions. We readers are not stupid; we understand the difference between Mr. Froomken and you reporters. We also will be reading Froomken long after Mr. Bush is out of the White House because it is an wonderful compilation of articles/sources for White House matters.

I guess the heart of it is your last sentence.... "The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work." Bad grammer aside....are you seriously complaining to the readers that Froomken's column is an obstacle to your work?
Two responses to that: HOW? (Oh gee, maybe that whole "access" thing has become a problem, because someone under the Post masthead actually is asking coherent questions.)
and "TOO DARN BAD FOR YOU!"

The veil is off, Mr. Harris. YOU have no credibility with the readers.

Posted by: susan, Minneapolis | December 13, 2005 11:06 AM

If the John Harrises of the world did their job right, we might not need a "White House Briefing".

Take a look in the mirror . . . you ARE the problem.

Regards,

Gary G. Reilly

Posted by: Gary Reilly | December 13, 2005 11:07 AM

....irreverence and adversarial purpose

Let's see.

Irreverence:

Dana Millbank: (On MSNBC)" Just call me Dirk Diggler" (porn star in Boogie Nights)

Adversarial purpose:

John F. Harris: In the end they didn't seem to lead anyplace all that great.But there were tons of questions raised that certainly, to my mind, merited aggressive coverage.

Posted by: Blah | December 13, 2005 11:09 AM

Time for the "Kenneth Y. Tomlinson" CPB 2 step...

Posted by: Mikey | December 13, 2005 11:24 AM

The Washington Post is becoming (if it isn't already) irrelevant. When the dust settles, truth will prevail, and those who supported the big lie will pay the price. It's that simple.

Posted by: Jim Fisk | December 13, 2005 11:27 AM

Ahh, this just does it for me. Mr. Harris, you have absolutely proven that the Washington Post no longer has any credibility.

I am a middle-aged long-time (formerly loyal reader of the Washington Post, steeped in a family tradition of reverence for the print media and the need for the Fourth Estate. I expect journalists to question the credibility of ANY politician spinning the press and the public. That's their job.

But with journalists, and I now use the term loosely, like Woodward and Miller, it has become apparent that you, the Washington Post and most "journalists" have lost your way.

Mr. Froomkin is doing the job that I have always expected of a journalist, to question authority. I am perfectly aware that he is not a WH journalist. Listen, call his site anything you want, I don't care because not matter what it is, that is all I will be reading.

Sadly, with statements like Mr. Harris' (and Ms. Howell's) it is clear that the Washington Post reporting is rapidly becoming more and more irrelevant. And you wonder why subscriptions are dropping...

Posted by: BornInDC | December 13, 2005 11:28 AM

Mr. Harris-

Dan is one of the few people in all the media who thinks critically about what he sees and reads--and about himself. These are all prerequisite qualities for a professional in the Fourth Estate. He has proved himself through the many tens of thousands of words he has written. In just a few hundred you have managed to demonstrate to all of us that you lack these qualities.

In these times, for someone in your position, such deficiencies have moral implications. Your "prism"--at best and infrequently giving reality equal weight to the White House's representations--is by now covered with blood. The chain of responsibility for someone getting his kneecaps hammered to bits in Uzbekistan or his shoulders dislocated in Baghdad splits into many links when it crosses our borders. One of them runs through your office door.

Nicholas Mycroft

P.S. Dismissing me or any of the many other hundreds of readers who have spoken out as "angry liberals" or suchlike would be just another preemptive evasion of reason and self-examination. Gnothi seauton.

Posted by: Nicholas Mycroft | December 13, 2005 11:29 AM

Mr. Harris, As a former MSM journalist, I offer these observations: you are selling the Post online audience short if you think that they cannot understand that Froomkin is not a White House reporter. You also would be advised to wake up and understand that the most educated among us are now holding you to higher standards than you are holding yourself and those who work under you. That is my take on what is happening in the blogosphere. Dan Froomkin's postings come much closer to meeting those new standards than other political journalists' at the Post. This is the new reality. If you are smart, and I'm sure that you think you are, then you'll wise up quickly.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 11:29 AM

Mr. Harris,

You've received a well-deserved shellacking from your readers for your and your ombudsman's comments about Dan Froomkin's column. I am old enough to remember Watergate quite clearly, and there is no question that the WaPo has become a lesser paper since then. In the run up to and during the Iraq war, I had to turn to the internet and the foreign press to get good, hard hitting analysis of the lines we were being fed by the administration. I had hoped that the WaPo and NYT could be trusted to work hard to determine whether the administration's claims had merit, but I was sorely disappointed.

Mr. Froomkin is one of the only aspects of the WaPo in its current form that provides solid fact-based reporting on what is happening in the White House. Instead of attacking Mr. Froomkin, you should be encouraging your reporters to emulate him. We don't need more Bob Woodwards, ca. 2005, who are so cozy with this administration they withold information from your readers and don't do real investigative reporting.

If you want to know what is wrong with the Post, you need to look in the mirror.

Posted by: Randy | December 13, 2005 11:34 AM

Mr. Harris:

It appears to me it's time for you to address the issues on this page, which seem to me to be near-unanimous.

Now, either you run the paper to suit your ego and to please your cronies, or you provide the product your readership expects from the tradition of the Washington Post.

What's it going to be? Seems to me the future of this paper depends on your response.

Posted by: Ed Johnson | December 13, 2005 11:35 AM

the thing that really pisses me off about the "access dc" crowd is that when they print the unchallenged spin again and again they are using the credibility of the entire newsroom. whitehouse talking points can be put in a press release or posted on their website or done in an on the record interview. but when these things are printed unchallenged an sourced to "whitehouse officials" it gives them the air of truth that is backed up by the credibility of the paper which btw, is all the paper really has at the end of the day.

reporters MUST take a stand and remind their sources that news and access is a two way street. if "whitehouse officials" want to use the nations leading papers to spread their ideas, they must tell the truth. otherwise, they can spread their lies and propaganda at whitehouse.gov...

this due dilligence on the part of reporters is what buys them constitutional protection and makes them the "fourth estate". if they can't meet the burden, they should be relegated to the same status as reality tv and access hollywood...

Posted by: travy | December 13, 2005 11:38 AM

Wow - I am amazed at your comments, Mr. Harris. You don't like someone holding the current administration up for examination? Why? You think that is "liberal?" What is wrong with you?

I am an American. When Clinton got in office, I was very unimpressed for the first year or so. I expected any good newspaper to hold him up to the fire and take a look at what he was doing. Then, he came into his own and I started feeling good about having him as a President. Then came our (non-) actions in stopping the genocide in Rwanda - and I felt Clinton should be criticized for that. I don't care what party he is with (and, on another note, I don't care who he sleeps with - he is not my husband and it is irrelevant to the nation's interests). The question is is he serving the needs of our country and, also, in our wider role as a powerful nation, the needs of the world. That's what this is about.

Sorry if you want to bring it down to party politics. Perhaps you should go work for the RNC or DNC. That seems to be your level of concern for the nation - will your team win the football game?

Posted by: Jill Bryant | December 13, 2005 11:40 AM

I was reading an opinion piece by a famous American journalist that considers not only the role of a reporter in a free society, but on the citizenry as well.

"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."

Pretty outrageous isn't it Mr. Harris. I mean where is the required reverence for authority. Why was this journalist advocating being adversarial with those in power?

Yes, Mr. Harris what the heck was Ben Franklin thinking when he said that.

Posted by: Rob | December 13, 2005 11:41 AM

"We do not want to spike his column--or at least I don't." Childish statement.

And this from the "Political Editor" of a major (?) U.S. newspaper.

Posted by: KMW | December 13, 2005 11:43 AM

Mr. Harris, it appears that you (and perhaps, your reporters) are the only one that is actually confused about Dan Froomkin. You obviously are just plain wrong or drastically overstate the number of people who incorrectly believe that Dan Froomkin is a White House correspondent. Mr. Froomkin's regular readers know that he is a columnist. Mr. Froomkin never leads anyone to believe that he is anything but. Why should anyone be confused over the nature of his column? It is, after all, the "White House Briefing." And by definition, it does exactly what the title states: it gives concise information on news coverage of the White House.

In your response, you state: "People in the newsroom want to end this confusion. We do not want to spike his column--or at least I don't. It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

You could not be more wrong about Mr. Froomkin's regular readers. Please gain a better understanding of Post readers, Mr. Harris: We are an intelligent, concerned group of citizens that want to read as much accurate and well-written news as we can. As such, we appreciate the inclusiveness nature of the news contained in Mr. Froomkin's column. I would read his column regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office, and it is nothing less than insulting for you to suggest that his regular readers would not be interested in the goings-on of every president - regardless of their party affiliation. Mr. Froomkin brings a level of accountability to news coverage that is rarely seen.

As the national political editor of The Washington Post (which I still maintain is one of the finest papers in the world), why don't you start demanding more aggressive reporting from your reporters? Shouldn't the reporters in your newsroom be asking tougher questions of all politicians in our nation? And, while we're at it, why not encourage Mr. Froomkin to continue doing the fine job that he has been doing for years?

Your conduct in this entire affair has been anything but professional. It seems a shame that the Post's national political editor has so much time on his hands that he can waste day after day waging a personal vendetta against Mr. Froomkin. Wouldn't that time be better spent gathering some great news stories for the Post's readers?

Posted by: Kay Decker | December 13, 2005 11:44 AM

I can't help but think that the management of the Washington Post and, indeed, of all major papers somehow think that publishing anything that might remotely be considered to be liberal will somehow tarnish the credibility of their paper. Perhaps management feels that it will lose readership if such a perception exists.

Well, wake up. Newspapers' credibility died with the biased coverage granted to the current administration. As someone who was a daily reader of newspapers, I can tell you that I no longer purchase any newpaper because I don't trust them. If I want to read what I think is balanced coverage, I turn to other sources.

It seems that the management at major papers think that the only audience that they should serve consists of conservatives and that this audience will not accept any deviation from party line. This is precisely why your readership is shrinking.

Posted by: Fran | December 13, 2005 11:49 AM

So what's next?

You two floated this trial balloon and...well...picture the Hindenburg in your mind.

So how are you going to deal with this? Deborah Howell, will you write publically next week about how the post.com readers, enmass, called you and John Harris out on this stupid move? Or will it just quietly disappear? If you had it to do over again, would you???

I asked this before, and I really want to know the answer:

DID YOU TALK TO DAN FROOMKIN ABOUT CHANGING THE NAME OF HIS COLUMN BEFORE YOU WROTE ABOUT IT IN YOUR OMBUDSMAN'S ARTICLE ON SUNDAY?

Think about this scenario. Deb Howell and John Harris talk to Dan Froomkin about their concerns about the name of his article. Dan agrees to change it. The next day Dan writes a post explaining that there was possibly some confusion with readers and hence forth White House Briefing would be called, "Cooking with Walnuts". A few people write in to say that they didn't have any confusion, but for the most part NOTHING. No irate readers, no vast conspiracy theories, just a small internal matter, taken care of internally.

I ask again, "Why wasn't this handled that way?"

Posted by: Joy Jacques | December 13, 2005 11:49 AM

Yesterday afternoon, I read the many responses to Dan's posting regarding Deborah Howell's column. I was glad to see the near unanimous (or maybe it was unanimous)support for Dan and decided that I did not need to post a reply myself. This morning, however, I read the reply of John Harris and am now beside myself. Mr. Harris, please do not treat me and the other readers of Dan's column like two-year olds. Regular readers of White House Briefing know that Dan is not one of your so called "White House reporters." Your efforts are either (1) a means to cater to the lowest common denominator (not likely); or (2) a pretext for your real beef with Dan (very likely). Who cares if some uninformed people are confused about Dan's job title and employer? Please state your real issues with Dan or move on.

Posted by: Bill, Burlington, Vermont | December 13, 2005 11:51 AM

i have a modest suggestion for the washinton post publisher donald graham.

if deborah howell and john harris succeed in their collaboration to "rein in" dan froomkin by threatening him with a column name change or similar tactics based on the patently unbelievable assertion that his column's name ("white house briefing") confuses some readers,

let those of us who believe that froomkin represents something that other wapo reproters lost long ago take this action:

began a campaign to encourage temporary subscription cancellations. there is no reason to permanently cancel a subscription because the post is, after all, not just a paper of (bad to useless) political reporting. there are sports, dining, gardening, business sections that are interesting and useful.

but temporary cancellations would affect revenue and would require the post to spend resources both to cancel and then to restart the seubscriptions


this would be the best and, i would guess, the only way to silence the harris-howell sophistry.

once this issue has come to the attention of the guys at the top of the company, i suspect they could communicate with harris, howell and assorted layers of editors in a direct, simple way that the rest of us could never manage.

Posted by: orionATL | December 13, 2005 11:52 AM

I've figured it out. Mr Harris is upset because someone from the White House who doesn't really understand how the internets work, picked up the phone and blasted him about his White House reporters and threatened to cut off their access.

The WH probably doesn't read Froomkin on a daily basis. They just heard a rumor about it and decided to play hard ball with the WaPo reporters who, of course, are immediately bowing down in fear of losing their spots in the White House press corpse.

What a sad state of affairs. So the editor of the WaPo White House Political reporting section had to whine about it to the ombudsman.

No sympathy here, Mr. Harris. Try standing up for your organization and be a real reporter. You know, agressive, adversarial, asking questions, looking for accountability.

All those "liberal" values.

Posted by: dwahzon | December 13, 2005 11:52 AM

Someone pointed out that in all these responses, not one has been positive for Mr. Harris.

I'd like to change that.

I agree with Mr. Harris that Mr. Froomkin should change the name of his column. I've read through it and I don't think "White House Briefing" is a good title. I suggest the title "Wherein I point out the pathetic state of modern American journalism and the intense damage it is doing to the nation."

Yes, it's a bit long and not incredibly catchy, but it is a bit more accurate about the current state of modern journalism in America and accurately describes Froomkin's content.

I hope people will remember that this little message is in support for Mr. Harris and stop saying that 0 messages support him. And to Mr. Harris, I hope this message will help you understand the level of support and respect you and your colleagues have worked so hard these many years to earn.

(and in total seriousness, I'm absolutely positive you've read these comments and see them as proof that you're doing the right thing - I truly think you are that deluded)

Posted by: Kevin Lyda | December 13, 2005 11:53 AM

Mr. Harris, your concern not only makes a mountain out of a molehill -- all this sound and fury about a column title! -- it also insults the reader's intelligence to assume we cannot understand the context of Mr. Froomkin's column.

As for who is and who is not "one of the newspaper's White House reporters," I hardly see that it matters. Bob Woodward enjoys great access to the White House even though he's not labeled as a WH reporter, which is fine. What matters is that we understand where he gets his information -- we do -- and what filters he runs his information through (this is less clear, though I myself ascribe to Didion's perspective).

It is the substance of a reporter's or columnist's work that deserves scrutiny far more than a title. And based on your shockingly casual shrug at the media's supine obsequiousness prior to the war (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2005/10/14/DI2005101401315.html) and your apparent misunderstand of what the hell Patrick Fitzgerald has been investigating all this time, I suggest you turn that scrutiny on yourself.

Posted by: Mike Hinds | December 13, 2005 11:54 AM

John,

You really need to take down this part of the website soon. It will just be more and more embarrassment to all of us if readers keep making comments like the ones above.

It is particularly bothersome that these readers are not only criticizing you but hinting at our cozy deal.

You were not supposed to do it this way. Maybe I was a little distracted by my pre-indictment packing of my office files, but I thought I could trust you to do this quietly.

It looks like the trouble is that you hired Deborah and she made it all public in her Sunday column. If she keeps this up, you'll have to dismiss her after you dismiss Dan. We can't have this kind of public exposure of our conversations. You people are getting to be as bad as the people at TIME who blab all over the office about my conversations with them. But you and Deborah went a step further and put it all on your website. Don't you understand that when I go on super double-secret background, you are NOT SUPPOSED TO WRITE ABOUT IT.

By the way are Froomkin's resignation papers on your desk yet? That was supposed to have occurred already.

Karl

Posted by: Karl Rove | December 13, 2005 11:59 AM

I learn more about the actual doings of the White House from Froomkin than I do from the actual White House reporters, so I think the column title is quite appropriate.

Meanwhile Harris-you go to a massive soil pit everyday and can't dig up any dirt!?!

Do something productive, you tosser.

Posted by: Martin Morgan | December 13, 2005 12:02 PM

Mr. Harris,

With respect, you are completely wrong.

You say, "If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement. If the answer is no, ...."
We do have a legitimate disagreement. You have forgotten your history. We have a classical tradition in journalism in this country dating back to the muckrakers and on through to Edward R. Murrow to expose hypocrisy and corruption and demand accountability and transparency of our elected and corporate leaders.

I would further argue that the 'so-called' reverence which you criticize Dan's column lacks is in part directly responsible for this administration being able to sell a war of choice to the American people. This 'so-called' reverence is in part directly responsible for the deaths and disabilities of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

Because they live beyond an imaginary line in the sand or because their economic choices have been limited and the armed forces provided an option, families of people that work hard and try to provide their children with a better life; just like any of the rest of us, have been irrevocably devastated or destroyed because of the failure of the 4th estate.

You are quite clearly behind the curve while Mr. Froomkin is ahead of the curve. Our nation will benefit as a whole when we refuse to bow to the president as a king and instead choose to hold him/her accountable. Under our constitution, the president is our collective employee; nothing more. Watching the British debates during the elections last year was reason for hope. Watching everyday Britons berate Tony Blair for his failures while demanding answers and accountability.... If only!

As our culture matures, you can be certain that as long as democracy lives, we will take upon more of the characteristics of the older British culture. That is basic sociology.

Stop projecting the shame of every Walter Pincus story refuting WMD assertions you buried on page 22 and every sensationalistic pro-war/WMD story you promoted front page upon the best asset the Post has had since Carl Bernstein.

Posted by: Vivek Jha | December 13, 2005 12:04 PM

I'm confused - I thought DF worked for the Bush administration and actually did the White House Briefing. My bad, but maybe you could preface each thing that appears in the WP and the WP.com with something like, "The following is journalism.." or, "The following is opinion." Or, better yet, black ink for journalists, red ink for conservatives, and blue for liberals - I like the pretty colors!!!

Posted by: Ben | December 13, 2005 12:05 PM

> The main point is that WaPo's mission
> should be to deliver to the readers needs
> and wishes

You are assuming that the readers, and/or the citizens of the United States, are the WaPo (and NYT)'s customers. I think that since 1998 it has become fairly clear that is incorrect. I think they are doing exactly what their customers desire.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | December 13, 2005 12:12 PM

Peter Baker stated online today that "Chris Cillizza's column, The Fix, isn't an opinion column but a compilation of items and information from the political world ..."

Bull. Cillizza has been called again and again on his right-wing political slant. (See his column on Howard Dean if you don't believe me.) He is just as opinionated as Froomkin - only he's from the right, which is apparently okay by the Post's political staff.

And speaking of the WP staff - we have one reporter from the Washington "Moonie" Times (Peter Baker), one reporter whose wife used to work for Tom Delay (Jim VandeHei), a media critic married to a Republican media consultant (Howie Kurtz), and a editor who allowed Woodward to be stenographer to the WH and who didn't think either the Plame leak or lack of accurate reporting on WMD was a big deal (Harris).

Nice staff, Post. Why don't you hire Bill O'Reilly while your at it?

Posted by: fedup | December 13, 2005 12:24 PM

Peter Baker stated online today that "Chris Cillizza's column, The Fix, isn't an opinion column but a compilation of items and information from the political world ..."

Bull. Cillizza has been called again and again on his right-wing political slant. (See his column on Howard Dean if you don't believe me.) He is just as opinionated as Froomkin - only he's from the right, which is apparently okay by the Post's political staff.

And speaking of the WP staff - we have one reporter from the Washington "Moonie" Times (Peter Baker), one reporter whose wife used to work for Tom Delay (Jim VandeHei), a media critic married to a Republican media consultant (Howie Kurtz), and a editor who allowed Woodward to be stenographer to the WH and who didn't think either the Plame leak or lack of accurate reporting on WMD was a big deal (Harris).

Nice staff, Post. Why don't you hire Bill O'Reilly while your at it?

Posted by: fedup | December 13, 2005 12:24 PM


Whatever was John Harris thinking?
Not much, apparently.

The New Yorker's Ken Auletta has a great article on Pinch S and the decline of the NYT this issue. We need an Auletta to do a similar number on Donnie Graham.

Harris is a hole in the air.

Posted by: Chefrad | December 13, 2005 12:27 PM

Yes, you have insulted the intelligence of your audience by insisting that Dan Froomkin's readers think that he is on your White House reporting staff. The only ones who would think that obviously can't read. None of them have written in to support your view, so they obviously can't write, either. Do you think you might be a wee bit too concerned about the portion of your audience that neither reads nor writes?

I hold the Wash Post and NYTimes both personally responsible for allowing this administration to lie us into an unnecessary war with disastrous results. I am an Independent and I would feel the same if the current administration were Democratic.

What has happened to journalism? In a Post chat a few years ago I asked one of the editors why no one questioned any of this administrations pronouncements. He replied that if the Democrats didn't object, reporters were under no obligation to print the other side. I guess speaking truth to power went out of fashion with the new millennium.

Dan Froomkin is like a breath of fresh air. He in interested in facts, not spin. He doesn't have access and doesn't worry about it.

Do you want the Washington Post to be an outstanding paper? Tell your reporters to find the truth and print it. Analyze what the administation is telling you. Is it true? Is it legal? Is it moral?

Being a WH reporter shoud be more than being a stenographer who gets to attend cool parties and know all the gossip(but never print it, even when it's true)about those in power.

While you're at it - separate the Post from Woodward. He's not a newspaperman anymore.

Posted by: Ruth Best, Massillon, OH | December 13, 2005 12:30 PM

I'm confused Mr. Harris.

How could anybody confuse Froomkin who speaks truth to and about power with a WAPO White House correspondent?

Posted by: Ted Tolbert | December 13, 2005 12:39 PM

Scrolling through the comments, I'm surprised to see how many here vote for renaming Froomkin's column to 'Cooking With Walnuts'. I seriously object to this title! This may be insulting for all who are allergic to nuts or who object to mingling with fans of Walmart (TM). We are in the middle of the War on Christmas, do we want to start the War on Walnuts now? Let's not!
I vote for 'FROOMKIN!'

Posted by: Gray | December 13, 2005 12:40 PM

I was going to put the effort into writing an at least semi-intelligent post here, but after re-reading what Mr. Harris has written I realize that I am being insulted by him as a reader so I will respond in kind...
Mr. Harris, how does Karl Rove's rear end taste?

Posted by: Jotham Stavely | December 13, 2005 12:46 PM

I love Froomkin's column and agree with the critical criticisms of Harris voiced above. Harris's assumptions and insinuations are abominable. I don't care what the column is called but to retitle it seems like a capitulation. If it has to be renamed, I concur with the poster who suggested "White House Debunked."

Posted by: florentine | December 13, 2005 12:53 PM

John Harris is simply wrong in his assumptions and the implications he draws. First of all, Froomkin's columns appear on the op-ed pages where personal opinions are expected to intrude. Second, his liberal (small l)attributions make it abundantly clear he is not reporting first hand. Froomkin raises no expectation that your White House reportage should follow his formulation -- although it would be refreshing if those correspondents showed some skepticism about what they pass along from the administration. Parenthetically, anybody who writes as badly as Harris does in the first and last sentences of his riposte shouldn't hold such a key job.

Posted by: Bertram Lowi, Southampton, NY | December 13, 2005 12:54 PM

Spike "White House Briefing?" ...Who spiked the WaPo Kool-Aid? Mr. Harris, do you have any idea how many impassioned readers Mr. Froomkin draws to the online publication of the Washington Post in general? Or to the Politics page of the Post in particular. Does Diamond Jim or Dan or Dana know how many hundreds of thousands of readers have linked to one of their stories via "White House Briefing?" Do you and your churlish staff all reside within the same White House bubble? This stinks of egotism and narcissism and hardball office politics. And please, if the impetus of your ire is the festering perception that Mr. Froomkin is indeed a member of the elite WaPo Politics staff, prove to us, your readers, that this confusion is tangible, that this liberal-by-association impression is less than ethereal. Simply stating that "many, many examples" abound to prove your point is either lazy or disingenious. What examples? Did a former top official at the WaPo alert you to these examples, or is this the product of your own unscientific survey?

Posted by: Kelly Morgan | December 13, 2005 01:03 PM

I suspect most Post readers are savy enough to differentiate news from opinion. In fact, Froomkin's WHB is labeled "OPINION" on the frontpage link to his column. If the newsroom reporters feel further clarification is necessary, then I suggest refering to Froomkin as an "Opinion Columnist" instead of just "Columnist".

Also, I'm curious: What do Howell and Harris think about the irreverence displayed in columns by Kurtz and Milbank? Do their columns also undermine the integrity of the Post newsroom?

Posted by: Andy Hunter | December 13, 2005 01:03 PM

I hope WP brass are looking at this comments section and getting the message. What this is all really about is a lap dog Washington press corps that hides behind bogus "balance" and "objectivity" as a sham to cozy up to their deceitful official sources. Don't think the American newspaper-reading public has missed this as an unmistakable revelation from the Plame leak case.The Washington Post can do better and their readers know it.
Go Froomkin.

Posted by: sms | December 13, 2005 01:04 PM

Offensive comments directed at John Boy Harris.
Ever So Sincerely,
Michael D. Adams
Atlanta

Posted by: Michael D. Adams | December 13, 2005 01:12 PM

Offensive comments directed at John Boy Harris.
Ever So Sincerely,
Michael D. Adams
Atlanta

Posted by: Michael D. Adams | December 13, 2005 01:14 PM

Exactly who in your news room is complaining about Froomkin? Name some names, sir. I have my own guesses, and I'd be willing to put $ on who they are.

Posted by: Gary Van Ess | December 13, 2005 01:18 PM

*"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."*
Are any of these readers named "Lazlo Toth"?

Posted by: Infotainment | December 13, 2005 01:28 PM

Howell/Harris/Hiatt:

Is the problem that Rev. Moon isn't paying a fair rate?

Posted by: Vienna local | December 13, 2005 01:28 PM

Please give one example whether Froomkin has advocated a liberal policy or a liberal politician. If you can not do that, then stop equating "liberal" with someone who critiques the relationship between the administration and the press, or those that believe in holding an Administration accountable in its public statements is through a "liberal prism". And please, please, do not feel that you are obligated to write more false WMD stories or otherwise shill for this Administration in order to 'balance' out Froomkin. America has had enough of that type of 'balance'.

When every other major journalist in this country was saying that Fitzgeral was wrapping up his investigation into a non-crime, and there would be no indictments, Froomkin kept us updated into the factual developments of that story. Where was the rest of the Washington Post on this story? Oh yeah...

You really, really, should be ashamed. You have confused a demand for accountability with a political agenda. Doing so tells us much about yourself and your agenda then Froomkin or his readers.

One example is all that I ask...

Posted by: Bryce Pashler | December 13, 2005 01:30 PM

John Harris's comments are just plain lame. Confused over whether Dan Froomkin actually works as a White House reporter? I am not. I actually use my brain cells. John doesnt want to use the lone cell he has.

If you want to get rid of Dan, use something stronger - this is pathetic. He is the one saving grace - drop him, and I delete the bookmark from my browser.

Posted by: Ketan Deshpande | December 13, 2005 01:36 PM

"Are any of these readers named "Lazlo Toth"?"

FUNNIEST COMMENT EVAR

Posted by: Wibbles the Frog | December 13, 2005 01:42 PM

I posted this on the WHB commentary, but thought it also deserves to be here, preceded by a quote from Mr. Harris:

"If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters.

"Given that there is such confusion, the question is whether this is a problem. For me it is a problem."

Gee, I'm confused. I am a reader in Madison, Wisconsin -- way outside the newspaper. I presume that a feature titled "Washington Sketch" was written by one of the Post's Washington reporters. Just now I went to the web homepage, and under "Politics" was Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" and the description "Columnist" after his name, but not his byline. Is "Arctic Oil Gets An Administration Gusher" a news article in John Harris's National Politics section, or is it an opinion column? Golly, for folks who are so particular about the placement and title of WHB, it sure seems hypocritical to me to have Dana Milbank's opinion column also prominently headlined in the Politics section, as well as having his name in the Opinion Columnist section with a link to the same story.

Mr. Harris, I have a problem. And it is not with White House Briefing.

Posted by: Sally | December 13, 2005 01:44 PM

"You have confused a demand for accountability with a political agenda. "

Apparently, in Caviar-Party-Beltway Land, a demand for accountability IS a political agenda. Only unflinching deference is allowed.

Posted by: Fish McSpatula | December 13, 2005 01:46 PM

How much did White House pay Deborah Howell and John Harris for their articles like it did to William Armstrong and the Editors of Iraqi Newspapers? Anyone reading Dan Froomkin column would know right away that he was not writing as the paper's White House reporter. You both under-estimate readers' intellegence and over-estimate yours.

Posted by: Gautam Shah | December 13, 2005 01:52 PM

So weak ! The old "Who's better" argument, dressed up with the usual "We're only looking out for other people's welfare (confused readers), not personal advantage." How did they forget to say that Froomkin "puts our troops in harms way?"

Posted by: Bernard Pliers | December 13, 2005 02:00 PM

Chris writes: "I for one am not angry at Harris. I just think he should realize what is clearly being demonstrated by the number of posts. The public desires that in addition to the rehashing of talking points, that someone take them to task when the talking points and reality don't match." I thought that was called REPORTING. That is what this is about, Mr. Harris. Not the name of the column. Not the "liberal prism." It's the expectation that your reporters will report the discrepancy between what this or any other administration says and the truth. Your readers think that you have failed. As you say in another patronizing note on the Huffington Post, it's really not that complicated. You're not listening.

Posted by: sad and disgusted in new york | December 13, 2005 02:01 PM

** The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that. **

This is horse manure. Froomkin's articles are described as "Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing" and the links appear next to a picture of Froomkin. Each page has his picture on the top. On line, people are more likely to refer to the articles as "Froomkin" and use "white house briefing" interchangebly with the name of its author.

No "large share" or readers is dense enough to believe that the column is written by anyone other than Froomkin, just as few readers will believe such a pitiful excuse for this strange vendetta.

Posted by: Alex | December 13, 2005 02:04 PM

I've said it before and I'll say it again: years from now, historians and journalists will marvel at the ennui of the people like Mr. Harris, who seem intent on turning journalism into some sort of parlor game or glorified "he said/she said" gossip column.

The descent of Bob Woodward--from the man we all respected in 1972 to the "court stenographer" he became thirty years later--is a sad, but all too accurate metaphor of our national press corps as a whole.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 02:14 PM

Don't be so hard on poor Mr. John Harris. The only thing in his post that I take issue with, is that he forgot to start with: "Hey Rubes !"

After that, his whole post makes more sense.

Posted by: vanfur | December 13, 2005 02:16 PM

Yes, his column was written with all the dignity and respect for his readers formerly presented by The Onion's Herman T. Zweibel.

Posted by: More80sHair | December 13, 2005 02:24 PM

316 (65 pages in MS Word) mostly articulate and well-reasoned posts pointing out the obvious error of Harris' ways, in about 20 hours after posting the original story.

So, John, are you getting the drift yet? Do you sense a consensus? Having any thoughts of maybe, just maybe, doing a bit of self-reflection? Think that the WaPo may have wandered off-topic somewhere along the line?

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Posted by: FiddleMinger | December 13, 2005 02:37 PM

What next Mr. Harris? Will you resort to calling Froomkin's readers unpatriotic?

Posted by: skahia, CA | December 13, 2005 02:41 PM

Hey, guys and gals,

What do you expect from people named Harris?
We are now having to deal with the second Harris.
The first one, you will remember, was in Florida back in 2000.
These two are related, no question about it.

Posted by: Ed | December 13, 2005 02:51 PM

" The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."--John Harris

A much confusing sentence;do you think?

"Journalism is not dead.It merely smells funny."--Daniel Sullivan

A less confusing sentence

Posted by: Sully18 | December 13, 2005 02:53 PM

I think Mr. Harris deserves some credit here. Completely inadvertently, he has raised an important question - the role of the media in dealing with the powerful elite of the country - and provided a public forum for the question to be answered. For allowing that forum, which has been very critical of both Mr. Harris and his paper, to continue, I commend the Post.

I'm finding it useful to view this post and the following comments as a debate on the issue. Mr. Harris has tried, rather poorly in my opinion, to point out that being adversarial and irreverant to those in power is not something that journalists in print media should do. The reading public has responded rather overwhelmingly that this is what they expect of journalists - to hold those in power accountable, and made some rather solid points in favour of this position.

So, in the interest of continuing the debate and helping out the WaPo staff who sometimes seem to struggle with the issues unless they are handed to them on a silver platter by someone, here are the questions that I see needing to be answered:

1) What precise obstacle is Mr. Froomkin's column creating for your White House Reporters? The name confusion bit does not strike me as an obstacle of any kind in any way for your current reporters.
2) If said obstacle is a denial of access to White House sources (as many here theorize) how is that not a story in and of itself?
3) Before calling him out in public, did you discuss these concerns with Mr. Froomkin in private? If not, why not? In either case, why did you feel it necessary to attack him in public?
4) If one of the roles of the Fourth Estate is to hold those in power accountable for their statements and actions, could you please explain how you feel that can be accomplished without taking adversial positions at times?
5) Why, when your paper's credibility has been seriously shaken by the (in)actions of Bob Woodward, do you feel it necessary to attack one of your columnists for asking hard questions and not ignoring stories that are developing in the White House?

I look forward to your response, Mr. Harris.

Posted by: Paul | December 13, 2005 02:54 PM

A letter I just mailed to the ombudsman:

Ombudsman Howell,
I read your piece "The Two Washington Posts" and was surprised at your criticism of opinion political writer Dan Froomkin. As far as I am concerned, Froomkin is the reason I read the Washington Post, period.
Froomkin is not "liberal;" he is honest and out for truth and transparency (not for some "liberal" agenda). His statements always have links to the source and that is how I assess his truthfulness; his very article, with all the links, begs the readers to check his sources.
I like Kurtz, Millbank, Dionne, Cohen, and a few others, including some of the non-opinion writing reporters, but Froomkin is the main reason I still read the Washington Post. His opinion pieces are insightful, well-researched, and honest. That is A LOT more than I can say for most writers at WaPo, or at any other news media for that matter.

You stated that WaPo's other political writers think Froomkin ruins WaPo's "objectivity." On the contrary, Froomkin has been the main writer who was skeptical when reporters should have been skeptical, while your other writers cowered and hid from the thumb of the White House. Ms. Howell, who are these political writers complaining about Froomkin? Bob Woodward? Do you really think your readers trust Woodward and the likes of him anymore?

I will say it again: Froomkin is the reason I read WaPo. I check the WaPo everyday because of Froomkin. I do read other articles in the WaPo, but I wouldn't even bother with the newspaper if not for Dan Froomkin. I gave up on the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and NY Times long ago because their fear of the White House and of appearing "objective" has had the reverse effect in that they now aren't as skeptical as they should be and are even in cahoots with government propaganda. While I agree that a reporter should strive for objectivity, I do not see that the likes of Woodward, Pincus, Weissman, Eggen, etc., writing with healthy skepticism, let alone any real "objectivity." Those writers are so embedded within the D. C. good-ole-boys network that they fear writing with a skeptical pen. They err on the side of the politicians instead of on the side of the paper's readers' interests.
Froomkin's opinion piece usually has more reliable and insightful information than any of WaPo's White House reporters (Ahem . . . Woodward!). Froomkin wants the truth and that is why he is WaPo's best writer.

I do not read Chris Cillizza much anymore because he is boring and not as in touch with blogs as Froomkin. Cillizza writes information that I know long before I read it in his article. So, why read Cillizza, since he's not as in touch with readers or blogs as Froomkin?
John Harris is wrong in his assessment of Froomkin. Harris insults my intelligence and WaPo's readers' intelligence when he states that "It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." Mr. Harris clearly misunderstands readers hunger for the truth, regardless of party affiliation. I am neither a Democrat or a Republican and I wholeheartedly believe that Froomkin would be just as tough on Kerry if he were president, but I also believe that Froomkin's readers would be just as much behind him in that case as they are now, because his readers (like me) want the truth regardless of political persuasion!
If you want accountable and transparent reporting, then Froomkin's your guy. If you want to be like every other newspaper that readers like me don't trust, then listen to Harris (or better yet, talk to the NY Times and Judith Miller).

Froomkin is not liberal just because he wants truth, honesty and transparency from our government. You, John Harris, and WaPo's political writers would be wise to take note at what Froomkin is doing and praise, rather than chide, him and his style. Do not police Froomkin's "White House Briefing." If you do then I promise that I will not read the Washington Post anymore; I'll stick to reading blogs for my news.

Dan Froomkin is a gem and should be held up as the pride of the Washington Post and honest, insightful journalism everywhere. His style should be admired and emulated, not denounced and ostracized.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely Yours,
J C

Posted by: J C | December 13, 2005 03:05 PM

A letter I just mailed to the ombudsman:

Ombudsman Howell,
I read your piece "The Two Washington Posts" and was surprised at your criticism of opinion political writer Dan Froomkin. As far as I am concerned, Froomkin is the reason I read the Washington Post, period.
Froomkin is not "liberal;" he is honest and out for truth and transparency (not for some "liberal" agenda). His statements always have links to the source and that is how I assess his truthfulness; his very article, with all the links, begs the readers to check his sources.
I like Kurtz, Millbank, Dionne, Cohen, and a few others, including some of the non-opinion writing reporters, but Froomkin is the main reason I still read the Washington Post. His opinion pieces are insightful, well-researched, and honest. That is A LOT more than I can say for most writers at WaPo, or at any other news media for that matter.

You stated that WaPo's other political writers think Froomkin ruins WaPo's "objectivity." On the contrary, Froomkin has been the main writer who was skeptical when reporters should have been skeptical, while your other writers cowered and hid from the thumb of the White House. Ms. Howell, who are these political writers complaining about Froomkin? Bob Woodward? Do you really think your readers trust Woodward and the likes of him anymore?

I will say it again: Froomkin is the reason I read WaPo. I check the WaPo everyday because of Froomkin. I do read other articles in the WaPo, but I wouldn't even bother with the newspaper if not for Dan Froomkin. I gave up on the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and NY Times long ago because their fear of the White House and of appearing "objective" has had the reverse effect in that they now aren't as skeptical as they should be and are even in cahoots with government propaganda. While I agree that a reporter should strive for objectivity, I do not see that the likes of Woodward, Pincus, Weissman, Eggen, etc., writing with healthy skepticism, let alone any real "objectivity." Those writers are so embedded within the D. C. good-ole-boys network that they fear writing with a skeptical pen. They err on the side of the politicians instead of on the side of the paper's readers' interests.
Froomkin's opinion piece usually has more reliable and insightful information than any of WaPo's White House reporters (Ahem . . . Woodward!). Froomkin wants the truth and that is why he is WaPo's best writer.

I do not read Chris Cillizza much anymore because he is boring and not as in touch with blogs as Froomkin. Cillizza writes information that I know long before I read it in his article. So, why read Cillizza, since he's not as in touch with readers or blogs as Froomkin?
John Harris is wrong in his assessment of Froomkin. Harris insults my intelligence and WaPo's readers' intelligence when he states that "It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." Mr. Harris clearly misunderstands readers hunger for the truth, regardless of party affiliation. I am neither a Democrat or a Republican and I wholeheartedly believe that Froomkin would be just as tough on Kerry if he were president, but I also believe that Froomkin's readers would be just as much behind him in that case as they are now, because his readers (like me) want the truth regardless of political persuasion!
If you want accountable and transparent reporting, then Froomkin's your guy. If you want to be like every other newspaper that readers like me don't trust, then listen to Harris (or better yet, talk to the NY Times and Judith Miller).

Froomkin is not liberal just because he wants truth, honesty and transparency from our government. You, John Harris, and WaPo's political writers would be wise to take note at what Froomkin is doing and praise, rather than chide, him and his style. Do not police Froomkin's "White House Briefing." If you do then I promise that I will not read the Washington Post anymore; I'll stick to reading blogs for my news.

Dan Froomkin is a gem and should be held up as the pride of the Washington Post and honest, insightful journalism everywhere. His style should be admired and emulated, not denounced and ostracized.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely Yours,
J C

Posted by: J C | December 13, 2005 03:05 PM

Update: 'Wash Post' Editor and Others Want Froomkin Column Renamed--But Online Chief Says No


So Harris, not only are you a whiner, but you are a whiner that lost. Too bad, so sad, have another eggnog with Rummy.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 03:06 PM

Why not a simple sit down with Froomkin on changing the name of his column? If the confusion as to whether he actually was a reporter covering the WH was really the issue, why the need to politicize this by calling him liberal and ponder the need for a conservative counterweight?

Even those of us out in the sticks understand what's going on in the WaPo right now (thanks in part to the interoffice chat postings leaked in regard to Woodward), and it ain't pretty.

Posted by: Hal in Rolla | December 13, 2005 03:12 PM

Dear Mr. Harris,

You might want to read all these comments, and do a little thinking about what your readers are trying to tell you. It is not too late for you and your colleagues to wake up and do some real reporting.

Sincerely,

--T.H.

Posted by: T. H. | December 13, 2005 03:14 PM

Dear Mr. Harris, what do you think your readers are? uneducated stupid people that they cannot see that the word Columnist is there by Froomkin's name? Which also, by the way, was added recently to curry favor with the good ol White House. I guess that was not enough so now you are threatening to "spike" Froomkin. Cmo'n don't insult your readers intelligence Mr. Harris.

Posted by: Ray | December 13, 2005 03:17 PM

If Mr. Harris is concerned about his staff's personal views getting mixed up with The Post as an institution, why doesn't he mention Woodward? It's far more likely people will confuse Woodward's views with the Post's.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 03:24 PM

Is Mr. Harris concerned that readers will get the impression that Woodward's views are the Post's views and that he's biased? Woodward is a far larger danger to the Post's reputation.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 03:27 PM

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." - John Harris

And I guarantee that John Harris will only stop abusing his life partner when the police haul him off to jail.

Debate and political discourse should not be through the John Harris/Fox "News" model of ad hominem personal attacks.

In this case, Mr. Harris seeks to discredit those with whom he disagrees by implying that they are partisan bobbleheads. He offers no proof, no evidence, and no logic with which to back up his assertion ... but when engaged in ad hominem attacks, concepts like logic and evidence aren't important.

Especially in this case, where Mr. Harris seems far more interested in protecting his turf within the Post than addressing the trend in journalism to equate stenography with reporting.

I don't have any reason to believe that Mr. Harris hasn't not stopped abusing his life partner. But I do believe that ad hominem attacks in political discourse are antithetical to democracy and free speech.

But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Harris enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--if they were not communists.

Posted by: from Southern California | December 13, 2005 03:34 PM

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that. No doubt there are some who enjoy the column for precisely this reason. If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporter."

Most people just don't think about what appears in terms of the WaPo org chart, sorry to burst your self-involved bubble.

"People in the newsroom want to end this confusion. We do not want to spike his column--or at least I don't. It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

You've simply been living inside the beltline for too long. Come out and breath free ... most people in the real world just don't think that way.

Posted by: drinkof | December 13, 2005 03:45 PM

Mr. Harris,

You wrote, "Given that there is such confusion [about Froomkin's status], the question is whether this is a problem."

You're positing facts not in evidence. Then you assert there is "a problem" with these nonfacts. Oh, and, you have the solution too! To a nonproblem!

To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, describing Lillian Hellmann, "Every word Harris writes is fact-deprived, including the words 'and' and 'the'."

Posted by: Kris Stoever | December 13, 2005 03:45 PM

Talk about pulling back the curtains! So all this time I thought the Post was giving us honest, thoughtful and critical reporting about Washington politics. Then John Harris has to go and explain his philosophy, and suddenly the wheels come off. Apparently the Post reporters think doing their jobs means not offending anyone too much.

In his baseless, straw man attacks on Dan Froomkin, Harris loses sight of the fact that the fundamental question here is why does the Post think that a critical approach is a partisan, "liberal" approach? Look past the vitriol, Mr. Harris, and try to understand that we're alot smarter than you seem to give us credit. Nobody is confused about White House Briefing, and you know it. Nobody thinks Froomkin is writing a partisan, liberal attack column except for a few jealous reporters who have their panties in a twist. Please try to take a minute to understand how appalling your attitude is.

Posted by: Andy | December 13, 2005 04:10 PM

My thanks to Mr. Harris for saving me money. I will be retiring to Virginia soon and had planned on subscribing to WaPo. Having read the obnoxious, unprofessional tripe written by Mr. Harris, I'll save my money and subscribe to the bi-weekly Va Gazette for my local news.

Katherine Graham, your dream has died, a casualty of the Harris' and Woodward's who have killed your paper.

If Dan Froomkin wishes to become rich, he should offer internet subscriptions to his column for a dollar a month. He'll make millions.

Mr. Harris, you worry about irreverence - what a telling word. Irreverence was a virtue once and people like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine used to be revered in this country because of THEIR irreverence.

You, Mr. Harris, are the worst kind of Torry, paying your allegiance to King George.

Posted by: A Never-to-be Subscriber | December 13, 2005 04:18 PM

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case"

I beg to differ - I DO NOT vote because I belong to a specific political party. I vote for the candidate whom I feel will do best for our country, even if their policies run counter to my beliefs.

I also do not think that the current fans of Mr. Froomkin are liberal or democrats, as you insinuate with the comment I pasted above. We, as citizens, care about our country regardless of what political party the sitting president belongs to and would be just as supportive of Mr. Froomkin if he were calling out Mr. Kerry.

Having said that, I highly believe that Mr. Froomkin would have held any other president just as accountable as he does Mr. Bush. And I also believe that the Office of the President, as any elected office, should be held to the highest standard regardless of who was sitting.

So when there is question about the integrity, accountability, and credibility of the White House, then it is up to the reporters and the media to dig until they unearth the truth - whereas the system of checks and balances have failed - without fear of retaliation from the White House. And believe me, this office has had its fair share of scandals and tricks.

Perhaps if Mr. Froomkin was keeping his "White House Briefing" column while Mr. Clinton was president, you would have seen for yourself that Mr. Froomkin would have called Mr. Clinton out on everything because he is a HUMAN, not a liberal.

If anything changes with Mr. Froomkin's column, then I will consider reading the news through another venue.

Posted by: Fairfax, VA | December 13, 2005 04:21 PM

Dear Mr.Harris,

Puh-leeeze. You claim that confusion about Mr. Froomkin's role "makes our job more difficult". Granting argguendo that such confusion is more than a figment of your imagination and wounded pride; how precisely?

A simple generality like that should not be allowed to stand. You are a reporter, give us specifics. In what possible way is your job affected by the reader's perception of Dan Froomkin's role?

This sounds much more like jealousy, and status-protecting. You are a WH reporter and you are so very proud of that status and access that you can't stand that a mere blogger is blowing your shorts off when it comes to providing actual content.

If you want the respect of the readers; try being less proud of your status and access and actually use it to BREAK a story sometime. Right now we perceive you and your fellow White House reporters as nothing more than clueless stenographers who dutifully jot down the day's talking points without attempting to fact check their assertions or put them in context.

It also doesn't help that you grant anonymity almost reflexively and never even stop to ask if your story really needs one more talking point or personal attack from a mid-level White House spinmeister.


You get a lot of flack from readers because you do your job so appallingly poorly. You yourself have admitted that you went easy on republicans during the 2000 campaign because they gave you more access. That should be a career-ending admission for someone in your position and yet you print it without blushing.

Posted by: Mike G. | December 13, 2005 04:21 PM

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

You may suspect that but you can by no means guarantee it.

Furthermore, it's clear that you don't frequent many blogs, or watch some of today's finest satire such as The Daily Show or Weekend Update, all of which skewer Democrats on a regular basis--whenever they deserve it, which is to say, whenever they're less than honest.

To believe that Froomkin's readership is that transparent and one-dimensional is an insult to your readers. The fact that Froomkin doesn't pander or condescend in that manner may account for some of his popularity.

Posted by: Scott | December 13, 2005 04:25 PM

Mr. Harris (and Ms. Howell) I must lend my small voice to the chorus of support for Mr. Froomkin. He seems to me to represent not partisanship but an old fashioned demand for facts and fact checking. He mixes that with the sort of scepticism that I find missing in so much reporting today.
And by the way, I think he'd be just as hard on a Kerry adminstration, which is the way it should be. Sadly so many reporters, even those of your paper, has not shown equal scepticism of this adminstration.

Posted by: Phillip Mueller | December 13, 2005 04:27 PM

Mr. Harris,

If Froomkin wrote the same columns on Kerry or Clinton, I'd be wholly impressed that factual and fair reporting had been applied to Democratic candidates. It'd be a step up in the quality of coverage of Democrats at The Post.

But the question on the table, Mr. Harris, is this. Why does Bob Woodward still have a job? After all, Woodward betrayed his readers. And The Post. As well as the country and its servicemen in uniform.

The Froomkin hubbub is a red herring on the face of it -- manufactured to distract readers from Bob Woodward's continued employment, and the Post's concomitant culpability. NO one could possibly confuse Froomkin's column with the Post reporters on the White House beat -- Froomkin continually refers to it as a different and separate beat. Froomkin's beat is their reporting. Not so hard to figure out, really.

Mr. Harris, your actions are the epitome of scapegoating.

And that is a dangerous tendency in these times. It was one thing when you stood idly by, commenting inanely and without depth as Bill Clinton was lynched, on personal grounds rather than on the basis of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Such a lack of political acuity married to your refusal to get to the meat of the issue, was by then par for the course.

But to go after Froomkin, when it is much of the rest of the Washington Post that lacks journalistic ethics, professional distance from the halls of power, and any editorial discretion or honor whatsoever -- that is just too much. You go too far.

We've got 2100 dead American friends and neighbors, and have squandered the wealth and honor of the country, largely BECAUSE Len Downie BURIED the PUBLICLY-AVAILABLE evidence that put the lie to Bush's WMD claims on ppA34 and A28. And because Dana Milbank seemed to think the WMD story and its Downing St Memo eruption weren't news, then or now. Spenser Hsu ACTUALLY had the gall to claim, post-Plame/Miller, that 'there was no reason to doubt the White House background sources' he cited that claimed Blanco and Nagin were responsible for the Feds' slow response to Hurricane Katrina: a blatant lie, and one Hsu and anyone who can read knew was false, on the face of it, at that time.

At long last, John Harris, have you no decency? No integrity whatsoever?

There's no confusion about the ugly game being played here. And at some point, you'll be called to account for it.

RF

Posted by: RichF | December 13, 2005 04:27 PM

Hey Harris: You're doing a heckuva job.

Posted by: John DAlessandro | December 13, 2005 04:39 PM

That's it! Harris' new nickname, garnered from his close relationship with the bigwigs, is "Brownnosie".

Posted by: Hekuvva Jobb | December 13, 2005 04:42 PM

Wanted to be sure you are aware of this discussion between Mr. Harris and WaPo's online editor:

http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/

It is difficult to conceive how we have arrived at the point when the Washington Post's national politics editor doesn't know what the word "liberal" means.

The management of this newspaper should be ashamed of themselves.

Nicholas Mycroft

Posted by: Nicholas Mycroft | December 13, 2005 05:05 PM

Mr. Harris, you might want to assign one of your crack White House reporters to this! Breaking news! See, Editor and Publisher has this quote from Editor Downie: "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."
---

Okay, so the exec editor is saying that it's what the Bush administration thinks that's important. Notice that "readers" are just an afterthought there. So-- maybe the ombudsman should find out whether it was reader complaints or WHITE HOUSE complaints that started this imbroglio.

Personally, I think that any White House that can't tell the difference between news and opinion has a serious problem-- and it's not the job of a newspaper to twist itself into knots trying to explain there.

I really don't understand why the Post editors particularly feel the need to "make sure" that people in the White House are at peace with the not-unusual mix of news and opinion that are in every newspaper and have been for centuries. I sure hope they're underestimating the intelligence of the White House staffers as they have the intelligence of their readers. I hate to think that we're being led by people too stupid to know the difference.

Froomkin is obviously being singled out here-- why? Was there a particular complaint from the White House about his column? Hmm. "What would Kay Graham say?" I'm pretty sure the lady who stood up to the very scary John Mitchell and the extremely powerful Richard Nixon wouldn't be cowed into changing her newspaper or web site just because someone in the Bush White House complained.

We really need a straight answer here. Why on earth would Mr. Downie be so quick to assure the White House above all others that he doesn't support Dan Froomkin? Can't you see, Mr. Downie, that this only reinforces the lessons of the Woodward scandal? That is-- the Post and its "news side" care more about the White House than it does about its readers.

Real reporters, real editors, real "newsies", do not jump when the president or his men say "jump." You have just shown yourself once again to have refused to confront your own paper's concessions to power. For shame.

Posted by: plaster of paris | December 13, 2005 05:28 PM

Froomkin in fact represents the true and glorious legacy of the Washington Post, which once upon a time used to stand as a beacon for top reporting in pursuit of the true story. And for standards of journalism and clear thinking.

You, Mr. Harris, represent the "new" and diseased Washington Post, which is fooling no one in its transformation to an entertainment rag (in lockstep with the devolution of the New York Times), a Rovian mouthpiece, and a bastion of muddy, non-critical thinkers like yourself. I'm surprised you'd set yourself up by exposing your weakness this obviously.

Makes me wonder what qualifications one needs to become an editor at the WaPo. In past days, you needed to be the best. Apparently, today it's merely connections, as your professional judgment and capabilities wouldn't cut it at my local paper, let alone at one of the world's greatest traditions.

Posted by: Brock Hotaling | December 13, 2005 05:37 PM


Mr. Harris implies that, were Mr. Froomkin to cover a Democtratic White House with the same vigour he covers the current one, his loyal supporters would sing a different tune.

Ironically, it is clear to any objective observer that Mr. Harris' own desk does not cover the current administration with anything like the vigour applied to the Clinton years, escpecially on issues of honesty. In those days irreverence and skepticism were the norm, now they are the enemies of proper journalism.

Mr. Harris basis his complaints pretty much entirely on speculation and his own assumptions. Sadly, the readers of the Post are basing their criticism of Mr. Harris and his reporters on their actual failures.

Posted by: Bullsmith | December 13, 2005 05:40 PM

Thanks for the good laughs, Mr. Harris. YOU, yourself being the joke.

It's Hard Work being a Bush Courtier, 'eh?

Posted by: BobbyG | December 13, 2005 05:40 PM

The American people deserve a fair free press, not one that caters to special interest masters. It is a disgrace that the Iraq war went so unexamined, that reporters have lost the line between access and subservience, and that the White House hit squad are allowed to target journalists who tell the truth.

Just do your job, please--give us a real newspaper. It is not too late to come clean and start serving your readership.

Posted by: Just gave gift sub--maybe for last year | December 13, 2005 05:42 PM

Harris & Howell: White House Lockstep Doughboys! Cookie Cutter Crumb Buns!

Froomkin, you're too good for this batch of cookies!

Words Up!

Posted by: ccmask | December 13, 2005 05:42 PM

Sweet fancy Moses, no wonder Woodward didn't see a problem with being breast-fed at the bosom of the White House. Apparently this is now what passes for editorial policy.

Mother's milk to the WaPo, indeed. How pathetic.

Posted by: Patrick Thompson | December 13, 2005 05:45 PM

Rather than being a water carrier of baseless Republican accusations against Mr. Froomkin, how about making making sure that the so-called "real" reporters who work under you actually practice journalism rather than stenography. I never realized it was the job of any newspaper in this country, let alone the Post, to be an uncritical source of state propoganda; you, and the "real" reporters under your command, obviously feel differently.

Posted by: Evil Parallel Universe | December 13, 2005 05:46 PM

Hello,
I am a Republican, from a Republican state, but regardless what the official party line appears to be, I read Mr. Froomkin's column daily and have come to respect his ability to capture the essence of what is being said in the world about some topics that I am interested in. Please continue the column.
DD

Posted by: DD | December 13, 2005 05:47 PM

I'm very happy that you want it on the public record that you think Froomkin is considered a biased White House reporter. From what I've read of his work he seems to take on-the-record White House information and compares it to other on-the-record information and let's the reader decide if his occassional remarks are on-the-mark or not.
Unfortunately for you, I believe, is that it is your thinking on this issue that now comes under scrutiny. Rightfully so.
Editorially, it would have been a nice quiet fix to have given a small bio line next to his name explaining his status as "not a Washington Post White House correspondent". Instead you chose to address your consumer demeaning worry in public. For the reader, that information is all the better to judge your thinking by.
Good luck with the paper. I'm not so certain your actions are good for revenues though.

Posted by: Wm. B. Lewis | December 13, 2005 05:48 PM

I've just read the Editor & Publisher article posted today on their website. Harris is quoted as saying:

"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."

It now appears that this whole kapuffle bears all the hallmarks of a heavy-handed attempt from within the administration to silence Dan by questioning the credibility of the Post's White House reporters - like a "guilt by association" charge.

Here's a link to the E&P article:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001659333

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 05:50 PM

Mr. Harris is just another example of so-called reporters doing the bidding of their powerful contacts in the government. The Washington press corps(e) continues to cover itself in glory.

Posted by: M. Messerschmidt | December 13, 2005 05:53 PM

I am unimpressed by Mr Harris' comments about Mr Froomkin. I read his column daily. Perhaps Mr. Harris should write an article, say about Mr. Woodward, a reporter who doesn't report what he knows for his paper!
Trashing Mr. Froomkin is easy, he is in the on-line netherworld..
However, if it is true only politicians and republican operatives are doing the complaining, Mr. Harris, then those are not complaints those are vendettas, and you are carrying them out for political revenge, just like Mr. Woodward when he is calling the special prosecutor names, it paints the paper, on-line and other, as another organization purchased for propoganda. Hmmm, I doubt the paper wants to be seen in that light.

Posted by: TeriM | December 13, 2005 05:56 PM

Dan Froomkin's the best thing about the Post online. I grew up reading the Washington Post and compared all other papers unfavorably to it. It is no longer what it used to be. At least Froomkin is trying to sort out the lies and half-truths being parceled out by this most secretive administration. It seems that DC has become an insular penninsula on which press releases are gospel, spin is truth and truth is in short supply. My late father was a journalist who had a White House press pass from Nixon through Reagan. He is surely spinning in his grave at what passes for objective reporting today.

Posted by: Karen | December 13, 2005 05:56 PM

Mr. Harris, you stink. It is you who is the partisan lackey. My advice to you, is the next time a republican calls you will say 'no sir', instead of 'yes sir'.

Dan Froomkin is way more interesting and informative than you. You are old & tired. He is new and innovative. My second piece of advice to you is: retire.

Posted by: jason in sf | December 13, 2005 05:57 PM

Harris is yellow dog with gop stripes.

Posted by: John in Missouri | December 13, 2005 05:58 PM

The links above prove. It wasn't readers who complained. It was Republicans. Harris and the WH crew are once again, bowing to their masters.

Posted by: toegn | December 13, 2005 05:58 PM

It feels very much like another attempt by the White House to finesse the media and silence a well-read critic to me.

Posted by: Sheri Rogers | December 13, 2005 05:58 PM

Mr Harris,
Thanks for showing us how low your "profession" has gone to plese the White House. Keep your filthy paws off Froomkin

Posted by: Kevin in SF | December 13, 2005 06:00 PM

I have a suggestion. Why not rename the column "the only damn thing in our paper that tells the truth!"

Sincerely

Posted by: Gord Brown | December 13, 2005 06:00 PM

Well now, here is a prime example of how some species eat thier own offspring. Why the Post-Fabricator and its leftist management actually had to clear this up is amazing to me. The paper has been a left wing blowhard mouthpiece for years and now they have to set the record straight and explain that one of thier socialist loving, communist sympathetic, big brother government hacks is not actually a white house beat wretch. Sounds Kerry-esque as in "We supported his liberalism after we denounced his liberalism..." Leftists have never understood human reasoning, and never will.

Posted by: Jim Hill | December 13, 2005 06:01 PM

The WaPo is being castigated for Woodward being a stenographer for the administation; yet Harris is more concerned about the title of a web column.

This man obviously has his priorities straight!

Bark, little GOP boy! Bark!

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 06:03 PM

If we're going to grade the writers at WaPo, let's be fair about it. You should also provide grades for the rest of the WaPo staff, including their professionalism and political tendencies.

If you think that renaming Froomkin's column will change his readership, you're probably mistaken by a wide margin. But singling him out for criticism that won't be applied to the rest of the WaPo staff isn't just unrealistic, it's unfair.

Posted by: dbs_sf | December 13, 2005 06:03 PM

This is so disappointing to me.

I grew up with the Washington Post; I was in my teens when you guys broke Watergate. How the mighty have fallen. Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham never would have knuckled under to White House pressure the way the current Post gang has.

Apparently your problem is that you have a columnist who irritates the White House, but is very popular with readers. The 70s Post would have been elated, and would not have hestitated to tell Nixon's people where to go. The 21st century Post is worried about being expelled from the Cool Kids Club.

In the words of Finley Peter Dunne, "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Today's Post prefers the role of court stenographer.

Posted by: Joe Buck | December 13, 2005 06:04 PM

Sorry, but you're picking on Froomkin? How many people in your news organization knew Scottie was lying when he said that Karl Rove had no involvement in the Valerie Plame leak? And did they share this knowledge with their readers?

And who exactly put Pincus on A17 when he was pointing out that the intel on Weapons of Mass Destruction was being hyped beyond what the facts supported? Are you proud of this editorial decision?

It seems to me that your newspaper has substituted its mission to inform its readers with a courteous deference to the powerful. Froomkin's strength is that he tells his readers what's going on without undue concern for what the President and his men would like the people to think is going on. He's a gadfly.

I thought newspapermen were supposed to prefer gadflies to cynical sycophants. Looks like I was wrong.

Posted by: Theorajones | December 13, 2005 06:06 PM


Can we PLEASE get a new National Politics Editor...oh and maybe a new ombudsman too while you're at it?

I'd love to see their job descriptions 'cause we know "GOP lapdog" isn't part of them....or is it? Its getting hard to tell.

Posted by: Bogart | December 13, 2005 06:12 PM

I have very few reasons to read the WaPo anymore *except* for Froomkin's column. The paper seems to bend over backwards to toady to the administration and its superstar reporter was just criticized nationally as being the "Official Bush Whitehouse Stenographer." Although it was depressing to read the interview with Harris, at least now I know why WaPo has been heading down the drain....

Posted by: OutWest | December 13, 2005 06:12 PM

There's no confusion. Froomkin's column is the only "don't miss" section of the Post.

Posted by: R.M. Smith | December 13, 2005 06:12 PM

without froomkin you're the washingtonpast

Posted by: eric silverstein | December 13, 2005 06:15 PM

after all the insipid thumbsucking from
david broder,richard cohen, jim hoagland
and george will (not to mention the incestuous logrolling of bob woodward and the bootlicking of the post's opinion page), you, mr harris, decide that the problem that needs fixin' is dan froomkin?!?

this is unbelievable. he is one of the few redeeming features left at the post.

do not make the mistake of assuming that we
hoi-polloi have drunk the same kool-aid that you have.

Posted by: david mcclure | December 13, 2005 06:16 PM

Mr. Harris:
I want to echo and reinforce the oft stated comment that Dan Froomkin's column is clearly accessed in the website box labeled OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, COLUMNS and includes BLOGS. Perhaps you should review the website.

It is an insult to the intelligence of the readers of washingtonpost.com to say that we can't distinguish between a reporter's submission and an OPINION column!!! I NEVER mistake George Will or E. J. Dionne as 'reporters'.

Carol Vass
Kent, WA

Posted by: Carol Vass | December 13, 2005 06:17 PM

dear gramps with his knickers in a twist down around his ankles,

the new life is coming and you need to let go of the old.

god is waiting for your love,
your guardian angel

Posted by: deus chrispy | December 13, 2005 06:19 PM

It's getting harder and harder to understand what the established press is about. Criticizing Froomking for being tendentious is beyond silly. I'd heap my criticism on Hoagland any day of the week, year or decade - if that's the point. His tendentious writing got Americans and Iraqis killed, as they created support for an illegitimate act of military aggression on the basis of trumped up charges that Hoagland backed.
As to Froomkin, he's just holding up a mirror to the spectacle of the silliest and most dangerous presidency ever. Something WaPo should have done from the start of Bush's first term, but never got around to. Apparently, kowtowing to the GOP goes first.

Posted by: SteinL | December 13, 2005 06:19 PM

I understand that Mr. Harris' stated problem is with the title of Mr. Froomkin's column and the possible confusion it might bring to glancers of Mr. Froomkin's column (as opposed to his regular readers because if one is a regular reader of Mr. Frookin's, one would within 2 or 3 columns understand that his column is a commentary on the [bad] job that the actual White House reporters are doing). What I don't understand is the public damning of the name of the column.

Because Mr. Harris, if this really was about the name of the column, you wouldn't have written, "If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement. If the answer is no, there is not really a debate: washingtonpost.com 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."

For you, the problem seems to be "should the name of the column be called 'Yankees Watch' if the column is about sportswriters writing about the Yankees. In this I agree with you that the name isn't appropriate. I think the name of Mr. Froomkin's column should be "WANKER WATCH"

Posted by: Sharon | December 13, 2005 06:21 PM

Mr. Harris, we historians are watching and noting the demise of WaPo along with the American free press in general. Please do keep up the silliness. You are giving us historians reams of material for our books.

Posted by: Scott Miller | December 13, 2005 06:22 PM

Harris at WaPo = Tomlinson at Public Broadcasting

Posted by: Naomi Emmich | December 13, 2005 06:24 PM

Let me be the 10,000th, apparently, Washington Post reader to offer my support for Froomkin, who like many good journalists of the past is willing to call bulls**t when he sees it, no matter what party is in charge.

No doubt many of the countless posters have done so already, but maybe Froomkin's snarky guns would be trained on Democrats if they 1) had any power to abuse, obfuscate and outright lie about 2) commanded a 1/100th of the media coverage that is slavishly devoted to Republicans.

Posted by: BV | December 13, 2005 06:25 PM


With the exception of Froomkin, I don't read Washington Post columnists any more, nor do I read the paper's editorials. I believe that the paper bears a heavy burden of guilt for the war in Iraq. You didn't do your job. You're not doing it now. In all sincerity, I say damn you to hell!

Posted by: Dixie P. Myers | December 13, 2005 06:26 PM

So the truth comes out (via the blogs of course.) Harris is responding to WHITE HOUSE complaints and passing it off as a journalistic concern. How very typical.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 06:29 PM


Duh, I have got a solution for you Harris. I'm suprised Rove hasn't mentioned it to you yet...

Let's call it WASHINGTON POST SELECT. We'll bury this Froomkin guy behind a subscription firewall just like Krugman and Dowd. That will teach'em to get lipity about our savior King George.

Now what should we do about Molly Ivins???

Posted by: JimmyRay | December 13, 2005 06:30 PM

They don't call it Pravda on the Potomac for nothing.

Posted by: Dr. J | December 13, 2005 06:32 PM

There seems to be some irremediable defects in Mr. Harris' and Ms. Howell's thought processes. I don't think they should remain in positions of responsibliity.

Posted by: Michael C. Gredell | December 13, 2005 06:32 PM

Dear Mr. Harris-

Perhaps you have forgotten that free speech is one of the pillars that our democracy is built upon. If Mr. Froomkin's column bothers you, then don't read it. If it threatens your access to the halls of power, then tell those people not to read it. It's very, very simple. Freedom of choice.

Perhaps the shadowy figures that manipulate your puppet strings have forgotten that the ability to express dissent is one of the things we are allegedly fighting for in the Middle East. Dan Froomkin's column is the only good thing I've seen come out of the Post in a long time.

I think you deeply underestimate the anger that the public is feeling toward the "journalistic elite" in Washington and beyond. We're tired of the relentless cronyism and water-carrying for the administration. We don't believe anything we read that is anonymously sourced. We don't care if your kids play kickball with Bob Woodward's grandkids. We want to know the truth, which is what used to be a journalist's real mission.

Sincerely,
David Ferguson

Posted by: David Ferguson | December 13, 2005 06:34 PM

Where was John Harris when the President was using distorted intelligence to take the country to war?

Posted by: -asx- | December 13, 2005 06:35 PM

To Washington Post executive management:

Dan Froomkin is exceptional and one can only hope he will soon find a valid and honorable media organization with whom he can continue his outstanding journalism.

Your failures to the Republic and humanity are vast. Your ability to take dictation from Bush's neoconster regime is widely recognized as the nature of comments from Howell, Harris and other stenographers confirm.

Bye.

Posted by: understandinglife | December 13, 2005 06:37 PM

Froomkin is the only part of your paper I trust any more.

Thank you for attacking him. It says my trust is well placed.

Posted by: TonyT | December 13, 2005 06:38 PM


Mr. Harris, in his interview with Jay Rosen (linked above, and a pathetic thing it is) digs his hole deeper and deeper. What Mr. Harris fails to understand is that his readers are not just wondering why he attacks Froomkin, they're starting to wonder why he discourages his own reporters from fact-checking the government. He suggests that most of us who are posting here fail to understand the difference between unbiased reporting and commentary. Perhaps that's because there is so little honest, unbiased reporting about this White House on Mr. Harris' watch.

The White House spreads propaganda freely, and Mr. Harris apparently thinks it's his job to go along with it.

A petulant and arrogant man has been revealed in the last couple of days.

Posted by: Bullsmith | December 13, 2005 06:38 PM

Goodness gracious. Mr. Harris has heard from Republicans that someone who actually reports the news is "tendentious and unfair"?
Well, let's strike down that freedom of the press thingie, what do you call it...a right. Rest of you all at the Post aren't using it anyway.

Mr. Harris, you really need to look at how poorly served the US public has been by your newspaper.
Report the facts, let the chips fall where they may, and be a man about it.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 06:40 PM

Sir,
I have never mistaken Froomkin's writing to be that of a White House Reporter.
His thinking is consise.
His columns are well researched and insightful.
His writing assumes an education beyond the third grade.
In short, it would be difficult to mistake anything in the White House Briefing for the stenography which passes for professional journalism in Washington these days.

Posted by: David McKenzie | December 13, 2005 06:41 PM

I'm from Idaho and I'm not a Democrat, but I'm terrified about what's happening to my country. I look forward to reading Froomkin's column every weekday afternoon because it makes raucous, ecumenical good sense of a very combative area in our government's operations. What I hear in Froomkin's column are reports from a lot of smart observers keeping their several eyes on things that matter. I have never had any problem telling Froomkin's work from the Post's White House reporters; I don't see any of the confusion you lament. And have you read any of the Woodward books lately? Those are full-frontal pathetic - slavishly and dully written. Golly. I value Froomkin's briefing highly. Thanks for hosting it.

Posted by: Marshall Ralph | December 13, 2005 06:43 PM

John, can you produce some of those "examples" you cite which have convinced you that readers are confused about Froomkin?

I can see the title in absence of content or any other information to be possibly misleading, but I have a hard time imagining how someone could actually read the column and not understand what is going on.

This all smells rather funny, man.

Posted by: Examples | December 13, 2005 06:44 PM

Hey, 18,000 wounded, Mr. Harris. Most of them scarred for life, some maimed. Just 2,150 dead.

And you have the balls to criticize Froomkin?! After all you "real reporters and editors" went along with what you knew were criminal lies by the White House about the danger Saddam Hussein posed to the US? You went along because it made you feel as if you were important, rubbing shoulders with all those criminals.

You, Mr. Harris, belong where a lot of the people in this administration appear to be going, and it's not another cocktail party.

Posted by: Rus | December 13, 2005 06:44 PM

So, the White House is threatening access for the Post's "White House Reporters" because they're ticked off at Froomkin? The guy who rightly says the Emperor doesn't have any clothes? And you decide to bark like a trained seal and balance a ball on your nose for them? Stop and consider that maybe the best thing for the paper would be for the "White House Reporters" to have their administration knitting-circle access cut off. Then, like Woodward back in the days of Watergate, they'd have to actually do some reporting and find sources that could tell them truthful information.

Posted by: Garbo | December 13, 2005 06:44 PM


Dear Mr. Harris: You seem to be challenging--explicitly & implicitly--the accuracy and objectivity of Froomkin's writing. What columns, passages, examples do you specifically object to as tendentious, inaccurate, etc.?

As a regular reader of the W. Post for more than four years, I'm puzzled. In that time, I've noted plenty of misguided and false statements in support of the Iraq war and the Bush administraiton by your staff reporters, not to mention columnists such as Jim Hoagland. I have yet to read a Froomking column that wasn't contextualized, accurate, and fair-minded.

So if you can cite some specific problematic examples of Froomkin's alleged bias and inaccuracy please do so. If you can't, maybe you should start reading his column every day and learn something about the spectrum of reporting & opinion (both liberal and conservative) that he offers up.

Or would this kind of primary research and citation be too difficult for you to undertake? Awaiting your reply....

Posted by: chas | December 13, 2005 06:47 PM

I have one ...no, no.....two words for Mr Harris..."Tar and Feathers"!

Posted by: Kathi | December 13, 2005 06:50 PM

I am reminded of a comic from the National Lampoon back in the mid 1970s. It depicted a depression-era pol at a whistle-stop campaign event. The candidate was introduced and stepped onto the observation platform to deliver a stump speech to waiting townsfolk. Suddenly, he produced an enormous rat and started chewing on its neck. Aides hurriedly rushed the disturbed campaigner back into the coach, explaining to the crowd "He's not feeling well." As the distraught handlers huddled inside their compartment, one of the younger staffers offers "Maybe they didn't see him chewing on the rat."

Mr. Froomkin's problem is that he dared notice, and point out, some of the rat-chewing that's been going on since 2001.

Posted by: Stuart Strum | December 13, 2005 06:50 PM

I seem to have missed something. I don't remember when the WaPo announcing it had moved its repoters desk from the White House Press area to the steno pool. Since when did it become your reporters duty to take dictation from the White House and RNC? Do they feel flattered when Rove pats their bottoms for a job well done?

So if the Democrats complain that your insipid he said/she said coverage of the issues is biased, will you publically chastise the reporters?

Posted by: Mark McCaffery | December 13, 2005 06:50 PM

Does all this hoohaw really just boil down to a turf war?

Budget fight?

Posted by: desertwind | December 13, 2005 06:51 PM

Dear Sir: You cur.

Posted by: lesarch | December 13, 2005 06:51 PM

Dear Sir,

We find Mr. Froomkin's column offers the only thinking or balance in a newspaper that has become the PR arm of the White House. Dan's is the only column worth reading in the Washington Post anymore. If you tinker with his column, you clearly show who is the Master of the Washington Post.

Posted by: alternative | December 13, 2005 06:52 PM

Here, I'll come right out and say it, John Harris is the Armstrong Williams of WaPo.

If you don't believe he's take a second salary under the table from the Bush Whitehouse, just 'waterboard'him, pull out a few of his overly long finger nails,and extinguish a cigarette or two on his pale white skin.

He'll scream like a little girl and confess all.

Torture of MSM 'reporters is OK by moi.

Posted by: Gentleman Jim | December 13, 2005 06:54 PM

There was a time when incompetent cheerleaders like Harris were restricted to covering the monthly Jaycees meeting for the Podunk Bugle. It's a measure of how far we as a culture have fallen that he now works for what used to be a great newspaper.

Posted by: Ivor the Engine Driver | December 13, 2005 06:56 PM

Guys, guys. Here's the problem. You're laboring under the supposition that the WaPo is actually supposed to report on "real" news. Clearly, that premise is wrong. Remember the current administration makes its own reality, right?

What does it say to the quality of a country's press when if I want to know what's _really_ going on in the world, I have to turn to blogs, satire (like The Daily Show), or the foreign press? For crying out loud, John Stewart reports more real news in the span of 30 minutes on a COMEDY show than this newspaper does in the course of a freaking week!

Oh, and note to Harris and reporters of his ilk, if you take a White House Press release, and put your byline on it, that still doesn't make it news. I thought that colleges were still teaching about the perils of plagiarism these days, but apparently not.

Posted by: AJA | December 13, 2005 07:00 PM

Stop whoring for this useless administration. Stop now before it gets any worse. Seriously. We don't hate you (okay, I don't), but we are all sick to death of you and others like you whoring yourselves out to an adminstration that needs actual, honest-to-God criticism, not some tame and corrupt press corps to make excuses for it.

That is what is going on here. Please try to get this. Whoring for this corrupt administration is, believe it or not, worse than lying about a blow job.

Posted by: stop the madness | December 13, 2005 07:01 PM

Mr. John Harris,

Excuse me, but do you take us to be COMPLETE IDIOTS.

What reader could possibly express confusion about the title of Froomkin's column? This is a clear fabrication, a silly attempt at manipulating us. Mr. Harris, you are clearly not as smart as you think, and we are not as stupid as you suppose.

Next, you try to convince us that Christians are being bloodied up by a War on Christmas.

Posted by: Cheryl Cohen | December 13, 2005 07:01 PM

embarrassing

Posted by: Bob | December 13, 2005 07:02 PM

Mr. Harris,

Who exactly are these "readers" confused about Froomkin's column? Any regular reader of Dan's column knows that he is not a WH reporter. How do they know? Because he states it on a regular basis-he is crystal clear about his role as the author of "White House Briefing."

Froomkin's column is maybe the last claim the WaPo can make to real, thought-provoking journalism.

Don't touch Dan or "White House Briefing."

Posted by: mc | December 13, 2005 07:02 PM

I recommend you read Anonymous Liberal's entire blog entry on this subject. Here is a portion:

"The problem is that Froomkin's columns don't conform to the artificial format now followed religiously by nearly every mainstream White House reporter. In an effort to avoid accusations of bias, the political reporters at all the major news outlets (except, of course, Fox) rigidly adhere to the so-called "balanced narrative" style of journalism. All issues are presented in a 'Republicans say X, Democrats say Y' format. This is true even when X or Y is patently absurd, or when anyone of even moderate intelligence can see right through the claims being made by one side or the other. Needless to say, this style of political journalism has some fairly major flaws. Most significantly, it makes it nearly impossible for journalists to call a lie a lie. It's an open invitation for the unscrupulous (*cough* Rove *cough*) to make a joke of our political discourse. When all that readers are presented with is differing narratives, suddenly even the facts are up of grabs; the very concept of objective truth all but disappears."
Anonymous Liberal 12/12/05

Posted by: Pollyusa | December 13, 2005 07:02 PM

Well, we can write off the venerable WaPo - gone to comfort the comfortable and empower the powerful. Rest in Peace.

Posted by: Ralph Dosser | December 13, 2005 07:03 PM

It's pretty much all been said (with inspiring vigor in the face of a pitiful situation) in the above. So I'll just add my name in hopes that Post execs will start to appreciate the sheer numbers of people horrified by it's editorial decisions and "executive mediations." (That's what I gather an ombudsman does.)

Posted by: Steve in Madison WI | December 13, 2005 07:03 PM

Harris,
So you're scared that if Froomkin continues to tell the truth, you and your reporters will not get treasured access to the "inside" stories.
I'd say that you and your reporters have failed spectacularly to see through the lies of this administration, and your access is of less than no value to your readers. I don't care if they run you out of the briefing room. At least then we wouldn't have to put up with your stenography.

Posted by: Joe in Louisiana | December 13, 2005 07:04 PM

Mr. Harris,
Change the name of your paper to
"The Washington Presidential Doormat" so as to be more accurate and to prevent reader confusion.

Posted by: ArtShu | December 13, 2005 07:09 PM

The poor uppity peons are confused. Feh.

Mr. Harris, it's very clear where your loyalties are. This, in my opinion, makes you an enemy of democracy and of the United States Constitution. Instead of changing the name of Mr. Froomkin's column, why don't you change the name of the Washington Post to Pravda.

Posted by: LindyH | December 13, 2005 07:11 PM

Why, Mr. Harris, are you kowtowing to the Bush Administration? They've received the favor of your paper, to the detriment of this country and the rest of the planet, for five years. Why punish one of the few Post reporters (or vaunted book-writing, Larry-King-yapping editors) who stands up for facts and honest investigation? The reporting of your paper has real-world consequences, Mr. Harris. Thanks in part to its egregious past errors, thousands of people have died in Iraq. Don't you think the WaPo owes it to them to correct the errors of the past by showing a bit more skepticism toward those in power?

Posted by: realitique | December 13, 2005 07:12 PM

I'm beginning to think it's not just a case of Harris, et al currying favor with the Bush administration; i.e., coverage tailored to the White House's message in exchange for access.

I think it's more a case of Harris, et al. being part and parcel of that travesty at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. These guys buy into what they report!

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 07:12 PM

Mr. Harris, did you learn of this "confusion" over breakfast at the St. Regis? Was it breakfast in bed?

Posted by: pete h | December 13, 2005 07:14 PM

It seems this country is headed down a very very dark road when those demanding accountability of the people and party in power are referred to as "partisan" and "liberal" and when (formerly) well-thought-of newspapers (like WaPo) pledge their allegiance to those in power instead of to the people and to the truth.

And so it seems that Dan Froomkin has not only exposed the dirty underbelly of the Bush Administration and the Republican party, he is making the rightwing sycophant propagandists at the Washington Post extremely uncomfortable, isn't he? - and squirmy enough to do what all republicans do - attack the messenger and accuse him of their own sins.

Mr. Harris and the rest of you dishonest so-called journalists are not long for this business - America is on to you and you are on your way out - good riddance - democracy doesn't need or want you!

Posted by: Sharon Nichols | December 13, 2005 07:14 PM

Krauthammer. Cohen. Broder. Applebaum.

And Harris is worried about the paper's credibility? Please.

Posted by: nobody | December 13, 2005 07:16 PM

Mr. Harris:

Why not simply rein in Mr. Froomkin and his bothersome opinions, change the name of his blog to "AP Newswire", and leave it at that?

No more pesky "liberal bias", no more starry-eyed neophytes mistakenly scanning the White House press room for the Godot-like Froomkin--just good ol' fashioned, straight-shooting news information, carefully filtered and sanitized for our protection.

Why, readers would flock to the Post if you did this, I'm sure.

(Putz.)

Posted by: Tom | December 13, 2005 07:16 PM

The newspaper that removed Richard Nixon from office is afraid of the Bush White House.

Posted by: Ross Smith | December 13, 2005 07:17 PM

This is excerpted from the discussion Nicholas linked to(thank-you!) at 5:05 PM today:

Q: What sort of complaints or reactions have the political writers received (and from whom) that would lead them to think that White House Briefing is harming their credibility?

John Harris: I don't keep a running log, but I regularly run across people who think Dan is one of our White House reporters. One of them was a very news-saavy source of mine who actually runs campaigns. That tells me there is a large chunk of readers--I'm not saying most but a lot--who are not clear who he is and that he is writing as a commentator and not a White House reporter.

So WAS it Karl? Tell us, John.

Posted by: Karin | December 13, 2005 07:17 PM

Mr. Harris - you should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: Dondi in CA | December 13, 2005 07:17 PM

Ruffini?
Are you frigging kidding me?
You might as well have referred to PowerLine.

Posted by: Steve J. | December 13, 2005 07:18 PM

I too read some of the blogs but I also read papers like the Post. I want both. I think the Post has done a great job of breaking some big stories and I want them to continue to do so. I also feel that some of the blogs have broken some good stories as well.

I think that this whole Froomkin situation is very unfortunate. I wish that Ms. Howell & Mr. Harris had never made the comments they did about Mr. Froomkin.

I fear that because of their attacks on Froomkin (and their perceived indirect attacks on his readers)they give readers the wrong impression about the Post. Any damage that Howell & Harris feel Froomkin causes the Post has certainly been doubled in my mind by their rush to judgement about him.


Hey, I have an idea. It is a modification of the idea that Mr. Harris & Ms. Howell seem to support.

Why doesn't the Post keep the White House Briefing column name and just make the 3 WH reporters, under the direction of Mr. Harris, write it instead of Froomkin? And then let Mr. Froomkin continue to write his column under a different title. This arrangement should certainly enable everyone to see which column has the most news about the WH and it should also prevent any reader from being confused about who is the assigned Post WH reporters.

Posted by: pmorlan | December 13, 2005 07:18 PM

Mr. Harris:
Perhaps it has occurred to you by now that your esteemed White House reporters are not so esteemed after all. Dan Froomkin provides much needed balance to your paper's otherwise conservative and WH stenographic bent-and don't you dare claim that Broder is "left of center"-he most certainly is not.
Leave Dan and his column alone.

Posted by: Kevster | December 13, 2005 07:19 PM

By the way, if the Post decides to add a "conservative" blogger I hope they will also add a "liberal" blogger. In my mind Mr. Froomkin is neither conservative nor liberal and it would be a great mistake to add a conservative blogger without adding a liberal one. Oh, and don't forget to label those columns so that some of those readers that Mr. Harris hears from aren't confused.

Posted by: pmorlan | December 13, 2005 07:23 PM

I see you received your marching orders from the White House Mr. Harris.

Posted by: AD | December 13, 2005 07:24 PM

Mr Harris, Maybe the White House will let you attend their special ethics classes.

Posted by: memberofthejury | December 13, 2005 07:25 PM

Froomkin accounts for 30% or greater of the times I go to your paper. You do make money from advertising, right?

Posted by: cdc | December 13, 2005 07:29 PM

Mr. Harris, shame on you. Why don't you stand up like a man and attack Froomkin directly, instead of making such silly claims that defy logic. You know that there is no real problem with real readers being confused by the title of Froomkin's column. By insulting our intelligence in such a blatant way, you discredit yourself.

Posted by: Donna in DC | December 13, 2005 07:29 PM

John Harris isn't a reporter ferreting out the truth. Harris simply takes the White House talking points gets a quote or two from anonymous sources and turns in his homework. Harris epitomizes the laziness that permeates journalism today. Reporting facts and the truth is secondary. Presenting balance is mandatory whether it includes the truth or not. Mr. Harris spend less time worrying about the title of a online column and more time educating readers what's really happening at the White House!

Posted by: Barry G. Potomac, MD | December 13, 2005 07:31 PM

Mr. Harris,

Liberal bias my a**. If you want to carry water for the White House you should be on their payroll. Opps, maybe you are?

Posted by: mhoughton | December 13, 2005 07:31 PM

Apparently Mr. Downie has now clarified that this phony brouhaha is all a result of a White House complaint.

What a surprise. Thanks for keeping the Post tradition of independence alive.

Posted by: Brooklyn NY | December 13, 2005 07:31 PM

I am interest in your opinion of Mr. Woodward's "reporting" - fair and balanced is it???

Posted by: RON | December 13, 2005 07:31 PM

If the Washington Post's top political editor has his head this far up the administration's tush (based on what he's written), then the Post is much further down the rabbit hole than I had ever imagined. As someone who grew up in the Washington area, I am deeply saddened.

What the Post and number of other mainstream papers haven't figured out is that the public no longer trusts them. We now depend on the bloggers to sort through what the mainstream press is saying, filter out the stenographic, anonymously-sourced tripe, analyze and correct what factual erors have been made, and save us all a lot of trouble and grief. Without the bloggers, we'd be next to helpless - because who has the time every day to search for and dig out the little nuggets of truth from our own daily paper?

Keep Froomkin. Send Woodward and Harris out to pasture. These two are clueless.

Posted by: Mike Cromer | December 13, 2005 07:33 PM

Mr. Harris,

For the edification of the readers of the Washington Post online, could you please give us a line up of your opinion columnists?

Which liberal columnist is it whose job is to balance George Will?

Which liberal columnist is it whose job is to balance Charles Krauthammer?

Does EJ Dionne do double duty?

Do you consider David Broder liberal? I don't, btw.

How do you determine whether a columnist is liberal or conservative?

Do you have a rating system, so that, say, a columnist who is a 10 on the conservative scale needs to be balanced by two 5s on the liberal scale?

WTF!

Posted by: Cal Gal | December 13, 2005 07:35 PM

Maybe if WaPo political reporters were doing something besides practicing stenography this whole hullabaloo wouldn't be such a big deal.

Why should we trust John Harris when he is more concerned about what Bush officials think than what his readers think?

Posted by: John Ronan | December 13, 2005 07:36 PM

I would ask the Lord Harris, if I may, sir. If swain Froomkin has made any mistakes in his blog - egregious errors, or even trivial misteps? Has the lad used the site to spread falsehoods? If so, what are they?

On the other hand if you would like a list of the print Post's sloppy reporting and irresponsible shading of the facts or complete obsfucation - can you spell "Woodward"? - I could happily provide a list beginng with the run up to this neat little war.

Posted by: D.V.Wesselmann | December 13, 2005 07:38 PM

Mr. Harris, your "accountability reporting" staff has only a tad more credibility than Jeff Gannon. The Post seems to forget that you are suppose to be accountable to your readers and to journalistic ethics, not to the White House.

I hope it is starting to sink in that a lot of loyal Post readers feel like you just gave us the middle finger.

Woodward disdain's the public, because he is an egomaniac. You disdain the public because you are simply a jerk.

Posted by: Rich Cohen | December 13, 2005 07:40 PM

I just wonder if Mr. Harris is required to disclose any payments he receives from the GOP, or if it is merely assumed, in present-day D.C., that editors are in the pocket of the RNC.

Posted by: Stephen | December 13, 2005 07:40 PM

WaPo has been shilling for the WH for so long that they seem incapable of recognizing the real gem they have in Froomkin.

Posted by: syvanen | December 13, 2005 07:42 PM

Don't be a "water carrier" for the "White House". Stand up for journalistic integrity!

Posted by: Mike White | December 13, 2005 07:42 PM

Good god almighty. Could you people make it any more clear that your only goal in this whole armwave is to placate the Bush Administration?

"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."

And of course we won't be considering any ulterior motives here, will we Mr. Harris?


"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 after all, our White House reporters have all those well earned calluses on their knees. And because we can't piss off the people responsible for the manuscripts of all Woodward's books, now can we Mr. Downie?

Jeebus, just change the name to Bush Hagiographers, Inc. and be done with it.

Posted by: Susan Cosgrove | December 13, 2005 07:43 PM

Mr. Harris,
Please, don't let the White House push you around. That's not what journalism is for.

I thought Josh Marshall said it pretty well:

"The first point, it seems to me, is that reading one or two of Froomkin's columns would disabuse all but the most foolish readers of any notion that he's a White House reporter. Even if he were, he's clearly not writing news copy. It's an anthology of items appearing around the web. And it uses humor and opinion. I think that's clear to anyone who's familiar with the various genres of writing that have grown up on the web over the last few years.

As for balancing Froomkin with a conservative blogger, can't we just match him with Jim Hoagland and it call it a draw? That would be pretty generous, I think. Has there ever been any accounting for all the misinformation Hoagland (presumably) unintentionally spread through his column? And what about all the stuff he's made up since then to cover for the earlier baloney? Who balances him? Who balances Howie Kurtz's sometimes myopic focus on 'liberal bias'? How about the fact that an editor at the Wapo.com recently intentionally tilted a scandal story to include more Democrats than the facts would bear so as to make the story appear more 'balanced'?

More to the point, with all that has happened to journalism and this country in the last three years -- or perhaps just the Post in the last few weeks -- is this really all the Post's ombudsman can think to concern herself with?"

Is the real problem that Froomkin doesn't display the proper degree of fealty to Our Dear Leader?

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 07:44 PM

I feel obliged to write something considering the following quote from Harris:
"The mood of the press corps was oftentimes kind of sour -- sour in both directions. People tend to forget, for understandable reasons because the Lewinsky scandal was such a sensational affair, that 1997 was in its own way a very sullen, snippy, disagreeable year in the relationship between the White House and the press. Most news organizations -- the Washington Post included -- were devoting lots of resources, lots of coverage, to the campaign fund-raising scandal which grew out of the '96 campaign, and there were a lot of very tantalizing leads in those initial controversies. In the end they didn't seem to lead anyplace all that great.But there were tons of questions raised that certainly, to my mind, merited aggressive coverage."
I know that it has been mentioned above but it should be thrown in his face as many times as it takes to make him understand.

Warmest Regards,

Qing

Posted by: qingl78 | December 13, 2005 07:44 PM

If Harris et al. are concerned that readers are mistaking Froomkin's column with the work of reporters who actually go to the White House (as if that signified much), the solution's simple: say "Froomkin doesn't actually go to the White House" up top. No one will care -- and the hitcounts will prove it. And they know it.

If Harris et al. are concerned that Froomkin is (boo!) "liberal," the solution's simple: "balance" his column with a conservative. No one will care -- and the hitcounts will prove it. And they know it.

Maybe Harris et al. should do what the NYT did to shut up Krugman: put Froomkin behind a pay wall.

Posted by: "An anonymous source" | December 13, 2005 07:47 PM

What kind of an editor runs down his staff in public? One who wants him gone. I can't figure out whether or not Froomkin would be better off staying on or leaving for greener pastures. Let's get rid of you instead. Hell, the Post doesn't even matter anymore, didn't you get the news?

Posted by: mistersnappy | December 13, 2005 07:49 PM

Wow!

Mr. Harris, you really need to get out of the bubble a little more often! You are so pretentious and arrogant, you risk alienating everyone outside of D.C. who reads the Washington Post. Mr. Froomkin does not need to be balanced by a conservative blogger. Have you not noticed the fact that most of the Main Stream Media, especially Cable News, is heavily skewed to the right? Mr. Froomkin, in contrast, is not "skewed" to the left; he simple holds politicians and powerbrokers accountable.

Posted by: Joan | December 13, 2005 07:51 PM

Mr. Harris:

You state in your response: ". . . but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose."

Foolish me; I thought that was the job of reporters -- to maintain an adversarial relationship with the institutions they cover, as opposed to being stenographers.

Thanks for setting us all straight. At the Post you look for stenographers first and people who through their reporting will "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" second, if at all.

P.S. For the edification of your readers, please identify the reporters you refer to when you allege: "But these are the very same reporters who are raising objections to 'White House Briefing'." (You can skip Bob Woodward of course.) Or do their identities (if they in fact exist)fall under the heading of "anonymous sources"?

Posted by: fbg46 | December 13, 2005 07:53 PM

Hey I just stopped by to say goodbye! The Washington Post no longer qualifies as even a drive by.

Posted by: hoisted petard | December 13, 2005 07:54 PM

I do really hope Harris, et al., read every single one of these comments and take them to heart.

I am old enough to remember when Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham ran an honest-to-God real newspaper, devoted to the purpose for which our founders laid out the reasons a democracy absolutely requires a free press.

In so many ways over the past decade, you have totally abdicated any pretense you may have had that The Washington Post still serves that purpose.

Posted by: Sue in Kentucky | December 13, 2005 07:55 PM


I don't see Mr. Harris as being upset with Dana Milbanks's Oh So Personal Take on the news, and frankly, I never know whether to read Milbank as opinion, news, or (more likely) political gossip.

Let's be clear -- WaPo has FAILED its readers on the WMD story,. It FAILED its readers on the war, It FAILED its readers in covering the 2000 elections. It FAILED in covering voter fraud in 2004. With a record like THAT, what can we hope for, what can we trust the Post to actually get right? The unrepentent Washington Post is on that long, lonely slide into being an unofficial organ of the Republican Party, and people like the obtuse Mr. Harris are necessary lubricants for this speedy descent into hell.

Posted by: Tab King-Khan | December 13, 2005 07:57 PM

It is this kind of blindness by bigfoot journalists that is making them more and more irrelevant.

Definition of a White House Reporter: Jeff Gannon.

This is why the newspapers are losing readership to the blogs, and why Jon Stewart is a far better source of news than the old standbys.

Posted by: Jim Hassinger | December 13, 2005 07:58 PM

Trash the truth? The insanity of "since I disagree with you you are a traitor" and various permutations flouted by the Republican right (aka O'Reilly, Hannity, and now Harris) over NOTHING but a digest of what is current and topical is, well, absurd but probably effective in the past 10 years of disintegration of civility in the Repug's rise (and now imminent fall). The Rovians have indeed trashed dissent, scared the MSM, and floated trash (McCain & S Carolina anyone?) all to their benefit .. until now one hopes. Of COURSE there are numerous anti-Repug "talking points" in the news. My God, Delay indicted, Libby indicted, Abramoff unfolding, Diebold imploding, Iraq a world crisis, the US Military beholden to its civilian (Prez, Rummy, VP of Torture and other wing-nuts) control. We are helpless witnesses to what the concentrated power has wielded, Thank GOD there are voices available to rally around what is TRUE and not partisan. So STOP with the partisan Froomkin-is-an-anything. He digests and reports patterns and links. I suppose that makes him dangerous? To whom? To democracy? To the First Amendment? Pullleeeze.

Posted by: Henry Bennett | December 13, 2005 07:58 PM

Be fair - Harris only partly agrees with Ruffini. He's balanced like a proper WH correspondent should be. He always sees validity in both sides of the argument. He's only partly deluded. Far be it for WP readers to be fully deluded or not at all deluded.

Posted by: anon | December 13, 2005 07:58 PM

Hi John....

Alert! Alert! You don't get it, do you? Most of your readers (no, not just the ones you think are "loony left") don't think your WH staff is doing its job, and are angry.

Froomkin did not admit to "adversarial" writing, he admitted to doing his job. You are setting up a straw-man so you can do the bidding of the "complainers" and get rid of him.

Why not just change the name to "White House View", have a once a month disclaimer at the bottom of his column saying he is not "covering the WH", tell your anonymous "complainers" to Shut Up and go do their jobs, and go back to your desk, drink your latte, and wait for the next call from Ken Mehlmen.

You should pay very, very close attention to what is going on here, John. 38% of the US thinks this POTUS is good, the rest of the US is really concerned. You are not covering the news that matters to the majority of us, and you continue to insult the Majority of the Majority with "coverage" that tries to "balance" blatant WH falsehoods with a few salient "facts.

If I were you, I would really look in the mirror and ask myself if I had really done MY JOB the last 4-5 years.

Stop taking Melhman's calls.

Posted by: Mark | December 13, 2005 08:00 PM

After watching Mr. Vandehei on Hardball I wasn't very impressed by the Post's reporting. But the most remarkable thing was Mr. Downie's comment that he didn't want the White House to be confused by Mr. Froomkin's column. Whom is the Post working for?

Posted by: Douglas Cracraft | December 13, 2005 08:01 PM

"John Harris: I don't keep a running log, but I regularly run across people who think Dan is one of our White House reporters. One of them was a very news-saavy source of mine who actually runs campaigns. That tells me there is a large chunk of readers--I'm not saying most but a lot--who are not clear who he is and that he is writing as a commentator and not a White House reporter."

Hey! Guess what Mr. Harris? I don't believe one word of that.

How's that for credibility?

Posted by: hello | December 13, 2005 08:03 PM

Mr. Harris:

First off, please be aware that those of us accepting the new contours of the millenium who indulge in reading our news electronically are in fact LITERATE. So the word "Opinion" with the colon clue us all into the fact that Froomkin's column will feature his POV.

Secondly, anyone who reads Mr. Froomkin knows he is not one of your White House reporters--he carefully attributes all of the news bits he gathers to the sources he gathered them from. When he interjects himself, there is no obfuscation, it is clear that his readers are hearing his voice.

Which would force me to assume that those people who think he is one of your White House reporters are in fact ILLITERATE. And you probably shouldn't worry too much about them because alas they are non-readers.

And this horrific phrase "liberal prism" which many commenters here have taken you to task for...As one of the Post editors, you might want to look into the Luskin prism which colors all of your Rove/Plamegate stories. We are not stupid, Fitzgerald is tight-lipped and Luskin is the only one giving you information but for goodness sake, do you job, investigate, try to find the other side.

And as others have said, but which can not be said enough, with what prism were you editing this paper when you stuck Pincus' groundbreaking stories in the way back of the A section.

For shame, Mr. Harris. Do your job better and let Mr. Froomkin continue to do the amazing job he has been doing.

Posted by: The Rejectionist | December 13, 2005 08:05 PM

You are not interested in your readers except those in the White House as the WP made clear: ""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

John Harris: "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."

JFC! Most of the news article and columns in your entire paper have become tendentious and unfair in my opinion but because I happen to be a reader who is not a Republican at your cocktail parties you are unconcerned about that?

Posted by: Gary Denton | December 13, 2005 08:06 PM

Dear Mr Harris, I am dismayed that you should label Froomkin tendentious but not Kurz, who attempts hamfistedly to hide his bias behind a sickly facade of objectivity. Sorry but I just don't know WHAT has happened to the WaPo in recent years. You seem determined to undermine one of the few real assets your newspaper has left.

Posted by: Jim Roscoe | December 13, 2005 08:07 PM

What a spirited bunch of comments. Makes me feel optimistic about our country again.

The trick is, Froomkin may or may not be liberal. What he does is present "He said, she said" in an amusing and insightful way. If he has an ideology, I haven't detected it: unless, of course, in the Bush view, the facts are biased.

Posted by: Jim Hassinger | December 13, 2005 08:07 PM

Hi,

As a stockholder of the Post Company, could you do me a favor and refrain from being so stupid? Attacking the readers and insulting their intelligence does not help your journalistic reputation and it's incredibly bad business sense.

Posted by: KevinNYC | December 13, 2005 08:09 PM

Mr. Harris:
For future reference, so that WaPo readers are no longer confused about the Paper's reportage and opinion, I feel it is important that the WaPo masthead and website rightfully identify you as: Washington Post Political Editor and White House Apologist, Robert Harris. I think that this would elimate confusion about whom you regard as WaPo's core constituency, and will probably spare you future angry feedback from the Post's uniformed and silly readership.

Cordially Yours,
A Confused Reader

Posted by: Bruce | December 13, 2005 08:09 PM

Well, now we know on which side of the aisle the National Political Editor of The Washington Post sits. We also know that an online-only blogger at the same information outlet is often "irreverent" and sometimes "adversarial."

Which of these items is more important to those who take their news seriously and their blogs with a touch of irreverence and humor?

Posted by: DM | December 13, 2005 08:12 PM

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters."

I didn't know the words reporter and stenographer were synonyms. Where can I find a copy of your dictionary?

Posted by: clonecone | December 13, 2005 08:16 PM

Mr. Harris--

Rather than change the name of Mr. Froomkin's column, perhaps you could shame him by letting him be your only writer without a (trademarked) "White House Seal of Approval." OK, really, it's the "Republicam Seal of Approval," but the first one has more cache.

Posted by: Calling All Toasters | December 13, 2005 08:16 PM

I read Froomkin every day and find him the most refreshing and honest of the bloggers--just wish many of the Post's "premier" journalists had the courage to report honestly instead of being concerned about losing access.

Posted by: Margarete Mann | December 13, 2005 08:18 PM

Hey, John, is it cool living in the Bubble?

Posted by: garyb50 | December 13, 2005 08:18 PM

Harris,

Questioning a republican president makes you a liberal. Does questioning a democratic president make you a conservative? How many Whitewater stories did your paper print during the Clinton years?

Posted by: clonecone | December 13, 2005 08:20 PM

Sad, isn't it, when a national political reporter for that great newspaper, the Washington Post, is exposed as a gutless wonder. First John Harris tries to show off to his White House 'bosses' by trying to do an end run around his own editors -- who obviously have already heard and ignored the White House's Froomkin complaints -- by tricking the new so-called ombudsman into bringing up the complaint in print. And then when this pissing contest backfires because Froomkin and his bosses still don't fold, Harris starts blaming the whole mess on his coworkers, saying that he was only passing along THEIR complaints, and implying that these nameless other reporters want Froomkin fired.
Sad.

Posted by: Cathie Fornssler | December 13, 2005 08:23 PM

Having looked at the conservative blogger you refer to as presenting a "not far-fetched" view, I am appalled. That guy is a paid Bush/Cheney flack spewing whatever bile he can think up. And you stick with him above a witty and informative contributor to the Post online.

What would ya'll bet this started with a phone call from a Bush official and a threat about access. This is the new Washington Post. Sad.

Posted by: Eli Brennan | December 13, 2005 08:24 PM

"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. And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."

It's clear now why Downie backed up Woodward so much. It's not about the readers, or only as an afterthought, it's about the keeping the administration happy.

Posted by: Disgusted Reader | December 13, 2005 08:26 PM

Harris -

You're way off base. Anybody with one-tenth of a brain recognizes that Froomkin's column is not reporting. Let's see: it's a regular feature, under his name and with his image attached, just like a regular columnist! Plus, his column is located in the op-ed section of the website.

Let's see... there must be more clues, but we don't need them.

Do you think WaPo readers are children or something?

Why are you attacking Froomkin? He might be the best columnist you have.

R Crane
Tacoma WA

Posted by: R Crane | December 13, 2005 08:27 PM

Mr. Harris:

You wrote---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.

Are you truy serious man? Neither the White House reporters at the Washington Post, nor any major news organization has done much at all by way of holding this White House accountable. Why the very idea would be laughable if it weren't so scandalous. You simply cannot imagine the contempt your organzation and most other corporate media organizations are held in today by everyone across the political spectrum. this by the way is not, as many journalists like to fantasize--proof that you must be doing something right. There used to be a large bloc of informed Americans who defended the press precisely because the press did attempt to hold government accountable but those numbers have dwindled very low because they no longer can do so in good conscience because you simply no longer challenge malignant power such as this corrupt Repubican administratin and its corrupt Republican Congress. In hindsight it seems rather clear that the Washington Post and other formerly great papers stopped being the protectors of the public interest after Watergate. Like Woodward himself, you and your colleagues are little more than courtiers and stenographers with few exceptions. One of those exceptions would be Froomkin who is unafraid to point out that the King has no clothes. Wish the rest of you had that kind of integrity, but you clearly do not. Out here in flyover country we like to see people call em as they see em. We don't like to see people so jaded by their pursuit of their careers, money and potential fame whoring themselves to the powerful as the press has so dutifully done since this criminal gang entered the White House. Go ahead and relabel Froomkin's column but don't, please, please don't try to argue that anyone with a lick of sense would ever think the he is/was/might be on the White House beat. We all know that those jobs (like yours) are reserved for the meek and the bootlickers among you. It's a shame you folks can only find the courage of challenging the powerful when the stakes are exposing some extramarital affair as opposed to oh, let's say an obviously illegal and immoral war justified by blatant and intentional lies or perhaps an equally illegal and immoral policy of torture, secret detention and other totalitarian style crimes. And of course, this doesn't even include the grotesque and treasonous outing of an undercover CIA agent by the highest levels of personnel at the White House.

May God cause the scales to be lifted from your eyes and those of your colleagus so that you may see your duty is to the nation and the truth instead of the wealth and power of this corrupt Republican regime you have been coddling nigh on five full years.

Posted by: O. L. Brotherton | December 13, 2005 08:27 PM

If the following quote by Len Downie is true, and I'm sure it is, then your motive would appear to be self-evident: Bootlicker.

>"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."<

Posted by: landreau | December 13, 2005 08:28 PM

HarrisBot

Please start working for your readers and not for the GOP.

Thank you.

Posted by: Cliff Varnell | December 13, 2005 08:30 PM

Harris, f*ck the doomed.

Posted by: R. Nixon | December 13, 2005 08:32 PM

Q: You say, "The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work." What kind of obstacle do you mean?

Oh Mr. Harris! You didn't actually answer this question. Would you care to do so here, now?

I didn't think so.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 08:32 PM

You say the confusion about Dan's column creates about the reporter's role has become an obstacle to your work...

Is it possible that's because your work has become so much that of carrying water for the White House?

You guys need to remember something said in the the past when another cheesy politician was finally held accountable for his lies and smears... "At long last, sir. At long last have you no shame?!"

Posted by: John B. | December 13, 2005 08:33 PM

So, Rover put a hit out on Froomkin. Hopefully it will backfire big time, as all the people newly acquainted with Froomkin's column by this unmitigated PR disaster for the Post will now start reading Froomkin, even if they do stop reading the rest of WaPo.

So go ahead and change the goddamned name already. If that's truly what this attack on Froomkin's column were all about it would have been silently done with little or no fanfare.

Your bias and real intent are showing, Mr. Harris.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 08:33 PM

Oh my god! They are just gonna make hay with your PressThink interview.

So, how did you EVER get such a powerful, high-paying job in the first place?

http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/12/13/frm_qa.html

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 08:36 PM

It sure sounds like John Harris got a call from Karl Rove.

Posted by: Izzy | December 13, 2005 08:36 PM

As the New York Times self-destructs, there is a real opportunity for the Washington Post to become the nation's leading newspaper. Instead, with obsequious toadies like Mr. Harris, it ought to just change its name to PRAVDA. And perhaps the paper's new slogan could be "Never Unfair to Those in Power."

Steve Jung

P.S. When did Mr. Harris leave behind the heady days of his youth, pursuing unfounded rumors against the occupants of the White House -- oh, say about January 2001?

Posted by: Steve Jung | December 13, 2005 08:37 PM

Truth to Power, Mr Harris. Where IS the balance

Posted by: Helen Driscoll | December 13, 2005 08:39 PM

Suggested retitle to Froomkin's blog:

"Round-up from the White House Briefing Room."

Dan reports (yes "reports") on what those who actually DO go to briefings say, in writing. As many above have attested, the actual "reporting" that's done by those IN the briefing room is often sycophantic or just plain lazy in its "he said/she said" reporting of "both" sides.

Hey, when the Emperor has no clothes, it's not "fair and balanced" to say "some say he has clothes on and some say he does not." Go out and find out if he has clothes on, damn it, instead of just asking interested observers!!

Posted by: Cal Gal | December 13, 2005 08:43 PM

Dan Froomkin's column is one of the very few reasons I still come to read WaPo's website.

And for some strange reason that even I cannot fully understand, I am still subscribed to your paper version (must be Friday's Weekend supplement and my wife's obsession with reading obituaries).

Listen guys, if you are really so committed to becoming completely irrelevant as you follow the designs of BushCo, let me know asap. That way I can save a few dollars by cutting my subscription, and a lot of time by going straight to the blogs. About the obituaries and the Friday thing, I am sure we can manage.

Posted by: Nick Guzman | December 13, 2005 08:45 PM

Good lord... to think my subscription is paying your salary.

Posted by: Eliot Watts | December 13, 2005 08:48 PM


Mr. Harris: I see you have taken to quoting the webmaster of the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign as representative criticism of Dan Froomkin's column. You seem to endorse not only his right to criticize but the substance of the criticisms in you comments.

So I'm wondering, when will you be seeking comment from the webmaster (or similar position) from the Kerry/Edwards campaign on their critique of Howard Kurtz's column. And then using their critique to suggest some changes in Mr. Kurtz's often pro-Bush administration column. If not, why not? Fair is fair, right?

Posted by: frank | December 13, 2005 08:53 PM

It's the Bubble, stupid.

Wake up and get with the program. It's 2005. Nobody will continue to waste their time with the echo chamber routine of old school "journalists" who are really so scaredy-scared of W and Karlio and who care more about Grey Goose and weenies. Not when there are so many really great bloggers out there who are asking questions and researching answers and checking facts. You know, independent thinkers. So sorry. Everyone has already moved on.

Harris, Wayward, St. Judy, Chickenbone, etc., etc. can kiss their sad little wannabe ass-kissing careers goodbye.

Posted by: meta | December 13, 2005 08:54 PM

Ditto to most of what has been said-do you think its the air in DC?
The WHite House Post!!!!!!!!!!

Truth Mr. Harris. Verifiable. Reality.
It will smack your faithful every time.
Wonder why Iraq is going poorly? How about you can't win if you don't understand where you are, who you are and who it is you are fighting.

Posted by: ruffian | December 13, 2005 08:55 PM

John is it really worth it?
Where is that Jimmy Olsen- like young turk named "Johnny" we remember ready to take on the man? We miss him.

Are the hot pockets on the Georgetown cocktail circuit that tasty??

Posted by: John Harris - Access "Journalist" | December 13, 2005 08:57 PM

With his added comments and interview with Jay Rosen, I want to thank Mister Harris for making clear what a lot of citizens have suspected, that the Washington Post exists to serve the political and media Establishment in this country, not it's readers. So, readers, stop reading the Washington Post, it's not meant for you anyway!

Posted by: The Third Policeman | December 13, 2005 09:00 PM

Dan Froomkin reminds me, in his willingness to question authority, of Andrew Sullivan. While WHB is limited to the administration, Sullivan's Daily Dish calls the administration, the congress and the religious right on their misstatements/lies.

Whether Froomkin an Sullivan are liberal or conservative is irrelevant. They both are holding up their lantern looking for an honest man.

Posted by: James Ehrler | December 13, 2005 09:04 PM

Okay, maybe Harris has a point about the name of the column. But he's still an ass, Howell is an ass. I'm an ass too for taking so much joy in all of this.

Posted by: Dave Marks | December 13, 2005 09:06 PM

Mr. Harris says: "The very idea of independent reporting, in which a reporter is trying to cover news and institutions without an agenda"


I got news for you Mr. Harris. Truth, reality, and the calling-out of spin is not "an agenda".

Posted by: hello | December 13, 2005 09:07 PM

Boy, I bet the WH is really loving this discussion. They get to sit back and laugh as a Washington Post political editor makes statements that are so far off the mark that they get the Post's own readers riled up enough that they trash the paper. Brilliant move. I don't even think you have to change the name of Froomkin's column now. You've already done more with this discussion than the WH probably expected when they sent those complaints your way. I bet you wish you could have a "do over" now, huh? Oh, boy.

Hey all of you good Washington Post reporters reading this thread - yeah, you know who you are....keep up the good work because we know who you are too. We know that you aren't bothered one bit by what Froomkin writes.

Posted by: pmorlan | December 13, 2005 09:12 PM

I am an American citizen concerned about the integrity of our free press, an institution fundamental to our democracy.

Witness the serious consequences of the Bush administration's manipulation of "journalists" as it relates to the onset of the Iraq war and the outing of a CIA agent, witness the propaganda bought by the Bush administration for the Iraqi's consumption, these are serious transgressions that impact on every citizen of our country and the people of Iraq.

The Bush administration has literally paid journalists to propagandize about No Child Left Behind.

Bush does not have regular press conferences and his press secretary regularly does not answer pertinent and pressing questions.

Unbelievably, the press is not allowed to photograph the caskets of the dead soldiers returning from the Iraq war.

The list goes on and on. And instead of connecting the dots for your concerned citizens, you are criticizing the messenger--you, a member of the media.

Woodward's withholding of key information regarding the Plame affair shocked and disappointed me; his reputation as an investigative reporter shattered. Worse, that the Post would allow him to function that way caused me to lose respect for the Post and raised my concern about the integrity of our media.

I am a concerned citizen who reads Froomkin for information and affirmation that the truth is still the currency of our democracy--even if it hurts the powers-that-be.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | December 13, 2005 09:12 PM

Harris simply is not honest in his remarks. No one is confused about the nature of Froomkin's column, and pretending that there is confusion is obviously a dishonest pretext, for what?

Since Mr. Harris prefers not to deal honestly with readers concerning his position, the fair speculation is that he is responding to partisan (i.e., Republican) complaints about Froomkin. Since he knows it is unseemly to carry their water in order to muzzle Froomkin, he invents this baloney about "confusion" or Froomkin's alleged "partisanship."

The partisan here is obviously Harris, who will do the underhanded dirty work of Republican partisans by inventing this false claim of confusion concerning Froomkin.

Just another sick example of media more concerned with being cozy with the powerful than reporting the facts about them.

Posted by: David Browne | December 13, 2005 09:15 PM

Hey John, are you getting ALL of this ? The readers are sounding right-down rebellious and angry.

What are you going to say next, "Let them eat yellowcake" or "Le Post, c'est moi"? Enjoy Versailles, I mean Georgetown, while you can.

Posted by: ch2 | December 13, 2005 09:20 PM

We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know

that we will faithfully repeat any of the lies that they are kind enough to provide on deep, don't let them know I said it, background.

Posted by: R. Orr | December 13, 2005 09:20 PM

...and this is why. Now that the public has lost faith in the press, along with every other major institution of power, American "freedom" and democracy are just circling the drain.

John Harris, I'm sure you're a very well connected and at least semi-powerful person. Isn't irony sweet sometimes?

You have this SO wrong, it's embarrassing. First the Times, than the Post? Nice journalism from both of you on the run up to war, and the fantastic amounts of corruption invading not only every aspect of government, but now the media as well.

I'll give you in the press and the POTUS one thing: You're the first to make me happy I'm in the second half of my life. Congratulations.

Posted by: The MSM is dying... | December 13, 2005 09:21 PM

Dear Mr. Harris,

Thank you so much for clearing up the confusion about Mr. Froomkin, I thought he might have to much integrity to be a real White House reporter.

Posted by: so so blonde | December 13, 2005 09:22 PM

mr. harrass,

i just saw on the pitchur masheen that presnit bush 'sees' yur papur . . . i ges he relly liks you. you r smart.

you are a reel smart guy. froomkin is a librule so he is dum!

f off. ok?

waPoTrash

Posted by: waPoTrash | December 13, 2005 09:23 PM

Mr. Harris,
The WPO has kept the lid on for far too long....thanks to you and other main stream reporters who like the touch of power...get over it, and start being the
decent and truth seeking reporter that is
the legend of the third estate.....People are dying because of you and others who failed to question,pay attention and report before Bush declared war in Iraq....

Posted by: 1s1m1l | December 13, 2005 09:27 PM


Mr. Harris -

I just wish to add my name and comment to those in support of truth, real reporting and Dan Froomkin, as opposed to what you appear to support - the spreading of the Republican word, attempting to pass it off as objective journalism.

As newspapers lose the exclusive hold on news, thanks largely to the internet, you won't be able to continue to deceive the American public.

Posted by: jill | December 13, 2005 09:27 PM

Froomkin is a COMMIE! How dare he question our brave leader. String him up by his balls.

Posted by: Joseph McCarthy | December 13, 2005 09:29 PM

Have you no shame, Mr. Harris! How dare you even compare your fawning Gannonesque coverage of the White House with Froomkin's?

Let him keep the name "White House Briefings." You and your fellow "political" reporters can call your kind of "coverage" White House Press Releases.

Posted by: Matt Hogan | December 13, 2005 09:32 PM

It's so laughably apalling and unsophisticated to take bias as a matter of course (as you do in your defense). Why not just try to do your best and apply some professional standards? Why not dig into the stories and see where they lead. Just getting out the rolodex is such a cheap shortcut.
Also, if the title of a column is an impediment to your work, you're far more lost than I imagined you to be.

Posted by: pejsek | December 13, 2005 09:33 PM

when the foolish proclaim that the intelligent are misleading
them then it's time for idiots to go pro...that's the only reason I
can see for harris to pound on froomkin...the desperation of the wingers and their ilk has come to the fore as the true cost of the policies of aWoljr become clear...anything to distract the suckers for a minute...

Posted by: romanwalls | December 13, 2005 09:38 PM

Mr. Harris writes us off because he seems to think we don't understand the difference between opinion and "news". He thinks we don't understand the "tradition" of neutrality.

We do.

It is Mr. Harris that has lost sight of what "neutrality" really is. What it ISN'T is simply parroting both sides and walking away.

Example: A couple of years ago the Republicans attacked the democrats almost daily with claims they were "obstructionist" in confirming Fed Ct. judges. The Democrats claimed they'd confirmed more Bush appointees than the Republicans did Clinton appointees, that the Republicans were more obstructive.

"Neutral" "News" reports told us that both sides accused the other. Period. NOT ONE "news" journalist went out there and simply counted the freaking number of appointees who'd been confirmed in each case, compared the numbers, and reached a conclusion. Simple, yet no one did it. Instead we had weeks of this ongoing argument reported in the MSM.

Traditionally, neutral meant that Journalists used their access to get the facts, and reported the facts to us.

Currently, however, "neutral" means that "journalists" tell us what both sides said, no matter how outrageously false or ridiculous or cynically misleading, and then don't use an ounce of their "access" and/or "expertise" to clarify the facts for us.

That's not neutral.

Why is it only on line that we see any real compilation of "imminent threat" statements from the administration that now claims they never said any such thing?

Do we have to settle each time for a restatement of the argument?

How is it that "Nothing to see here" is enough for "news" "journalists" to walk away from a story? Then you get pissed off when Dan Froomkin shows there IS something to see?

It's not biased to actually look further, to connect the dots, show us conflicting/misleading/false statements, to help us understand what there is to see. That's reporting, Mr. Harris, not bias.

You think we've confused what Mr. Froomkin does with reporting, and that bugs you. We haven't confused anything. It's just that what Mr. Froomkin does sometimes looks more to us like reporting than what you call reporting, anymore.

Mr. Froomkin's not a reporter, he's a columnist. Fine. Just be aware that we find columns like his to be more edifying in terms of facts, in terms of what's really going on, than stories written by people who think reporting without factcheck or analysis that "the other side says black is white" is Journalism.

Posted by: Delphine | December 13, 2005 09:42 PM

John:

First, tell your three White House reporters that our readers don't confuse Froomkin with their spoon fed GOP talking points. It's impossible for us to be confused because we clearly see how lousy your paper does on a daily basis. It's obvious the Washington Post of the Watergate era is dead and what we have now is the Potemkin Post.

How can Froomkin dilute the credibilty of the Post when Bob Woodward in '05 says that the White House DIDN'T try to intimidate critics by outing Valarie Plame? We read your paper, John. Even when it does well, you let knuckleheads like Woodward blather like he reads the Washington Times instead of the Post.

A front page article in YOUR PAPER quoted a White House source in September '03 descibed the outing of Plame to six reporters as an act of "revenge." What part of "revenge" isn't intimidation, John? Does Bob Woodward not read the Post? What does he have against Dana Priest and Mike Allen? They wrote the article, John. What part of the word "revenge," in Woodward's kneepad school of journalism, isn't intimidation.

How come Bob Woodward can't see abuse of power anymore? I guess millions of dollars will cloud one's vision.

Hey John, did you hear bloggers aren't the only people that think Woodward is in the tank. Even Newsweek's "Scoop" Fineman says Bobby is a stenographer.

Have you noticed a chill in Washington these days, John? Doncha' think maybe people realized that when a hero of the first Gulf War had his wife outed two years ago, nobody's family was safe. Do you think folks in Langley realized that the White House will go after your family if you step out of line?

Hey, John, to quote John Stewart from Comedy Central, "Do you think we're retarded?"

John, we read your paper everyday. We read your paper and think, "This paper reads like the editorial page doesn't read what it's own reporters are writing. And the hard news section of the paper is written by reporters who refuse to connect the dots on ANYTHING. Why are the editors like John Harris such wussies!"

This is the Christmas season, right? Why not a profile on the Bush Administration's pro-christian policies that cut programs for the poor while giving tax breaks to the rich? Hey, John, do you think Jesus hung out with the money changers? Can our fearless born again leader do any LESS for the victims of Katrina? Can the Post run a story on the War on Christmas and Bush's tax cuts for the rich in the same article? Just for laughs.

Hey John, does the US torture people? Tell me? I wanna know. Condi, says no. But past articles in your paper say otherwise. Condi recently still says the US doesn't torture, and your paper rolls over and pretends we don't have PICTURES of people being tortured. Was anyone held accountable by the Post?

I know Jesus was tortured on the cross, does that mean George W. Bush is allowed to torture innocent people because he thinks "God chose" him. When is the hypocrisy of President Bush's christianity fair game? Huh? When?

Hey, John, where's the WMD? It isn't there is it. How come it took a poltical stunt by the Democrats in the Senate for there to be an investigation on whether or not the Bush Administration politicized intelligence. Where was the Post for the last two years? Was anyone held accountable by your paper?

Hey, John, how did Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman die? Was anyone held accountable by the Post for misleading the public?

Hey John, what happened to the 9 billion dollars that got lost in Iraq?

Hey John, how many F's did the 9/11 Commission members give the Bush Administration for NOT making America safer? Was anyone held accountable by the Post?

F's John. They got F's from Gov. Kean and Cong. Hamilton. Two conservatives for crying out loud.

These Mayberry Machiavelli's get F's from the 9/11 Commission members, out a WMD expert's identity for "revenge", mislead the publc about the connection of 9/11 and Iraq, torture prisoners then tell us they don't torture, cut taxes for the rich and cut programs for the poor in the Christmas season and you're complaining ythat our three reporters on the White House lap dance beat are being confused with Froomkin.

You wish.

Please.

Don't get me started.

John, tell those GOP weenies to take their tax cuts and sign their kids up for the US Marines. If they like this stupid war so much, they should send their own kids. The next time some punk GOPer says Froomkin is too liberal, ask him or her, how the recovery in Mississippi and LA are going. That'll shut 'em up, right quick.

The Bush Administration lies to the American publc and your reporters write it down like drones.

With a liberal press like the Post, who needs the Washington Times?

Posted by: M Wilson | December 13, 2005 09:57 PM

I was raised reading The Post in a neighborhood where most readers got The Star. I've been a regular Froomkin reader for years. Please know that not once have I considered Froomkin any more a "real" Whitehouse correnspondent than I consider John Stewart of the Daily Show a "real" newsdesk anchor. Sorry to say, but it seems to me The Post is (yet again) responding in a foolish way to real or anticipated pressure from the administration

Posted by: Mark | December 13, 2005 09:58 PM

"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"

Seems to me that the only "Pushing" of accountability reporting at the WaPo is pushing it in the closet.

Posted by: MarkB | December 13, 2005 09:58 PM

I'm sorry, I just got cranky and upset today. After watching the facades tumbling in newsroom after newsroom, sorry my dear but you're the last straw.

Three of your White House Reporters think their precious credibility is on the line with Dan Froomkin? Boo-hoo.

Dan Froomkin is not a liberal, he's a fact-retriever. That is a job once reserved largely to journalists. I'm not some lefty defender of all things anti-Bush; I'm married to a former reporter and I know a little whereof I speak.

Check out the Billings Gazette, or the San Diego Union-Tribune. That's real journalism, going out and finding actual, real-live, verifiable, facts. It's a different ballgame.

Your precious three reporters should have precisely one question every day for the White House. White House staff apparently think it is OK to lie to Scotty McClellan, so it is clearly useless to ask anything of him: when can we expect a replacement? Make this the question of the day, every day, and your three WH reporters will have a leg to stand on. A reporter who accepts anything less is not after facts.

If you really must have a "conservative balance", be sure he follows the same format--linking to actual news and facts--and not simply bloviating all over his blog. We'll see which one people read.

In the meantime, out here in America, our sons and daughters are dying. Out here in America, we're seeing a mountain of debt. Out here in America, we've seen that entire cities can simply disappear off the map without the least of whimpers. Out here in America, we've seen that the heroes who will put their lives on the line in secret, dangerous missions will be sold out in a heartbeat by their masters. And out there in the world, our friends can no longer find words to defend us.

There are real, live, actual, verifiable facts in every one of these stories, waiting to be dug out. They may not favor the administration. They may not bring favor to your precious three WH reporters. But that doesn't make them any less true. Now that facts are for opinion columnists, what is left for the "reporters"?

Posted by: Andrew Foland | December 13, 2005 10:00 PM

What a sad and pathetic shame to learn that the WaPo reports news for the "customer" just like any other product.
What a tragedy for all of us to learn that the "customer" is the Bush administration.

Posted by: bonnie | December 13, 2005 10:02 PM

Mr. Harris,

I have spent hours trying to distill all of the thoughts I have regarding your recent comments on Froomkin's column, your fear of White House criticism and your opinion of Post readership. All I can come up with is: How do you sleep?

Posted by: Terry Cermak | December 13, 2005 10:02 PM

For years, I have taught a course in Communication Ethics at a conservative, private University. I used to hold the WP up as an example of the right way to publish a newspaper. Now, I am drawing most of my bad examples right from the pages of the Post.

Your WH reporters are having inside conversations about the outing of a CIA agent without bothering to even mention such conversations to their editors, and you guys ignore it. Then, you eviscerate Froomkin for the title of his online column--a title which the Post supported when it began to run the column, without even bothering to talk to Froomkin regarding your concerns.

Posted by: disappointed | December 13, 2005 10:03 PM

I hope I didn't step on some organized campaign, but let me add another voice to the chorus: Dan Froomkin is doing one specific aspect of a reporter job -- accountability from public officials -- and doing it well.

From their comments, Downie, Harris, and Howell appear above all to fear White House/right-wing reprimands. Is Froomkin more in line with journalistic ideals or these court jesters? I wonder...

Posted by: Ryan | December 13, 2005 10:04 PM

You sir, are full of it. Why should the public believe anything written by the so called real reporters who are more worried about their access, power, and money than they are about finding and reporting the truth. Froomkin is the best that the Post has to offer.

Some of your reporters are pretty good. I like Dana Priest. But some of them, like Bob Woodward, make me want to laugh at what the Post has become.

With Froomkin here I often look around to see if there is anything else worth reading ... and sometimes there is. Take Froomkin away and I'll have no reason to come here. I was able to go cold turkey on the NYT (between the Miller outrage and the firewall, it was not worth it even for Rich). And I'll find some other newspaper to be my online source if you remove Froomkin.

Posted by: M. Chase | December 13, 2005 10:07 PM

I read ONLY Dan Froomkin's column on the WaPo website. The reat is pretty much crap. Keep up the good work Dan.
Mr. Harris, please get your nose out of Karl and/or Bushie Boy's butt! Oh never mind. I forgot. You like it there.

Posted by: sock nitty | December 13, 2005 10:07 PM

You sir, are full of it. Why should the public believe anything written by the so called real reporters who are more worried about their access, power, and money than they are about finding and reporting the truth. Froomkin is the best that the Post has to offer.

Some of your reporters are pretty good. I like Dana Priest. But some of them, like Bob Woodward, make me want to laugh at what the Post has become.

With Froomkin here I often look around to see if there is anything else worth reading ... and sometimes there is. Take Froomkin away and I'll have no reason to come here. I was able to go cold turkey on the NYT (between the Miller outrage and the firewall, it was not worth it even for Rich). And I'll find some other newspaper to be my online source if you remove Froomkin.

Posted by: M. Chase | December 13, 2005 10:08 PM

If Bob Woodward were alive today he would be so ashamed of the Post.

Posted by: Pete | December 13, 2005 10:09 PM

Others have said it more eloquently than I could have--my *only* reason to even visit washingtonpost.com is to read Dan Froomkin's column. The rest of the paper is strictly (virtual) birdcage liner. A big thumbs up for Dan Froomkin for actually doing journalism.

Posted by: OChamster | December 13, 2005 10:12 PM

I have been reluctant to abandon print journalism for the net. Man's best friend hasn't figured out how to bring in the morning blog. Poring over the morning blog with coffee and a roll is a poor substitute for sifting through the morning fishwrap. But if newspapers now are only good for pimping the White House line, I guess I'll have to figure out how to do the crosswords online.

You guys blame the blogs for your declining subscriptions, but it's your abandonment of journalism that caused this exodus.

Posted by: Rob | December 13, 2005 10:14 PM

Let me get this straight. After all that's happened in journalism in the last few years: with unnamed sources lying their butts off and reporters diligently writing it down and publishing it without question or so much as a google-search verification (and it's often verifiably true or false), now, without any formal complaints to speak of and clearly overwhelming support for the guy, Howell and Harris are up in arms over Dan Froomkin? Give me a break. Is the Post concerned with their credibility (such as it is)? One word: Woodward.

Posted by: Jamie | December 13, 2005 10:18 PM

I read Dan Froomkin's column. His column is among three that I always read in the Post online. I don't know if he is a liberal, but if he isn't, I hope he becomes a liberal because his writing is intelligent and interesting. His column inspires me to think about the issues of the day. Liberals have contributed to the progress of our country. Republicans seem to just want to rob the US treasury. The Post regularly presents the republican point of view while it belittles democrats. If John Harris takes orders from the republicans, he should consider joining the administration.

Posted by: Gwendolyn Carter | December 13, 2005 10:25 PM

Froomkin is clearly a biased lefty.

Why are we still talking about this?

He should have been fired a long time ago.

Our nation is at war. We don't need biased reporters attacking the President. His job fighting the terrorists is hard enough already without having to worry about left-learning reporters snapping at his heels.

Posted by: BC | December 13, 2005 10:25 PM

Dear Mr. Harris,

I suspect your clear bias disruption will cause a controversy amongst your news readers. An editor of a mainstream news distributor should have higher standards. So Froomkin asked some difficult questions: Isn't this a normal journalism practice in a democratic country?

A fair man would look at the other side before reacting. Surely, you would be distraught if journalists lost their jobs for asking difficult questions concerning previous presidents. Or would you dispose of them, too?

The rest of the mainstream media is groaning because of how you've handled Froomkin's views. You are driving a nail into your own crucifix. Froomkin is the least of your worries. Actions like this only speed up your own job's demise.

But no worry. You could start up a new blog. It's the 21st century afterall.

Sincerely, Thomas Wegner

Posted by: Thomas Wegner | December 13, 2005 10:26 PM

Is it really true, sir, that your concerns come from Republicans who have complained that Froomkin's work is "tendentious and unfair"? This is amazing. Are you going to state openly that pleasing the G.O.P. is your primary goal?

Perhaps a little liberal bias would be a good thing in the Washington Post, considering the overwhelming right-wing tilt of your editorial page, and the shameful toadying for the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress that characterizes your so-called reporting.

Posted by: Peter | December 13, 2005 10:27 PM

When a newspaper bases its coverage on what the covered think of that coverage, there is no free press. Mr. Harris, do you not know that? If you make decisions based on whether you are perceived as too left or too right, then you already have lost your objectivity and are amenable to whomever barks the loudest. Truth is lost.

Posted by: rollotomasi | December 13, 2005 10:31 PM

Mr. Harris,

Your concern about possible confusion over the title and liberal bias of Froomkin should indicate a much more serious problem for today's newspaper editors:

- concern not to be shut-out by the administration in power (denied access, put in the back row, not invited for...

- concern about displeasing corporate advertisers (I thought less of a concern for an independent newspaper)

- being intimidated by those who wield real power and consequences (O'Neill felt he was insulated)

However, my idealistic view of the fourth estate was its capacity to expose cover-ups, spin and wrongdoing by holding office holders accountable. The old adage 'Power corrupts' clearly is not partisan. After both The Post and The Times had to acknowledge that their pre-war coverage had been uncritical, I thought maybe the pendulum would swing a bit. With all the current scandals (DeLay, Abramhof et al., Cunningham, Downing Street Memo, ghost detainees etc.)only finally in the Fitzgearld indictment did I detect the zeal with which Whitewater was flogged, to say nothing of Lewinsky. When the potential wrong-doing are costing lives and taxpayer dollars big time, it is in all of our interest that they are brought to light. So far, not one mainstream newspaper is doing this. Is it because the newsroom is cowed or is it the Tomilson effect (see PBS Board)?

Lastly, many have mentioned Woodward. He is representative of the reporters who go on the rounds of talk shows, Fox, CNN and spout opinions. Can they remain credible as objective reporters? In comparison Froomkin is compiling reporting from many different sources and only occasionally indicating his own take. Anyone who reads more than a few of his columns clearly knows that he does not attend White House press briefings - surely he would ask better questions.

Posted by: Phyllis | December 13, 2005 10:31 PM

Dear Sir;
Short and sweet. I read Mr. Froomkin every chance I get,you, only when you have said something so stupid it's being linked or quoted elsewhere. I want to read real reporting, not WH releases.

Posted by: Cathi | December 13, 2005 10:31 PM

Froomkin and Millbank are the main reasons I continue to read the Post. Without them, I can get better coverage elsewhere - anywhere?

Posted by: T. Maddox | December 13, 2005 10:32 PM


"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."

Like others here, I too take issue with this: not only are you putting words in Froomkin's mouth, you'd have him contradict himself when you do so.

If he is pleading for reporters to do more to hold the White House accountable, how can you possibly expect him to agree with you that the reporters do precisely this kind of accountability reporting at the same time?

Are you so desperate that you have taken leave of your senses? You must need a vacation. I do not see how you could function as an editor if you can't spot such obviously sloppy thinking in your own work.

Why don't you let Froomkin take over while you get some rest.

Posted by: anwaya | December 13, 2005 10:33 PM

Rob Corddry: How does one report the facts in an unbiased way when the facts themselves are biased?

Jon Stewart: I'm sorry, Rob, did you say the facts are biased?

Corddry: That's right Jon. From the names of our fallen soldiers to the gradual withdrawal of our allies to the growing insurgency, it's become all too clear that facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda.

Posted by: XT | December 13, 2005 10:35 PM

"But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." Sounds just like an RNC press release. I'm right, and anyone who disagrees with me is playing politics. Facts or logic have nothing to do with it. Pomposity reveals a fool every time! "For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions."
Before Rush Limbaugh and the other hate jockeys hijacked political dialog in this country, Froomkin would have been considered slightly left of center. If you would listen to something besides Fox News once in a while, you would hear from a real liberal. If that's too much trouble, why not invite Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan or Al Franken to write a guest column? Then you'd hear from a real liberal! In any event, why should the fact that you have a problem give you the right to change or stifle his voice in the paper? I'm afraid your whole argument about perceived identity is undermined by the repeated insinuations that Froomkin is a "liberal". The man speaks to and for a majority of the people in this country. I'm afraid the solution is suggested by your own words, "If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization,..." Perhaps the Washington Post has adopted World News Daily as its editorial model, and has become so politically correct that reality based information from a variety of sources no longer fits in its pages. Check out the Daily Show sometime, and maybe you will develop some insight into why people like you are rendering newspapers extinct. Then you can either apologize to Froomkin and ask him to help keep your paper alive, or continue to make the Post a small pond, holding ever smaller fish, and becoming continually more irrelevant to its readership.

Posted by: Sharon Wilson | December 13, 2005 10:37 PM

I just want to add my disgust. I have two comments after reading this ... http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/12/13/frm_qa.html

1.) Maybe we should get a political editor more interested in WH accountability than the rantings of Ann Coulter wannabe.

2.) Who was more temperate and fair in their remarks? Harris or Froomkin? Now, who do you think is more biased.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 10:38 PM

"But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." Sounds just like an RNC press release. I'm right, and anyone who disagrees with me is playing politics. Facts or logic have nothing to do with it. Pomposity reveals a fool every time! "For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions."
Before Rush Limbaugh and the other hate jockeys hijacked political dialog in this country, Froomkin would have been considered slightly left of center. If you would listen to something besides Fox News once in a while, you would hear from a real liberal. If that's too much trouble, why not invite Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan or Al Franken to write a guest column? Then you'd hear from a real liberal! In any event, why should the fact that you have a problem give you the right to change or stifle his voice in the paper? I'm afraid your whole argument about perceived identity is undermined by the repeated insinuations that Froomkin is a "liberal". The man speaks to and for a majority of the people in this country. I'm afraid the solution is suggested by your own words, "If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization,..." Perhaps the Washington Post has adopted World News Daily as its editorial model, and has become so politically correct that reality based information from a variety of sources no longer fits in its pages. Check out the Daily Show sometime, and maybe you will develop some insight into why people like you are rendering newspapers extinct. Then you can either apologize to Froomkin and ask him to help keep your paper alive, or continue to make the Post a small pond, holding ever smaller fish, and becoming continually more irrelevant to its readership.

Posted by: A Nobody | December 13, 2005 10:40 PM

Froomkin is the only thing worth reading in your piece of crap paper. If you actually printed it, I would consider subscribing.

Posted by: tom | December 13, 2005 10:42 PM

"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."

Dear Editors,

It's great when people blurt out what they're really thinking, isn't it?

The failure of the American media comes down to this: weak character and lack of integrity.

Larry Birnbaum
Evanston, Illinois

Posted by: larry birnbaum | December 13, 2005 10:42 PM

Dear "National Politics Editor",

You used the word "liberal" in a perjorative sense. It set my "bias" alarm bells off, that's for sure.

This country has been led into a war which, it turns out, was based on a bunch of lies. Maybe that's why some people are upset when you accuse one of the few nationally recognized meta-reporters who is really keeping close tabs on the White House, dontcha-think?

Posted by: JP | December 13, 2005 10:42 PM

Mr. Harris's comments, like those of the ombudsman Deborah Howell, confuse and somewhat astound me. Does he not know that, when it comes to covering the White House, Bob Woodward's Washington Post "is invisible now, with no secrets to conceal"? The fact that Froomkin is associated with the Post is what gives some plausible legitimacy to Harris, not the other way about. Do Harris and Howell really not understand this simple fact?

And by the way, Harris's gratuitous snarky comment that he can "guarantee" that some of us rube posters would be singing a different were Kerry in office unverifiable, irrelevant, condescending and rude.

Posted by: John Sundman | December 13, 2005 10:43 PM

Mr. Harris, I cannot believe you had the audacity to write your post above concerning Dan Froomkin's work. Your reliance on the opinions of your three sad little beat writers at the WH in support of your with to clarify that he isn't a White House reporter is pathetic. Those "writers" clearly want to draw a distinction between themselves and Froomkin because he shows them up as the excuses for journalists that they are. Froomkin has so many faithful readers because he does the job of a journalist far better than your beat writers have ever dreamed of doing it. Froomkin writes as a journalist should--challenging and questioning and digging for the truth. Your beat writers don't have the guts to ask hard questions, whether at the "press briefings" or in their stories. Lay off Froomkin, or your readership will take a significant dive and you will be responsible for it.

Posted by: Lisa | December 13, 2005 10:43 PM

Many reporters can't see the forest for the trees.

Froomkin sees the forest.

And, he is very, very funny.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) | December 13, 2005 10:44 PM

Mr. Harris

It would probably be a good career move, as an "editor", to "edit" your post a bit to seem a bit more impartial and less GOPish, hmm?

Posted by: Jim | December 13, 2005 10:47 PM

Mr. Harris,

Your response is just pathetic. Froomkin's column is the only reason that I even bother to view the WashPost website. He does a fabulous job, which is more than I can say for your political "reporters".

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 10:48 PM

Ridiculous. And I think a bit disingenuous. Dan's column is popular because it's GOOD, not because people blunder into it thinking it's dailies from supine correspondents. What makes you feel vulnerable is that at his meta-distance, Dan does not feel compelled to carry water for the party in power. Andd now your handlers are leaning on you to purify the next order.

Posted by: Ben | December 13, 2005 10:48 PM

Just to identify myself politically: From 1976 through 2000, I voted exclusively for republicans for national office. I voted for Bush/Cheney in 2000. My 2000 vote was the worst mistake I have ever made at the polls. After having experienced an essentially repbublican-dominated government, I will NEVER vote republican again. I applaud Mr. Dan Froomkin. If Mr. John Harris wants to represent the White House's, or the republicans', views, let him. But let him do so in some other venue than in the Washington Post, which is needed by the people of America. Keep Mr. Froomkin and fire Mr. Harris and his fellow White House sympathizers.

Posted by: Dev Anse | December 13, 2005 10:50 PM

Hey ButtWipe Journalist. If my Boss in the Big NewsPaper had just said this: "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.

I would up and up immediately resign.

What are you going to do o ball-less fellater with the cute brownstone and all the access?

Posted by: Me. | December 13, 2005 10:52 PM

Mr. Harris,

You are the shining example of how much of the mainstream media have ceased any pretense of being independent. You have allowed yourself to become part of the Republican spin machine.

You make Ms. Miller at the NY Times look like Edward R. Murrow.

Posted by: Greg | December 13, 2005 10:52 PM

The only thing the Post will understand is canceled subscriptions.

If I was more internet savvy I would start an online petition to remove Harris and get some real reporters and editors back on the WH beat. If anyone wants to do it, I pledge the equivalent of 5 years subscription to the WP for your effort.

Posted by: | December 13, 2005 10:54 PM

Mr. Harris's position seems to amount to ... sure, Dan Froomkin is getting all this support when he's saying that black is black, but if the situation were reversed and he were saying that white is black, then all these folks wouldn't be enthusiasts. This shows that Dan has a black-is-black bias, or isn't trying very hard to make it seem otherwise. WaPo reporters, OTOH, are expected to uphold an objective balance between white-is-black and black-is-black, not showing either position favor.

Of course that's not quite how Mr. Harris put it, but that's because, as a highly biased person himself, he is unable to see or admit that black IS black -- rather, he propagates the myth that black-is-black and white-is-black are "partisan" positions. The notion that there is truth independent of party loyalty is something that is outside the dogma of his -- and George Bush's -- party.

Posted by: truth machine | December 13, 2005 10:56 PM


Scott Mclellan said, officially, categorically and repeatedly that neither Karl Rove nor Scooter Libby were involved in leaking Valerie Plame's covert identity. That is demonstrably false. It is as patently false as Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

He lied. Everyone accepts that. In fact the defense offered on Mr. Mclellan's behalf is that it he didn't make the lie up, he just repeated it. So? Either way he is a proven speaker of lies. Yet the news pages of the Washington Post continue to treat him as an acceptable spokesman for the Presidant. Fine, as long as you point out he may be lying every time you quote him. But instead you just pretend he's speaking for his side , much like Froomkin is apparently speaking for his. So lying dosn't matter?

To make things even more absurd, Mr. Mclellan now says he cannot comment on an ongoing criminal investigation and the Post's unflagging reporters shrug their helpless shoulders. What can you do? Well, you could point out But that Scotty made those demonstrably false statements about precisely the same investigation he's now using as cover. But no, apparently Mr. Harris accepts the premise that Scott can make false statements about criminal proceedings, he just can't answer questions. How logical. How dare anyone try and provide context or, shudder, inject objective fact into the arguemnt. That would clearly be unbalanced.

Thank God Mr. Harris understands the nuances of professional journalism better than we mere mortals can.

On an upside, I think the reporters, particularly VanderHei (sorry about the spelling if wrong, it's late and I'm lazy) are actually very talented and hardworking and the Post has put the Times to shame lately, for instance by offering real coverage and debate about the Woodward screw up. Of course that's partly because of the great content exclusive to the .com site.

But jeez, if Harris can't see he's got a problem, then he really needs to go.

Posted by: B.M. Smith | December 13, 2005 10:57 PM

One last point: Harris' response to Jay Rosen is stunning in his snide contempt for the Post readers. It's rich irony that Howell, Harris, Downie, et al., do not see that their response to this Froomkin flap illustrates exactly why there is so much anger directed towards media institutions like WaPo. They are more responsive to the concerns of the beltway insiders than they are to their readers. And guess what? The readers -- the Post's actual customers -- are fed up.

Harris laments the paper's diminishing credibility and blames media critics. Maybe he should look in the mirror. As Harris would have it, we'd have stories filled with anonymous quotes of varying degrees of veracity that are carefully "balanced" but hardly contextualized. The very kind of journalism that brought us the WMD disgrace.

Posted by: Ryan | December 13, 2005 10:57 PM

John Harris: It wasn't him, Lennie, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Rove." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Karl Rove apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Lennie, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Leonard Downie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

John Harris: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Lennie.

Posted by: Elia Kazan | December 13, 2005 11:03 PM

Sure, cancel your subscriptions!

The Washington Post already has a cunning plan to replace every cancelled subscription from disaffected liberals with 10 subscriptions from Bill O'Reilly loving Fox News conservatives!

Take that!

Posted by: Foxy | December 13, 2005 11:04 PM

I think if a source is consistently dishonest and misleading access is a disadvantage (e.g. Judith Miller). Since Dan has no access, he can afford to call deception deceptive. Which gave us a more accurate view of the Bush administration Dan's column or court stenographer Woodward's books?

Posted by: John Edward | December 13, 2005 11:06 PM

Why is this suddenly a problem? Exactly who is confused? I've read WHB for over a year and I'd have to say that it's not only the least confusing column in your paper, it's also the most honest. The fact that we're having a conversation about Dan Froomkin's behavior instead of Bob Woodward's is what I'm confused about.

Posted by: Jim Riggs | December 13, 2005 11:07 PM

Mr. Harris' contempt for his readers is amazing.Right up there with the Bush administration's contempt for the majority of citizens in this country who don't think the war in Iraq is going so peachy-keen, who didn't want their Social Security benefits privatized, who were sicked by watching fellow Americans being abandoned by their own government in New Orleans.

In fact, with his Listen Up, Rubes attitude, he'd fit right in at the White House. Why hold back? Be an honest man, Mr. Harris and go on the White House pay roll openly.

Because of "journalists" like you, the Post is no more relevant than the old Pravda.

Sad. And you did it to yourselves.

History won't be kind to you, Mr. Harris. But I don't think you get that. Keep eating those cocktail weinies, gossiping among yourselves and protecting your "access."

Christ, people like you make me sick.

Posted by: Lynnell | December 13, 2005 11:09 PM

I come back and comment again, because the more I read, the more Harris' attitude (and apparent sympathy with the administration) just outrages me. If he is representative of the editors at the Post, then the Post is in serious decline as an example of journalism.

The mainstream press (MSP) - if they are serious about journalism - ought to applaud and welcome the work of serious bloggers (and Froomkin) because, unlike many reporters with deadlines to meet, the bloggers can and do take the time to fact check these stories using the resources of the Internet and in some cases Lexis/Nexis and additional reporting. The MSP reporter ought to read every trackback posted on his/her stories and get facts and insights for the next story he/she writes. Blogs should be a resource for the press (as they already are for the reader).

But the majority of the MSP is apparently threatened by this. The majority of the MSP would rather take the easy road (report the official line, include a couple of opposing quotes for "balance") and have it such that nobody ever figures out what errors and spin they have published as "journalism".

The biggest outrage is when the MSP fails to do its own job, fails to learn from their mistakes, fails to leverage other resources - and then admits in just so many words, as Harris did, that they try to keep the administration happy (or at least not po'd) with their reporting.

And it's just as outrageous when the MSP reporter like Woodward goes on the talk shows and blabs his opinions. Utter hypocrisy.

Clueless, clueless, clueless.

It's time to yank the money we spend on newspaper subscriptions and instead invest in some of the blog/online sites that are doing the real reporting these days.

Posted by: Mike Cromer | December 13, 2005 11:10 PM

BC said:

>Froomkin is clearly a biased lefty.

Why are we still talking about this?

He should have been fired a long time ago.Our nation is at war. We don't need biased reporters attacking the President. His job fighting the terrorists is hard enough already without having to worry about left-learning reporters snapping at his heels.<

Truth is, we shouldn't be at war. It just strikes me as bizarre that those of you who support George Bush can't see the fact he and his goonies lied us into a war that should never have been engaged. I can't wait for January 20, 2009 when we can finally be rid of those responsible for the dumbing down of America.

Just for the record: what you are reading here is the formerly silent majority of us who are silent no longer. It should be patently clear that you can't run a country with just 40% of us in support.

Posted by: SR | December 13, 2005 11:10 PM

I think Mr. Harris confuses "liberalism," the word used by some (usually with contempt) to describe the political and ideological positions held by Democrats and Progressives, with "liberalism," as a form of education, a mode of inquiry (e.g. a liberal arts education), which is really about questioning dogma and rigid ideology.

Bertrand Russell said it best:

"The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment."

The lack of this intellectual curiosity afflicts both the Bush White House--who cling to their pre-established ideas and tolerate no questioning--and a large segment of the press responsible for covering them.

If you don't mind my saying, sir, in order to do your job competently--and provide the service for the American people that modern journalism purports to provide--you need to hold a liberal outlook, examining all narratives and sources, wondering why the powers are trying to sell you a particular angle or spin.

Posted by: Jean Leverich | December 13, 2005 11:11 PM

John Harris accuses Dan Froomkin of bias, but what of his own? At http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2005/10/14/DI2005101401315_pf.html
John Harris says

"What was the actual degree of intelligence damage by the disclosure of Plame-Wilson's name, and what was the specific crime?

It has long also seemed to me that Joe Wilson's own activities--publishing op-eds etc.--were not exactly calculated to maintaining secrecy about himself and his family."

My question is,

Is there special training that people receive where they learn how to abuse reason like that? It's hard for me to imagine that it comes naturally. Let's see:

1) Joe Wilson's existence was not a secret, and revealing it was not illegal and did not endanger national security.

2) The existence of Joe Wilson's family was not a secret, and revealing it was not illegal and did not endanger national security.

3) Joe Wilson did not mention his family in his op-ed.

4) It was not the revelation of Valerie Plame Wilson's /name/ that did damage, but rather the revelation of her /identity/ -- as the law states -- as a /CIA operative/.

Is it that John Harris

a) is so ignorant that he doesn't know all this?

b) is so inept that he can't keep all this or its significance in his head?

c) is so corrupt that he would knowingly misrepresent the issues?

d) or some combination of all three?

Posted by: Jay Byrd | December 13, 2005 11:11 PM

Someone above asked, "why now"? The reason is obvious: Froomkin goes out on paternity leave and the odds are one in a hundred that he returns to the Washington Post. If Froomkin has any sense he'll use his time off to set up his web site, and keep posting during his absence. Unlike the Washington Post, any site he sets up will still be around in twenty years.

As they used to say in Russia, thank heavens for the samizdat.

Posted by: Kaleberg | December 13, 2005 11:14 PM

It seems to me that everybody's concerns could be addressed with a simple remedy.

From now on, Mr. Froomkin's column should be pre-screened by the White House, to be certain that it reflects their views and positions, and that any facts that Mr. Froomkin introduces into his column that might portray the White House's position in a bad light be excised.

Since the credibility of the Washington Post is at stake here, I heartily recommend this action. I'm sure the White House staff would volunteer to help with this project, if they don't already do it for all your other columns.

Posted by: Ron | December 13, 2005 11:14 PM

Let me get this straight:

The Post, like most national newspapers, faces declining circulation. So they try to build an online presence. Now, with one of the more popular online presences under attack from some of the beat reporters (who, btw, aren't nearly as aggressive in questioning the WH as Froomkin), they want to "balance" him or stifle his comments in a none-too-subtle display.

Mr. Harris (or, more accurately, his bosses): you face a choice. You can either become a national presence by expanding on-line and become relevant in the 21st C. Or you can continue to condescend to your online readers and eventually constrain yourselves to a declining circulation in the BW corridor and Northern Virginia. Oh, and sales from Bob Woodward's new book: "Verbatim Notes from Interviews with Powerful People."

PS: When is Bob Woodward going to be available for an online discussion on the ethics of commenting on a legal case in which he has been withholding evidence from his editors? Just curious.

Posted by: Chris R. | December 13, 2005 11:18 PM

Sir! Please! I can't take anymore!

Mr. Froomkin's column "dilutes our only asset -- our credibility"?

ROTFLMAO!

It's pretty tough to write snark as good as Don's column, but I appreciate your effort. Maybe he can give you some pointers.

Posted by: Glen | December 13, 2005 11:20 PM

This just in:

DNA tests reveal semen found on John Harris's blue suit is Karl Rove's.

Posted by: JPT | December 13, 2005 11:21 PM

btw, john, i'm a shareholder in berkshire hathaway, which means i'm your boss.

and if i were you, i'd start polishing your resume, because you're in the wrong line of work.

PR would be more suitable for you.

Posted by: howard | December 13, 2005 11:23 PM

Harris' comments reveal the current mentality of US mainstream commercial press; a perceived requirement that they surrender objectivity for access.

These opportunities still wide open for further investigation and reporting:

Police and fire departments,FAA, DOJ and DOD co-opted to enforce and preserve continuing 9/11 complicity and coverup story, unsolved anthrax threat intimidation of Congress and press, WMD lies, manipulation of energy policy, terror threat levels and bird flu threat for profit, especially in light of past mandatory administration of untested and unsafe vaccines like Vaccine A, and the trashing of the rights earned through the development and defense of the US Constitution.

My kids will be taught in university how during the dark days of American history, our elected government and press colluded behind the scenes to publish a work of fiction that temporarily negated several decades of hard won progress.

Change the arrangement of deck chairs if you like, institutions like NYT and WAPO are sinking because they lost integrity, and once that process has started, you cannot hide the evidence, can only make successful repairs if enough people are aware and working at the same time on fixing the root cause.

M Wilson-- Jessica Lynch ? was that a Animal House motivational speech moment or am I missing some historical ref beyond the initial mythical reporting ? Don't stop him, he's on a roll...

Posted by: Concerned citizen and voter | December 13, 2005 11:23 PM

Mr. Harris:

My hope that you someday get over yourself aside, it seems rather interesting for your ombudsman to attack Mr. Froomkin and his writing, and for you as an editor to slander (and I use that word advisedly) his professional demeanor and intentions, when you had absolutely nothing to say about, and your then-ombudsman defended Mr. Milbank's interesting take on the hearings the Democrats on the Justice Committee had on the Downing Street Minutes.

Taking no exception to Mr. Milbank's writing and coming to terms with his relationship to the newspaper, since he is a columnist, and is doing what that type of writer does: interperet events, not report them. Mr. Froomkin has also been identified as such a writer by your paper, and when set next to Mr. Milbank's style of skating a thin line between reporting and commentary, your focusing on the title of his column is tripe; what is a briefing, if not someone offering their interpretation, nay, distilling and commenting on events?

Even more so, your defense of your words is outrageous, specifically the following: "Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose." Tell me: What is the role of the Fourth Estate, if not at least somewhat adversarial? To be otherwise is to be an arm of the powers-that-be, and we've had quite enough of that with the reporting leading up to the Iraq war, thank you very much.

I understand there are political and financial realities you feel you must observe as a business. You may consider it melodramatic to state that a war is being fought because those "realities" were thought of as more important than the actual physical reality of the world we live in. I don't particularly give a damn, because if you in particular and the paper you work for in general is that far divorced from the reality that will continue to exist long after we have passed away, then you have no business writing, editing, or producing anything any more serious than cheap serial fiction.

Posted by: StealthBadger | December 13, 2005 11:29 PM

At least in Soviet Russia it was generally understood that Pravda was a Communist Party organ, and that they printed "all the news the Politburo sees fit to print".

If the credibility of the Post is really at stake, I suggest you ditch all of the White House social notes reporters, sever ties with the administration, and hire some people who understand that "investigate" is a verb.

Posted by: Stephen | December 13, 2005 11:34 PM

Oh my god! I think John Harris has lapped Doug Feith.

Posted by: Jeff Gibbons | December 13, 2005 11:35 PM

If you want to reduce confusion, ditch Krauthammer. Pro-torture, and argues for it stupidly. If that's not unforgivable, what is?

Posted by: dr2chase | December 13, 2005 11:38 PM

Just beacause he holds the administration accountable hardly means he leans one direction or another. It just means he holds this administration more accountable than the rest of your staff - including the supposed real white house reporters.
Plus hasn't his column been around for quite some time? Why the confusion now? Doesn't it really have something to do with angry republicans and dismal approval ratings?

Posted by: Dude | December 13, 2005 11:39 PM

Washington Post, just a piece of paper, like many others...

Posted by: Even more concerned than before | December 13, 2005 11:41 PM

Froomkin is doing a great service to his readers. As for most of the rest of today's MSM reporters, please review your journalism school notes concerning the valuable function of journalism in a democracy. No, there won't be a test; but there should be.

Posted by: tedb | December 13, 2005 11:44 PM

Mr Harris...when all this plays out will you be proud of the role you and your paper have played as advocates for the most treasonous, corrupt and illegitimate cabal of scumbags ever? I hope not, but your judgement gives me pause to wonder. Your responsibiltiy is the truth...we depend on you for it...it must not matter, can never matter, what those in power think about your reporting...do your job!

Posted by: Rusty Ford | December 13, 2005 11:46 PM

Mr Harris...when all this plays out will you be proud of the role you and your paper have played as advocates for the most treasonous, corrupt and illegitimate cabal of scumbags ever? I hope not, but your judgement gives me pause to wonder. Your responsibiltiy is the truth...we depend on you for it...it must not matter, can never matter, what those in power think about your reporting...do your job!

Posted by: Rusty Ford | December 13, 2005 11:47 PM

This is for Mr. Downey and Mr. Brady as much as it is for Mr. Harris and Mr. Froomkin (who I think gets it already),

I am not a lefty liberal. I'm one of those moderate in the middle voters. The last 5 years have been a true evolution in my understanding of news coverage or the lack of it. My husband and I have both consumed great quantities of mainstream media for the last 25+ years.

Our attitudes towards the delivery of news has taken a marked change in the last 2-3 years. Quite frankly we realize that we can no longer rely on newspapers such as yours for a complete and thoroughly investigated picture of what's going on in the nation's capital and in the world.

Instead you've become a tickler file of things we need to follow up on and check on through multiple sources. News is no longer a 'one-stop shopping' affair.

I think Mr. Graham's comments at the UBS Bank's annual Global Media Conference indicate that he's got a clue as to what's happening here.

For sure, Mr. Harris does not. But let me spell it out for you. There's a huge sea change going on in how people acquire news.
Those (like Mr. Harris and his staff) who demonstrate a lack of skill in asking hard questions and pushing the envelope in their investigations of those in power will be dropped instantaneously in favor of other sources who will be REAL journalists. And the internet makes it easy for us to find those other sources and to even compare sources. The old print paper just doesn't have a lock on things anymore.

I hope that's clear enough.

Next item: I could scarcely believe Ms. Howell's take on how we "outside-the-Beltway" people were so stupid as to think that Dan Froomkin was part of the august Washington Post when he's really just this twerp over at another place called WPNI which should never be confused with the WaPo.

Don't worry, Ms. Howell. We won't make that mistake again. WPNI -- Great source. WaPo -- Don't Bother.

(I'm sure she has the PR / Marketing / Branding people spinning in their offices. What does she think she's saying separating the online venue with all its new readers and audience-building potential from the print side? Maybe someone needs to appoint an ombudsman who's a little more tuned into the internets and how they work. I think Ms. Howell is going to have a real rough time catching up with the changes going on.)

Last but not least: if I were you, Mr. Harris, I'd be a little nicer to Mr. Froomkin. He's the one responsible for leading many online viewers to your articles via the links in his column. If the other comments in the past 48 hours have any significance, it's that he represents a real draw for the washingtonpost.com, and a true increase in audience for the reporters tied to the print edition. So pull your nose out of the stratosphere; the 'we print reporters are so superior to the online hacks' attitude is truly insufferable.

I do hope that management at WaPo won't dismiss all this feedback as cavalierly as Mr. Harris did in his interview with Jay Rosen in speaking of the posters providing feedback, "Many of them displayed a common attitude these days--that every article must be either a weapon or a shield in the great ideological arguments of the moment."

If that's what you REALLY think this was all about, Mr. Harris, you REALLY missed the boat.

To Mr. Harris's boss, given how poorly Mr. Harris has handled this whole episode, I think it would be wise to start considering a replacement.

Posted by: dwahzon | December 13, 2005 11:49 PM

Wow. The Internets are really a-buzzing about this. I do hope Mr. Harris reads his comments.

Posted by: Misty | December 13, 2005 11:50 PM

How many carpers are there? Please provide the names of Post "political reporters" who object to Froomkin. In return I can provide a list of Post "political reporters" I find objectionable.

Posted by: William Blackwell | December 13, 2005 11:50 PM

Now I understand why the Post is such a miserable paper. It believes that the proper attitude for a White House reporter is "reverence." Perhaps the masthead should be re-worked to state clearly, for all to see, WE REVERE THE PRESIDENT. Of course, this wasn't the Post's attitude during the Clinton years, or the Nixon years for that matter. But all the more reason to state the truth plainly. What you find to revere in W is beyond me, but since that's what you do, wouldn't it be fair to readers to state it out front? Froomkin is too good for you; I hope he finds another home. Old saying: Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. You must be scratching vigorously.

Posted by: Malcolm | December 13, 2005 11:51 PM

Mike Cromer- right on target, I sent $250 to help start / support Joshua Marshall's -Talking Points Memo- new website and muckraking effort http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/
I figure it's worth 3 or 4 years worth of WSJ online cost just for a couple of months worth of reporting.

Dead WAPO walking...

Posted by: Not so concerned with Mike's helpful suggestion | December 13, 2005 11:53 PM

'The emperor has no clothes' idiom applies to the traditional media even more than to Mr. Bush. Mr. Harris and his MSM denizens see royal robes in the 'he said this whereas she said this' charade, not a naked, vain monarch, embarassing himself.

Makes me almost want to feel sorry for Mr. Harris and Mr, Downie.

Posted by: Marshall McLuhan | December 13, 2005 11:54 PM

John... Could you be a criminal?

Do you like... Support criminal activity?

Like if the Bush White House were engaged in criminal things... Breaking the law... Would you like support that as part of your "ideology"?

Just asking. Cause the deeper I dig into your bio... It's a fair question. Very fair.

Richard Quick
Valley Park MO

Posted by: Richard Quick | December 14, 2005 12:03 AM

Phony, manufactured issue, raised at the behest of the White House. No dissent, not even irreverence, to be tolerated anywhere, any time. Jeez - how this paper has fallen.

Posted by: Rick | December 14, 2005 12:13 AM

Mr. Harris -

Your comments are disgraceful. I frankly can't see where you have a liberal voice anywhere in your newspaper, which was once a great newspaper, or on your web site, and that includes Froomkin. If any writing that is at all critical of the Bush administration is to be considered liberal, there is little hope for you, your newspaper, or "traditional" journalism, and while you're accomplishing that, either get rid of the Post-affiliated blogs altogether, or just tell us you prefer only the Dear Leader kind of blog to be affiliated with the Post. But then don't talk about news, opinion, balance or fairness. Just don't talk about it.

Posted by: Richard Teenstra | December 14, 2005 12:28 AM

And for God's sake, remove the post category label of "journalism" at the bottom of your post. You know nothing of it.

Posted by: ch2 | December 14, 2005 12:32 AM

"Many of them displayed a common attitude these days--that every article must be either a weapon or a shield in the great ideological arguments of the moment."

John Harris here displays the common attitude of those who are too stupid to understand the actual criticism being leveled at them, and so pretend it is some other criticism stupid enough that they do understand it.

The criticism being offered by so, so many of the readers here is not that they think "every article must be either a weapon or a shield in the great ideological arguments of the moment." And it is not that they don't understand that oh so difficult distinction between news reporting and opinion. It is that the "he-said, she-said" version of objectivity currently held by the professional journalist mandarins like yourself is sadly lacking when it comes to uncovering the truth and holding the powerful accountable. It is evident that those in power have become supremely adept at manipulating the news and thereby avoiding truth and accountability. The reason we like Froomkin so much, again, based on what can be surmised from the numerous posts here, is not that he is 'liberal,' but that he, while not pretending to be a news reporter, actually does what we think a news reporter should do: he reports facts, not just the facts about what the powerful are saying about what they want us to believe about the facts. Your response to the response to your response (and you're just digging yourself in deeper and deeper) shows a complete inability to understand this critique.

In fairness, your inability to understand what you are plainly being told by so many here may not be due to stupidity per se, but rather to the fact that your entire identity and sense of self worth as a journalist would crumble if you allowed yourself to acknowledge this critique and its ramifications.

Posted by: a friend | December 14, 2005 12:34 AM

http://theheretik.typepad.com/the_heretik/2005/12/daniel_in_the_w.html

Your hitting the big time now Johnny on the Spot:

"DANIEL UPSET THE RULERS of the kingdom and now Froomkin finds himself among the lions. Or the hyenas. Or the high and mighty political writers at the Washington Post. The writers may be high and might be mighty sorry when the reckoning is done and the wreckage reveals who has won. And who has lost.

THE HIGH AND MIGHTY political writers might be seen more as writers if they didn't suck up so much to the political high and mighty they write about. Write on, Daniel. Right on."

Posted by: Richard | December 14, 2005 12:35 AM

Mr Harris should be fired. Or, if not fired, transferred to a position where his small mindedness won't embarrass his employer. Possibly cleaning up the loading dock after the distribution trucks have left in the morning would be a more appropriate place for his skills.

Posted by: Leo | December 14, 2005 12:37 AM

Mr. Harris:

Thanks for being honest, and immediately making it clear that this attempt to muzzle Dan Froomkin was carried out at the behest of the Bush Administration. It is probably better to admit up front that you are working for the White House, than to try hiding it like your colleague, Bob Woodward.

And to think, I used to go to washingtonpost.com or buy the paper for the news coverage.

Posted by: Downey Meyer | December 14, 2005 12:38 AM

Mr Harris,

You have verified in black and white thoughts that I have increasingly suspected about your paper. Your statements confirm that WaPo's desire to please the Bush administration trumps any obligation it feels towards the public.

Therefore, it is with a clear purpose and without regret that I plan to cancel my subscription to WaPo tomorrow. Your words and condescending attitude have heightened my determination to withhold my $$ from media organizations such as yours and, instead, channel those funds to younger, hungrier, and more fiercely independent news outlets.

Thanks for clarifying the choice for me!

Posted by: Jax | December 14, 2005 12:48 AM

It's not about politics anymore... It's about crime, and criminals, and criminal behavior and rule of law and the future of our country: Global Warming, International cooperation... Katrina!!!

Re: Bush

"Thus 18 U.S.C., Sec. 1001 was evidently violated."

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny22_hinchey/morenews/091505fitzgeraldletter.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-niger3dec03,0,4700538.story?coll=la-home-headlines

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-niger11dec11,0,3678379.story?coll=la-home-headlines

John Harris has a criminal mind. Clearly, he supports a criminal culture.

Posted by: Richard | December 14, 2005 12:48 AM

Y'know I was just starting to feel good about journalists again...A few of them seemed to be regaining their intergrity and exposing the lies and cover ups in the present administration. Heaven forbid that we should allow honest, straightforward reporting. Dan Froomkin provides a valuable service to this paper and to the nation, by reporting things as they happen, not how the administration wants them to appear. Daily papers are quickly writing themselves into mediocrity and mendacity. Please don't let the Wash. Post follow the trend. You will only make yourselves obsolete, as there is only a limited audience available for the Fox News types...The rest of us have choices now: blogs, etc. What is it you don't understand about, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!"? We don't have to.

Posted by: Dana P. | December 14, 2005 12:56 AM

By all means the Washington Post should get a conservative blogger to cover the White House.

But it should be a conservative blogger who approaches what he is being told by the White House with scepticism and attentiveness to consistency.

This isn't about partisanship. This is about someone being willing to look through a spinning fan and concentrate on the reality on the other side ... and not on the blades themselves. If there's a conservative willing to do that (and there are plenty, particularly in the libertarian camp) their scrutiny of the Bush Administration would be welcome.

But if you add a Conservative who is only focussed on rooting out "liberal bias" in the media, you might as well not bother. The web is filled with folks willing to be far more virulent at this message than you will ever stand for, and the fans of that message will be spending their time there.

Posted by: Phil Ponebshek | December 14, 2005 12:56 AM

Adam at 7:14:32 said all that needs be said, and did it extremely well. I stopped reading at that point. Why bother to pile on with repetitious posts?

I really have only one thought to add, and that would be:

For crying out loud, get a grip. Get some perspective. Stop taking yourself so incredibly seriously. For the sake of those of us who do not, thank God, live/work inside the beltway, please realize how "Monty Pythonish" this whole ruckus is. Sheeeshhh.

A suggestion: Have a contest to rename the column. Have some fun with it. Take a breath and realize that you need to come up with a solution that makes people feel good. I'll be the first to propose a title:

FroomkinRoom @TheWhiteHouse.

It's no big deal.

Posted by: Terry Ott | December 14, 2005 01:01 AM

Add my name to the list of people who grew up on Woodward and are now down to Froomkin as the only part of the Post with any credibility left. Since when do editors and reporters make "statements"? They report. You all need to get back to that. In the meantime, Froomkin remains one of the last honest men at the Post.

Posted by: Will | December 14, 2005 01:14 AM

Say it ain't so John! Say it ain't so!

Posted by: Heartbroken little boy | December 14, 2005 01:19 AM

I noticed your interview today, so Republicans have complained to you in 'informal' ways? Why wasn't this included in this blog post right here? Here all you discussed were 'readers.' Which Republicans? More anonymous sources?

Why does this remind me of Russert claiming that Libby was calling to complain about another show on MSNBC, Woodward claiming that the leak of Plame's name was mearly parlor gossip or Novak dropping the name of another reporter's source to the lawyer of Rove? Journalists gone native.

Posted by: Terry Green | December 14, 2005 01:23 AM

So, this is how bad things have gotten:

I, an engineer, will now explain Journalism to you, an editor of the Washington Post newspaper, using the on-line resource Wikipedia:

Journalism is a discipline of collecting, verifying, analyzing and presenting information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people. Those who practice journalism are known as journalists.

Journalism has as its main activity the reporting of events -- stating who, what, when, where, why and how, and explaining the significance and effect of events or trends.

I would rank Froomkin's posts against any of your reporters' articles based upon those criteria any day of the week.

And I think the people telling you they are confused are only pretending to be confused so they can complain. No person who chooses to read the White House Briefing will be so slow as to make the poor assumption you claim.

Please do your job better. From my reading, your post seems strangely anti-journalistic.

Posted by: GQ | December 14, 2005 01:25 AM

Mr. Harris,

Shame on you. You were raised better than this.

No wonder traditional dailies are losing circulation. You treat your subscribers and employees like serfs. Why should we pay for a bunch of yahoos to kiss up to the latest power grabber. So much for "journalistic ethics" - an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Posted by: Lynda Ramsey | December 14, 2005 01:29 AM

What ever did happen to the legacy of the Watergate investigations?

Can the WAPO find no better purpose these days than to kiss up to the power in the White House?

Who do you serve, again, Mr. Harris?

Us or them?

Posted by: JKC | December 14, 2005 01:41 AM

While we're renaming Froomkin's column, let's rename the whole paper too: the Washington Pravda. We report, you decide, and all that.

Posted by: nota bene | December 14, 2005 01:45 AM

From Harris' response: "It might be the case that he [Froomkin] would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." Possibly, but more likely it is doubtful that a Kerry White House or Democrats would be pressuring the Post to change or get rid of Mr. Froomkin's column. They would recognize that those who write with "irreverence and adversarial purpose" are essential to the survival of what is left of our democratic form of government.

Posted by: LAW | December 14, 2005 02:01 AM

You don't need to balance out Froomkin - Froomkin IS THE BALANCE to your frequently slanted opinion pieces that you call "objective reporting". For an "opinion" piece, his daily stress on the facts is clear and his facts are unasssailable. Presidential precedent, history, journalistic rules of integrity and detached examination, and tangible acts and statements of the day are his pervue for analysis. Then he connnects the dots logically and purposefully. You only wish this could be said of the rest of the paper.
In light of the example that Woodward has recently set as a representative of your "best" reporters, you should be genuinely ashamed to assail the public with the internal jealousies and political jousting that presently besets the rumbling, poorly fed bowls of your institution. We've seen your discomfort. We see you wrestle with Bush administration strong-arming. Some of us were tempted to sympathize, trusting that Dan was given due respect as a necessary voice for the public.
Now you insult his presence and refer to the interests and opinions of internal squabblers and the Bush administration as justification. Now we see that your priorities are no longer within the domain of public interest. That removes you from the realm of public respectability.
Shame on you.

Posted by: Weathers | December 14, 2005 02:09 AM

Like the president and his administration, Harris (a Republican mouthpiece) neither sees how stupid he looks nor does he care. Why? Because in HIS bubble he has all the power.

Posted by: | December 14, 2005 02:14 AM

I forgot to put my name on this. Don't want you to think I'm trying to hide something.

I'll say it again. Like the president and his administration, Harris (a Republican mouthpiece) neither sees how stupid he looks nor does he care. Why? Because in HIS bubble he has all the power.

Posted by: John Palcewski | December 14, 2005 02:18 AM

Just after I told my friends and colleagues that I no longer read nor trust NYT anymore, you pull this off.

I don't need the so called "balanced" reporting. All you need to do is to report as it is. If the president is a crook, say so!!! And that has nothing to do with reporting through a liberal prism.

Oh, I do understand that Mr. Froomkin is not a reporter because I click on his work within this section called "OPINIONS" everyday. What's your problem? The dumb and dumber would be confused? They don't read Washingtonpost.com, you know.

Mr. Harris, please resign now. And please pass the message to your ombudsman as well.

Posted by: Daniel Jiang | December 14, 2005 02:46 AM

This is as good place as any to state my opinion that you and yours, Mr. Harris, have caused irreparable damage to a once-great institution: the American Media.

Mr. Woodward, Ms. Miller, Ms. Novak, you and many more have shattered the reputations of institutions such as the NEW YORK TIMES and the WASHINGTON POST.

Not just with what's happening today; it really began with the farce that was the Clinton Impeachment. But by a slow process of ingratiating yourselves with those whom you were meant to keep in line: the politicians.

I'm a 50-year-old attorney and I used to freelance for European magazines (French, British) and have a modicum of experience in the field.

Twenty years ago, the TIMES and the POST were shining examples we all strived to imitate, defenders of freedom of almost mythical proportions.

Please visit a Press Room in Paris or London today. You have become at best "a" source of information (amongst many, and not necessarily the one deemed the most reliable); at worst, I hate to say this, you are just a "tool", like "Government" papers from Argentina or Brazil.

You are read by your colleagues around the world not to find out the truth about what goes on in America, but to find out what the U.S. Government thinks.

You have, collectively, been the undertakers of the American Media.

I weep for Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Bradlee who are still idols of mine.

Posted by: JM Lofficier | December 14, 2005 02:46 AM

You say that perhaps Mr. Froomkin's work needs to be balanced out by someone with a conservative bent.

Of course, you would wish to hire a conservative writer with some principles, an education, some real knowledege, and an IQ greater the the temperature in DC at the moment.

That pretty much reduces the choice to William F. Buckley Jr., doesn't it?

Posted by: Jeff | December 14, 2005 02:55 AM


If he is going after Frookmin (in the Opinion section) just think of how he is working his own Whitehouse correspondents...

Seriously, the WaPo would earn MUCHO respect by firing Harris! What's they old saying...don't become part of the story?

Posted by: Junble | December 14, 2005 02:58 AM

Mr. Harris.

Show some dignity and resign now. And take your ombudsman with you.

Posted by: Chris | December 14, 2005 03:07 AM

Froomkin provides a welcome bit of zing to a newspaper that increasingly seems unwilling to take chances. Are you guys losing your nerve? Buck up.

Posted by: Carlos Lang | December 14, 2005 03:08 AM

Hey - didn't you used to be The Washington Post? For shame.

Posted by: mike | December 14, 2005 03:15 AM

we will get the truth, the question remains , will we get it from WAPO? you can sully yourself daily, i really could care less. there was a time one could rely on the msm for truth. if people have to rely on blogs, there goes the msm. you be the judge, who is the best source? get w/the program dude. the american public is not stupid.
call it left, call it whatever you wnat, i call it truth, bit you are full of spin.

Posted by: annie robbins | December 14, 2005 03:41 AM

Do your *jobs* pproperly as journalists, NOT propagandists.

You're adults, fer crissakes, and have been paid over the years to dig out and report facts and interpret events as objectively as possible ... not be the adjunct outsourced PR department for the White House when the party you prefer is in power (not that it makes much difference, except that you like to get rabid when they aren't as conservative as you might like).

We need facts and real information from you people (that's your role) in order for a democracy to survive ... and this one is sinking pretty damned fast.

Posted by: Jon Husband | December 14, 2005 03:49 AM

I believe it's time for the Washington Post to replace Mr. Harris. His most recent demonstration of partisanship in his expression of sympathy for the attack words of Patrick Ruffini, former Bush/Cheney '04 campaign webmaster, are simply the final straw.

But the substantive reason is that in the end, the buck stops with him. The emasculation of the once-laudable Washington Post White House team has happened under his editorial watch. It is the editors' job to ensure that the paper does not become an uncritical mouthpiece for the Bush administration to distribute distortions of the facts on the ground, and Mr. Harris has failed mightily at this task. The WashPo stands to lost its most precious assets: its reputation, and with it its intelligent readership.

Please find an editor who can separate his loyalty to the Bush machine from his own corporate and civic responsibilities.

Posted by: Andy Mitchell | December 14, 2005 04:04 AM

the Washington Post's inability, or unwillingness, to actually hold George Bush and his administration responsbile for what they have done, is the problem, not the Froomkin column.
The only people who seem confused about Froomkin's column appear to be WaPo reporters.

Posted by: bj | December 14, 2005 06:00 AM

"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."
Yes, make sure that the Bush administration knows that the kowtowing WaPo would never question in a serious way any of their misstatements, prevarications, or outright lies. Apparently the WaPo thinks that "news coverage" means dutifully repeating White House talking points.
Thank goodness for Froomkin who tries to see past the lies.

Posted by: tkc | December 14, 2005 06:27 AM

Most of what can be said, has been said. I, too, regard Froomkin's column to be one of the high points of my day. I did want to say how appalled I was at Mr. Harris' interview at PressThink (linked above) when he said, "Q: You also said, "I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions." But you don't give any examples or links to past columns, and Deborah Howell, who also made this point, doesn't give any examples, so it's hard for readers to judge what these observations are based on. Could you help me out here? What issues does WHB tend to view through a liberal prism? Can you point to columns that you had in mind? You also say that it may be true that Froomkin would do the column the same way if Kerry had won the '04 election; but if that's so, doesn't that undercut the notion of a liberal prism?"

"John Harris: How Dan would be writing about a Kerry administration is obviously an imponderable. Does Dan present a liberal worldview? Not always, but cumulatively I think a great many people would say yes--enough that I don't want them thinking he works for the news side of the Post. Without agreeing with the views of this conservative blogger who took on Froomkin, I would say his argument does not seem far-fetched to me."

To describe Ruffini, the former webmaster for the Bush-Cheney campaign and, by his resume, a career Republican operative, as simply "a conservative blogger" is comparable to Judith Miller agreeing to identify Scooter Libby as a former Hill staffer. It can only be described as intentionally misleading in a way that establishes that Harris's only reason for his clear loathing of Froomkin is his view that Froomkin comes from a liberal perspective and that he does not want any such perspective in the newspaper or on the web edition.

Harris remains indefensibly vague about the source of these alleged claims of confusion as to the nature of Froomkin's column. I can only speak for myself, but I have always felt that anyone who actually reads Froomkin's column with an open mind is in no doubt that it includes his opinion and analysis. However, his column also regularly provides access to a wide range of viewpoints.

Objectivity and fairness in reporting requires not going in with one's mind made up, determined not to be confused by the facts as so much of Fox News does. It does not require mindlessly regurgitating the various sides' position without examining the accuracy of those positions. Would Mr. Harris approve an article reciting both sides of the Holocaust?

Unfortunately, the more Mr. Harris "explains" himself, the more troubling he is to those of us who have followed the Washington Post with admiration since the days of its Watergate coverage with its insistence, at the highest levels of the paper, on ensuring that all the facts came out, despite intense pressure from the Nixon administration and its allies to suppress it.

Posted by: Margaret Blough | December 14, 2005 06:45 AM

I read "The Fix" at the recommendation of Peter Baker during his online chat yesterday. There is analysis in the column. Why don't you move it to the opinion side of the paper?

Posted by: Cee | December 14, 2005 06:57 AM

Two days and you STILL can't come up with all those "examples" of "beyond any doubt, that a large share of readers do believe that"

Where are they Mr. Harris?

Oh right. They are fantasies in your head.

Posted by: | December 14, 2005 07:18 AM

If your political reporters were doing their jobs they would be challenging Scott McClellan's daily tissue of lies and flim-flam; if your reporters would have done their jobs three years ago they would have grilled Fleisher on all the lies that led America into an illegal war of aggression. Your paper is the Pravda of it's day, and you are no better than a party apparatchik.

Posted by: Ian | December 14, 2005 07:21 AM

If Mr. Harris wants to be a private "public relations consultant" for Karle Rove, let him do so in a reasonably honorable fashion - openly and forthrightly.

If the Washington Post considers itself to be an actual newspaper (a dubious prospect, but within the realm of possibility), it should consider removing its collective nose from the nether crease of the Republican Party.
The change in perspective might prove intriguing.

Posted by: Dave Porter | December 14, 2005 07:21 AM

Daddy, what exactly is the role of the fourth estate in a "democracy"?

Posted by: Nelson Poindexter III | December 14, 2005 07:29 AM

Last I heard the First Amendment still guaranteed freedom of the press. The Post's apparent buckling under pressure from the Republicans has me questioning whether or not this is still so. Houston we have a big problem.

Posted by: J A Smith | December 14, 2005 07:35 AM

If the Washington Post editors and reporters want a job at the White House, then they should apply for a job with the Republican administration. The only thing that seems to be worrying you is "what the White House thinks." That is not what is worrying the American people or your readers. We're worried about what the White House is doing and then lying about that harms the country. It is your job to report those facts, and Froomkin does a better job of that even in an opinion piece
than the sycophants who call themselves reporters and editors.

Posted by: Los | December 14, 2005 07:43 AM

How does it feel to be a pamphlet for plutocracy? I suppose the big numbers make up for your total abdication of journalistic integrity.

Posted by: Jeff | December 14, 2005 08:01 AM

It isn't about what is said, it is who is saying it. The WAPO knows that true opinion flows from high status people downward to the little people.

Harris has a duty as a patrician gatekeeper of record, and that must be upheld in the stately and courtly little world that he occupies.

As us little people all know, when we hear a voice in our head, we may be mentally ill. When a person of importance, like GWB hears a voice in his head, it is God himself revealing the truth!

And so it is with our dear Harris. He is blessed with status and position and therefore must posess the talent and knowledge that one in that position must surely have. Goodness and truth are what makes you a valuable commodity in media, just ask Ann Coulter.

Posted by: masterson | December 14, 2005 08:11 AM

WPo Correction: Mr Harris meant to say:

"If I worked outside the paper at the White House (and I will soon), I might presume myself that a feature titled 'White House Briefing' was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters actually doing his job as a journalist instead of listening to Scott."

Posted by: sen. vp. executive editor | December 14, 2005 08:24 AM

Mr. Harris,

What does one think each morning when they look in the mirror after having kissed Rove's butt the day before? I can't imagine how it is to serve a master who's very essence is a lie whereas the career is all about reporting the truth.
Leave Fromkin and his writings alone. Put your energies in removing your lips from Rove's butt.

Posted by: keith l | December 14, 2005 08:24 AM

The above post is what I mean about NYT style vulgarity, and something I hope WP will NEVER import.

It's very easy to be a bottomfeeder and spew filth then call it "journalism", it's much harder to not fall into the trap of being a Hearst, Jr. enterprise.

For the reporters out there who don't blur the entertainment and news together (if you still exist please let us folks who ONLY want news, not Hollyweird or the next blondie with a million dollar smile even while 3,000 people die) --kudos-- for you keeping the wayward National Enquirer type of "journalists" in check. If you don't speak up, news will be filtered through the lens of only $$$$$ and the status quo.

I hope you true journalists (especially those without spotty ethical records) will start up a CSPAN network of just news 24/7 (no sports, no weather, no tabloid style junk, just 100% news from the US and from around the world). I'd gladly trade in the other so-called "news" channels to get in-depth reporting on issues (not non-issues like is it a "holiday tree" or "Christmas tree"?); diplomancy (sorely lacking in today's media); commerce; technology; medicine, etc.

This debasing of the media has got to stop. I careless what political stripe you are world, I just care about getting as ***unbiased*** news coverage 24/7 as I can get. If the FCC will allow a la carte cable programming for consumers, I'd ditch most channels just for every news/science/history channel on TV instead!!

So good call on this issue. I just hope WP will clean up the other ethical lapses with certain columnists still on WP's roles. Then I can proudly read WP without the stench of marsh gas reeking from the pulp.

SandyK
A huge NEWS fan!

Posted by: SandyK | December 14, 2005 08:27 AM

When there is such a radical disconnect between the management's perception of the value it is delivering, and the perceptions of its most passionate and engaged customers, one of two things typically happens.

If the management is enlightened, it seeks to understand at a deep level why its most deeply connected customers -- those who take the time to comment on issues like these -- have become so thoroughly disillusioned.

The answer *could* turn out to be that these customers are stupid or thoughtless. They clearly do not recognize a good product when it is being handed to them. (For instance, they do not understand fine distinctions such as the difference between an originally reported news article or an analysis or opinion column.) It is frustrating serving individuals such as these, but because we are who we are, we will soldier on, even in the face of such obstacles.

Enlightened business leaders, in contrast, recognize that the "unintelligent customers" analysis is the least likely to be accurate, and certainly the least likely to lead to positive results. It's far more likely that the business itself has missed something fundamental, and needs to change.

Sadly, in many companies facing issues like these, the management continues behaving as it has, convinced in its bubble that all is well, and that those who disagree are simply a tiny, disproportionately loud group of congential carpers, with impure motivations.

These are the businesses that fail. (This, incidentally, seems true for governments, republics, and empires as well.)

(I suppose there is a third alternative: the management has radically changed its business model, and now has an entirely different set of customers: those who dominate the machinery of government. While these individuals would certainly be the basis for a profitable business in defense, or public relations, or lobbying, one wonders whether they represent a sufficient base for a national newspaper.)

Mr. Harris, Ms. Howell: Please give some thought to which category you fall into. For all the protestations, you sure do leave the impression that you think that you're a whole lot smarter than your readers are. This may be true, but let's just say that the evidence of the Post's recent performance hasn't yet convinced us.

Posted by: Bill Camarda | December 14, 2005 08:36 AM

They NEED to fall to the protests -- especially by real journalists that aren't marred by ego, ethical lapses, and outright scandal.

Journalists are there to REPORT the news, not become part of the story. Look at Froomkin's response -- he created a story that never needed to exist. That isn't journalism, it's appealing to the mob to avenge another media darling.

You guys who are defending Froomkin in merging commentary and news should be ashamed of yourselves for debasing a profession that needs a house cleaning, top down -- and it has ZERO to do with politics, it has everything to do with no guesswork about the integrity of journalism itself. It's not tabloid or Hollyweird, it's hardcore reporting in the jungles, to doing indepth investigative reporting (and sticking with it despite pressure to stop uncovering the truth), because the news and facts matter more.

Media stars only car about their byline, and if they cared about their profession, they wouldn't sit there and justify merging Hollyweird into news reporting. It's patently dishonest, and soils a reputation that needs --tooth and nail-- to dig out of decades of muck.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | December 14, 2005 08:45 AM

This is all well and good, but unless Froomkin splashed his seed on a dress, or did not have sex with his secretary I'm really not interested in this story.

Posted by: Randall P. Hopkirk IV | December 14, 2005 08:47 AM

Mr. Harris,
What complete unmitigated BS. I have never, not once, thought Froomkin was a "Whitehouse Reporter." Get over yourselves. Really, do. Froomkin provides an invaluable compendium to news reports and I truly appreciate the job her performs for the community with his column.

You should look toward yourselves and wonder whether you are doing the job you should be doing. Leave Froomkin alone.

Ditto on everyone posting before me.

I am very disappointed in my favorite news source - it's a damned shame and even with you I must question whether you are doing everything you can to actually report "everything" regardless of whether this administration lets you in their news breifings or not. Frankly, when they block reporters from asking questions, maybe you guys should just stop showing up - you'd probably actually have better information without the White House briefings.

Posted by: Nancy | December 14, 2005 08:50 AM

Froomkin is the only part of the Post worth reading these days. Harris must be awfully jealous and/or terrified of his masters in the White House.

Posted by: Ethan Clauset | December 14, 2005 08:52 AM

In reading other comments, I'd just like to add one thing.

We don't want partisan reporting.

We don't want reporters who show up on TV to comment on stories without letting on that they, themselves, are at the center of those stories.

We don't want reporters who value their relationships in the corridors of power more than they value their readers' trust.

We want tough, accurate reporting. We want truth spoken to power -- no matter who has the power.

We want The Fourth Estate to do its job: the job that makes democracy possible.

And that's ALL we want.

That's why we started reading the Post in the first place. That's why we've become so disappointed with it.

And, yes, we DO know the difference.

Posted by: Bill Camarda | December 14, 2005 08:55 AM

If Mr. Harris believes his response to be an accurate reflection of the actual issue at hand we can see right off the bat the problem. He has (purposefully?) subverted the issue and twisted Mr. Fromkin's response and termed it a complaint and indicated he perceived "a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism." Of course, Mr. Fromkin has clearly stated that his commentary is not liberal but rather aggressive seeking "accountability." Here's the rub--Harris is essentially acknowledging that commentary that seeks accountability he perceives as liberal! Mr. Howell further perpetuates this idea by implying that Mr. Fromkin's supporters are beholden to the Democratic party and wouldn't be so fond of Mr. Fromkin if he would have had the opportunity to hold Kerry's White House to the same accountability standard. So--now the world is divided only between supporters of the president and supporters of Mr. Fromkin and there's no one who simply cares about accountability? Indeed, as a reporter Mr. Harris should step outside of his beltway world and come visit the rest of us and see that we deserve a richer, more textured understanding from him and his staff.

In addition, it should be acknowldeged that Mr. Howell has used some rather unfortunate words to (mis)portray Mr. Fromkin's response. Words like "complaint" and "plead" are not accurate reflections of the response provided by Mr. Fromkin to the comments shared by Ms. Howell. Mr. Harris even takes the high ground because he doesn't want to spike Mr. Fromkin's column (oh, but some in the office do!).

If, as a reporter, the Political Editor can do no better than this then the Post has its hands full when dealing with issues much less clear emanating from the White House.


Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose. Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement.

Posted by: | December 14, 2005 08:55 AM

Well, the WP hit a well deserved nerve, and the rats are coming out of the sewers defending filth with filth (no doubt coming from partisan sites like DU and Daily KoS to stuff the polls with "outrage" too).

It's like they feed on offal, and demand more, just to say "my party is winning". Careless about debasing journalism as a profession, just save a partisan at all costs.

Then they bemoan why the world is so "unfair" and "ugly". They need to look in the mirror why it's news to begin with.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | December 14, 2005 08:56 AM

Dear Mr. Harris:

Here's a helpful hint on how to tell reporters from columnists. If there is a little picture of the writer, it's not a reporter.

I think that most people know this, but perhaps you haven't noticed.

Posted by: Iowan | December 14, 2005 09:01 AM

"it's hardcore reporting in the jungles,"

So would you call Administration apologist Bob Woodward hardcore? He's so hardcore he knows the Valerie Plame outing was written off by a CIA damage assessment even the CIA are denying.

Posted by: Throckton Bullweather | December 14, 2005 09:05 AM

Wow, not a whole lot of friends in these comments. How are you going to walk down to the lunchroom this week? Harris, you've been pwned! I bet your bashful bladder is going to resurrect itself, and to think you just had conquered that. Anyway, don't feel bad, there will always be v.1agra.

Posted by: jerry | December 14, 2005 09:06 AM

I think this whole thing is nutty. I find it hard to believe that large numbers of people are being deceived by the presentation of Dan Froomkin's column into thinking that he's writing on the news side. As for reporters being upset with Froomkin's column, they ought to suck it up or else find a new job.

That said, this whole thing is really a tempest in a teapot. If the WaPo really thinks it needs to change the name of Froomkin's column, they should go ahead and do it. Might I suggest "CYA"?

Posted by: Andrew | December 14, 2005 09:19 AM

Damn straight I'd want Dan Froomkin hitting a Democratic President just as hard. That's because I put my country ahead of my party, a concept you seem to have a hard time grasping, Mr. Harris.

Posted by: Steve Odendahl | December 14, 2005 09:22 AM

Throckton Bullweather wrote:
==========================================
So would you call Administration apologist Bob Woodward hardcore? He's so hardcore he knows the Valerie Plame outing was written off by a CIA damage assessment even the CIA are denying.
===========================================

And just a month before the same folks would've remember Woodward as the guy who helped ousted Nixon. :rolleyes:

Anything for partisan points for today. History, honesty, integrity, professionalism, honor, character, and just being civil doesn't matter. Just shortchanging anything of value, to sink in the sewer to claim, "I got mine."

I have issues that the WP still have George Will as a columnist (after ***3*** ethical lapses). If WP wants to really come across as a fair, honest and strictly journalistic media outlet, they need to oust such folks (3 ethics lapses isn't a fluke, and #4 will come sooner or later). When the competition learns of WP harboring another media star from the same scrutiny as a WP janitor would get for pocketing soap, it's rep gets an even worse hit.

I understand and support the decision. Not as a partisan, but because housecleaning is necessary.

SandyK

Posted by: SnadyK | December 14, 2005 09:24 AM

Your reporters are so "balanced" I would suggest they take up new careers as tightrope walkers and acrobats.

Futhermore, what you claim to be "partisan", most right-thinking people would label "critical".

Posted by: Draylon Hogg | December 14, 2005 09:24 AM

Your reporters are so "balanced" I would suggest they take up new careers as tightrope walkers and acrobats.

Futhermore, what you claim to be "partisan", most right-thinking people would label "critical".

Posted by: Draylon Hogg | December 14, 2005 09:25 AM

I suspect that whatever quarrel the Post's reporters have with Dan Froomkin's column is that he asks then to do their job: to ask tough questions and hold our public officials, whether Republican or Democratic, accountable. Some might even think that makes Froomkin "conservative." Mr. Harris should be ashamed of himself and his whining colleagues.

Posted by: Kevin | December 14, 2005 09:27 AM

I see the wingnuts have mounted a counter attack but are armed only with the usual unsupported accusations. Ah well.
A couple o' quotes to ponder from Shaw for the WAPO publishers and editors to consider.


Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation.
- G.B Shaw

The government who robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
- G.B Shaw

Posted by: Ken in Seattle | December 14, 2005 09:29 AM

This is sad. The Post used to be a great paper.

Court sternographers, writing official history. Indeed.

Posted by: Joseph Gabriel | December 14, 2005 09:33 AM

I find this whole debate ridiculous.

I look forward to Dan's column every day, he's bright and inciteful. What is the White House afraid of, a little criticism? In my estimation, they should be receiving a lot more.

It appears to me that you are caving to the likes of the liar mouthpiece Scott McClellan and the rest of the White House cronies that want America to only hear and believe what they have to say. Dan tells the folks what the cronies have to say and what the reality really is.

Who cares about what the news forum is called, we all know that this is Dan's opinion. The people that don't read "White House Briefing" are the sorry Republican fools that should be. If they did read the column, they probably wouldn't be Republicans any longer.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Posted by: fred b | December 14, 2005 09:38 AM

Dear Mr. Harris:

Might I dare suggest, ever so gently, that some of the current animus being directed by other WaPo staff writers stem, just a little bit mind you, from the Green Monster of Jealousy over the popularity of Mr. Froomkin's highly informative online column?

Posted by: suntzu | December 14, 2005 09:46 AM

Some quotes as well...

"There's a whiff of the lynch mob or the lemming migration about any overlarge concentration of like-thinking individuals, no matter how virtuous their cause."

P. J. O'Rourke
US humorist & political commentator

"Son, in war times it is not safe to think unless one travels with the mob."

Charles Lindberg Sr.
to Charles Lindberg Jr. in 1917

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | December 14, 2005 09:47 AM

Dear Sir;

I look back over 60 years of observing politics and I wonder how it is that we've come to have both the most incompetent government and cowardly press of my lifetime. Thanks for reprinting your comment. I did miss it, when it was first printed in the earlier comments. Perhaps it got lost among the hundreds who disagreed with you and the two or three who agreed.
Mr Harris, you say that the readers are all confused by Dan's column title and we're aghast at his pinko politics. You say that your White House insider reporters, with their ever diminishing status and following, think something must be done. Before your ombudsman's hasty retreat, she suggested a title change and the hiring of a right wing blogger to balance Froomkin.
Where are the comments thanking you for clearing up this confusion? Only you and your envious reporters seem confused. It's a straight out lie that many of Dan's readers think he's at the White House. First the lie, then the spin. Where did you learn that?
So, please, call Karl and find out what crypto-fascist blogger the White House wants you to run. There are thousands to choose from and a man of your moral flexibility shouldn't have a problem going along. "White House Drudge at The Washington Post."
I don't know why Van-what's-his-name and his gal should be so envious. They have all those sources and secrets. In 10 or 20 years they can write a book telling us all the stuff they are keeping hidden now.
Sincerely, G.Tanner

Posted by: G.Tanner | December 14, 2005 09:48 AM

Mr. Harris, you don't get it.

When I read what you have to say in regards to Mr. Froomkin and his articles, I am reminded of people who would say such wonderful things as "If man were meant to fly, he would have wings.", "You can't sail around the world, you will fall of the edge." etc etc etc.

Your paper is dead. If not today, soon. And clearly you don't see that, as you desperately hold on to what little you have left of what you once had. The fact that your paper, a "respected" institution, refuses to fire the likes of Bob Woodward, tells the story (many many other examples). You cannot be trusted. Trust is the cornerstone to the press. Your job is to tell the story of what is happening in our world. If people do not trust you, they will not listen. If they do not listen, you will not have sales. If you do not have sales, you will wither and die. And it is not just the left that is feed up with the machine that tries to fit the people into a nice neat box, it is the right as well.

God Bless The Power Of The Free Market System.

Good riddance to you and your kind. We are quite simply fed up with the BS.

Posted by: Flash | December 14, 2005 09:53 AM

It would be interesting to know how much the white house pays John for this nonsense.

Posted by: Ray C. | December 14, 2005 09:54 AM

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I GAURANTEE THAT MANY PEOPLE who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

There you go again! Ascribing motivation to your readers.
Mr. Harris, has this issue got to you so much that you must
stoop to this. Silly me, I always thought that the reporter's
job was to accurately tell the story as he or she saw it-not to use thier attempt at psychoanalysis to GAURANTEE the reader's reaction. Have we become so self assured that we can
make descisions based on what we are so sure is in someone else's mind? It is hard for me to beleive that this is the same
Mr. Harris who recently wrote the (very good) Clinton book.

Posted by: disgusted | December 14, 2005 09:54 AM

Iowan,

This is hillarious. I've always wondered how I knew Froomkin was a columnist from the first second I read him, but then I remembered the subtle clues you point out. Now that I think about it, I've often wondered, why I think Froomkin is bearded and wears glasses, though I've never met the man.

Dear Mr. Harris:

Here's a helpful hint on how to tell reporters from columnists. If there is a little picture of the writer, it's not a reporter.

I think that most people know this, but perhaps you haven't noticed.

Posted by: KevinNYC | December 14, 2005 09:55 AM

Weren't alive to witness Hearst and yellow journalism. That's the road this merging of tabloidism and news reporting will become.

No longer about unbiased reporting, it's only to "our party first".

When WP writes a pro-Democratic piece it's all praise, "Yeah, they're the one with Woodward and his help in ousting Nixon". But when WP wants to distinguish between what Froomkin considers "journalism" and the rank-and-file considers journalism, then it's, "Oh, they have Woodward the brown noser".

Can't win to lose, lose to win with the mob, bent on spinning their own web of biased journalism.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | December 14, 2005 09:56 AM

My dear Mr. Harris,

Benjamin Franklin wrote in "Poor Richard's Almanack": "Tricks and trechery are the practice of fools who have not wit enough to be honest."

It is very obvious after expressing your disposition regarding Mr. Froomkin's "liberal prism" that you are not being honest with your readers while at the same time you're wooed by Karl Rove.

Indeed, for the sake of your fine newspaper, it is my prayer that you abide Mr. Franklin's axiom; goodness knows, Karl Rove isn't.

Posted by: Charles Abell | December 14, 2005 09:58 AM

Single party rule is by definition totalitarian. At some point the Washington Post is going to have to come down either on the side of democracy or totalitarianism. As long as the Post caters to Republican demands to silence its critics and opposition, it is undermining democracy. Using the Post as a conduit for one party's propaganda is ultimately self-destructive to the entire profession of journalism, a fact that, like global warming is making itself more and more evident as the weeks and months slip by. For shame.

Posted by: Molly D | December 14, 2005 10:07 AM

I find it curious how much this brouhaha is reminiscent of the NYTimes/Daniel Okrent trashing of Paul Krugman last spring.

Anyone who thinks Froomkin's column is a report from the Rose Garden is pretty silly, so the thought that the name is misleading is kind of silly too.

Posted by: V Penny | December 14, 2005 10:09 AM

You would think by now the Post would be on its knees begging its reader's for forgiveness after 8+ years of shoddy and breathless he said/she said reporting. That after the recent Woodward debacle they would try and serve their readers by pursuing truth for a change rather than recycling tired right wing spin for the umpteenth time.

Then you read this garbage by Harris.

They're on their knees all right, but solely to service those in power.

Posted by: Michael Martino | December 14, 2005 10:09 AM


Mr. Harris-
Who's better in bed? Ken Melhman, Karl Rove or is it Dick Cheney? Come on fess up! Honestly, if I wanted to read the GOP organ, I'd read the Washington Times.

Posted by: Groupie | December 14, 2005 10:17 AM

Froomkin's articles are always a breath of fresh air.

Most of the Washington Press Corp have been mere variations on "Mr Rogers Interviews the President".

Can you say "propaganda" boys and girls?
Sure, I knew you could.

Posted by: Dr Smith | December 14, 2005 10:18 AM

Agree with those who think the WaPo is so breathlessly sycophantic about "maintaining access" that you will do anything however dishonorable to maintain it.
Believe it or not, real journalism is possible using public sources without your prized inside access. Too bad you don't try it. We'd get more truth and fewer lies, and more insight.
The defense of the anti-Froomkin-ites is pathetic.

Posted by: Penny Pett | December 14, 2005 10:20 AM

SandyK, you are clearly in a minority here. You might want to ask yourself why. Well, to begin with, you seem to have a rather distant acquaintance with what most of us refer to as "truth", or more precisely, using words the meanings of which correspond to a set of readily observed facts.

I don't expect to change your mind, as the views you hold are so far removed from any underlying observable facts that I fear your mind is not capable of being changed. but I will say this: Mr. Froomkin did not create this mess--that was Ms. Howell and Mr. Harris' work. Mr. Froomkin's response was measured, appropriate and required, under the circumstances.

While I share your dislike for gratuitous vulgarity, I must say that your brand of blinkered obtuseness and slavish devotion to a political viewpoint (which is as true of you as it is false of Mr. Froomkin) disturbs me much more. But, given the nearly 1000:1 ratio against views such as yours, I wonder why you bothered.

Let me be clear about one thing: if I could change your mind and help open your eyes, I would be very willing to engage you in respectful dialogue. Do you think that's possible?

As a last thought, if you dislike Mr. Froomkin's reporting, why don't you avail yourself of your right not to read it?

Posted by: Stephen | December 14, 2005 10:24 AM

Dear Mr. Harris,
I am sorry, but you are just plain wrong about Dan Froomkin. I am an idependent and always looking for some press coverage that tells what is without the spin--Frromkin is one of the few sources that puts it out there. I read him faithfully every day. If the Administration and its supporters are uncomfortable with his coverage, maybe they are just afraid of unfiltered exposure. Shining a bright light on what is going on in the White House is exactly what we need; not to try to make a columnist like Dan tone down his coverage. We get enough of that already.

Posted by: Jill | December 14, 2005 10:26 AM

If Dan Froomkin's column needs to be renamed, then so does Ms. Howell's. My suggestion is 'Liberal Bias Cop'. Otherwise, she might be confused with an ombudsman.

But instead of focusing on labels, maybe the best solution would be to persuade Mr. Getler to come back -- his primary concern was journalistic integrity, not staying on Bush's good side.

Posted by: Steven C | December 14, 2005 10:29 AM

Dan Froomkin's WPo column is the only one consistently worth reading. Mr. Harris' is, unfortunately, the contrary. Thank you Mr. Harris for bearing in mind you lack credibilty.

from a daily internet reader

Posted by: KJouannaud | December 14, 2005 10:30 AM

Mr. Harris, here is some analysis for free, which I think could be one of the big stories at WaPo: the White House is currently restricting access to the deliberations of a democratically elected government because they are unhappy with responsible criticisms of how they have handled certain issues.

That's right: the White House is effectively censoring mainstream American press.

Now, that's a pretty big story. I wonder what would happen to your readership if you printed this kind of thing and detailed exactly how your reporters' access had been compromised, and used only non-White House sources to actually deliver the news.

You know what? Apart form being a great story in itself, non-White House sources would probably deliver more useful facts for your readers.

Posted by: Stephen | December 14, 2005 10:31 AM

The solution, as Richard suggests, is to simply rename the paper. The White House Post would make them happy now wouldn't it?

Posted by: california_reality_check | December 14, 2005 10:53 AM

Well, the WP hit a well deserved nerve, and the rats are coming out of the sewers defending filth with filth (no doubt coming from partisan sites like DU and Daily KoS to stuff the polls with "outrage" too).
It's like they feed on offal, and demand more, just to say "my party is winning". Careless about debasing journalism as a profession, just save a partisan at all costs.
Then they bemoan why the world is so "unfair" and "ugly". They need to look in the mirror why it's news to begin with.
SandyK

But you're certainly not partisan. Oh noooooooooooo. Not you.

Posted by: chingachook | December 14, 2005 11:04 AM

(I sent this to the e-mail to report offensive comments on this site:)

I think that most of Mr. Harris' response was offensive. He did not address two issues raised over and over again in the readers' comments:

1) the implication that providing context surrounding White House statements and the 'official' reporting on them is somehow 'liberal'

2) the very real damage done to the print Washington Post's credibility by the recent lack of candor from Bob Woodward.

If Mr. Harris is concerned about the credibility of his department, he should start by addressing the complaints that the readers actually raised, instead of accusing them of confusion and refuting points that have nothing to do with the criticism ("...readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that. ").

Mr. Harris is employing age-old logical tricks, ad hominem and the 'straw man', to give weight to his words. These are the very sorts of tricks that Mr. Froomkin exposes regularly in his refreshing contextual analysis.

Nicholas
Baltimore, MD

Posted by: Nicholas | December 14, 2005 11:14 AM

"Even so, the responses rallying to Dan's defense and denouncing the Washington Post newspaper were troubling to me. A great many of them showed little understanding of how we do our work as reporters and editors, and of the distinctions we make between news and commentary."

So change the name of Froomkin's column. That's easy. What's gonna be a bit more difficult to address is our so-called lack of understanding of the repertorial and editorial distinctions you make regarding news and opinion.

I believe it was David Broder who suggested some years back that allowing reporters to mix it up with op-ed writers and partisan flacks on tv news 'rountables' would result in the very thing that so troubles you. I think Mr Broder was prescient. He was exactly right. That oughta be your 'next case.'

Posted by: JohnS | December 14, 2005 11:16 AM

Take note, WaPo management and stockholders: you have a competition problem.

Have you asked yourselves why blogs are so popular? Let me clue you in: they provide useful information.

Having a White House "Reporter" receive the same talking points contained in WH press releases directly from a WH insider and obediently regurgitating those talking points in their column is of no use to me.

Having someone like the Amazin' Froomkin or a good lefty blog take a critical look at what the White House is saying, by comparing and contrasting to evidence and other reporting, is very useful.

Case in point: the invasion of Iraq. People who got their news from blogs knew well before March 2003 that Saddam had no WMD's, that Bush and the NeoCons' true intent was to "Democratize" the Middle East, and that they committed insufficient resources to win the occupation.

People who exclusively read columns by White House "Reporters" thought we would be greeted with flowers and candy.

Which information source proved more useful?

The management of the WaPo and other Corporate Media outlets seem to believe that access to administration insiders is what provides value to readers. As I noted above, the opposite is true.

It is transparent to any intelligent person that in order to maintain your access to Administration insiders, you have to refrain from printing anything that displeases the Administration. With this in mind, it is also transparent why WaPo management is attempting to punish and muzzle Dan Froomkin. Have any of the "complaints" come from the Administration, I wonder?

Here's another clue: The competitive edge that big time news organizations have over blogs is that they have the resources to conduct in-depth investigative reporting.

No blog has the resources to put someone on a plane to the Middle East to report on what is happening on the ground. Although we do have access to Blogs from the Middle East. Heh.

By placing access to insiders as a priority over investigative reporting and critical analysis, news sources like the WaPo and the NYT are placing themselves on a quick path to irrelevancy. If I were a WaPo stockholder I would urge a change in the business model ASAP.

No matter how much contempt you may have for your readers, we're not stupid. We will find useful information where it is most readily available. If that means august institutions like the Washington Post go bankrupt, it's no skin off our bones.

Posted by: Shystee | December 14, 2005 11:17 AM

"The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."

Oh how special. Anecdotal evidence of a perception problem? Try this perception:

The Washington Post is turning itself into a semi-official organ for disseminating Bush administration spin and talking points. Valuing access over objectivity, they have grown much too close to their sources which calls their objectivity into question.

This is a much more serious charge than the "title of the blog is confusing" red herring and it seems to me-- based on many, many examples-- beyond any doubt that many more people believe that the Washington Post is in trouble because of reportorial transgressions far more serious than holding the administration accountable for its words and deeds.

Posted by: bizutti | December 14, 2005 11:21 AM

Talk about the EXCEPTION proving the RULE !!!
SandyK is all by her or his lonesome in a very strained effort to actually see some basis in reason in the travesty that Howell/ Harris are conspiring to execute.
Where are your fellow wing-nuts SandyK. Must we wait for Rove, Dobson, et al to command them into particpating?

Posted by: Buddy Saleeby | December 14, 2005 11:25 AM

Others have already expressed my feelings on the matter with more eloquence than I currently have time to craft, but I'll wholeheartedly add my own weight to the crowd of people supporting Froomkin's column and decrying Harris's comments.

Froomkin's column is one of the most informative editorial columns in the Washington Post (online or otherwise), as well as a highly comprehensive and interesting news omnibus. It's one of the paper's few columns that I go out of my way to read on a regular basis. It conveys political news of the day from a variety of sources, with the irreverance that is so important when trying to observe the actions of the politically powerful without kowtowing to them.

Harris's disregard for the readership's opinions is unpleasant, certainly. But his implied distaste for the dissemination of actual political news is the really disturbing issue. In this age of increasingly obsequious "court stenographers" posing as journalists, this is not an attitude that a newspaper can afford to employ.

Posted by: Fred | December 14, 2005 11:26 AM

Mr. Harris can only dream of reaching Dan Froomkin's credibility and loyalty from readers. He has no notion of what it means to speak truth to power, even less of what a REAL journalist does. I hope the higher-ups at the Post realize that if the (on-line) paper loses Froomkin because of the small-minded pettiness Mr. Harris excels at, it will also lose substantial traffic and revenue. I can assure you many of us will vote with our "feet".

Posted by: Silvia | December 14, 2005 11:27 AM

As far as I can tell Harris has a legitimate complaint.

As a hard working stenographer for the White House he has every reason to be concerned that Froomkin's journalism could be confused with his public affairs duties at the White House.

Perhaps he should consider a position at the Pentagon's public affairs office? Larry Di Rita has pretty much blown whatever credibility he has and could surely stand a replacement.

But then again, would the Pentagon gain any credibility by hiring Harris? Probably not.

Perhaps he could take on the role of Bob Woodward's official spokesperson? Lord knows he could use the help.

Posted by: David Stewart | December 14, 2005 11:35 AM

Len Downie said: "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."

SO, THE EDITOR OF THE WP IS WORRIED ABOUT WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE THINKS...HIS COMMENTS AND BOB WOODWARD'S BEHAVIOR CONFIRM THAT THE WP IS A LAPDOG FOR THIS WHITE HOUSE...

Posted by: Mike | December 14, 2005 11:36 AM

On the top of the page Washington post ask to inform them of offensive Comments. I think the most offensive comments are by Mr. Harris who thinks most people are as stupid as he. What else should we expect from pens for hire!

Posted by: Freeman | December 14, 2005 11:45 AM

Dan Froomkin's column is the most worthwhile column on your website. I read it every day, despite the fact that you frequently successfully hide it on your site.

Dan scrutinizes the WH transcripts for patterns that seem to elude other writers. Dan points out interesting patterns in the president's behavior, such as Pres. Bush's use of "of course" during the debates, which signalled a whopper was coming.

Do you think any other reporters would have written about the Bush bubble if Froomkin hadn't been pointing it out continually over the last several years? Should it have been news that the President took questions from random people this week? And just why was it a headline on your website that the President gave a number of Iraqis killed? Shouldn't it have been a headline that Mr. Bush would have invaded Iraq anyways had he known there were no WMDs?

Who are you really getting heat from? Is it your readers? Is it reporters who didn't like that Mr. Froomkin kept a Plame watch when noone else was? Or is it the White House, who don't like their stage-craft and non-responsiveness pointed out day after day?

Posted by: Susan | December 14, 2005 11:45 AM

I can't help wondering why this matter(to change the name or not to change the name of Dan's column) wasn't handled internally. Why get Ms. Howell, whose job it is to represent readers' concerns, involved in fighting Harris' psuedo-battle?
Why is Downie all aflutter assuaging White House perceptions of any critical converage?
Something smells to high heavens at the Post and it isn't Froomkin.

Posted by: Mimi | December 14, 2005 11:47 AM

Wow, just Wow! Hundreds of responses to Mr. Harris and not one of his right wing stooges bothers to come along and defend him? Where are all those confused Wa-po readers just begging to be certain they only get approved white house talking points? You couldn't even fake your own astroturf?

But I'm sure, like President Bush, hundreds or millions of people taking time to make their opinions known are just a "focus group" that won't affect your actual reporting. No doubt your next reader response will be as contemptous of the washignton Post's readers as this one.

Gilbert

Posted by: Gilbert | December 14, 2005 11:51 AM

"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."

Really?????? That's news to me. Bob Woodward is a prime example of how far the Post has fallen from "accountability reporting" and become simply a mouthpiece for this corrupt administration. You want to change the name of the column? Go ahead...it won't stop us from reading it; as far as I'm concerned the more publicity this issue gets the better.

One more thing - you stated: "Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose." You say this as if there is something inherently wrong with his statement. Isn't that what journalists are supposed to do? How else is the public supposed to monitor the actions of its government (especially this one) except through its press? That's what you people are there for and it's time you rediscovered this basic premise and did your duty to the American people. Tension between government and the press is essential, not something to be avoided.

Posted by: CarolSoprano | December 14, 2005 11:58 AM

It is indeed sad to see the state of utter insecurity on part of Mr. Harris and the white house reporters at wash post. To wait like kids because their candy was taken is indeed amusing to see.
Analyzing what has happened at Wash post in the last few years is indeed depressing; WH's take on WMD was taken verbatim and printed, this led to war and thousands of deaths.
WE also see Bob Woodward being labeled a "stenographer" by none other than Newsweeks's Howard Fineman yesterday. What has journalisms come to.

At last we see some courageous commentary (not reporting most of us readers understand Mr. Harris) by Dan Froomkin, then we get this extraordinary reaction based on jealousy, fear and insecurity from the political editor of Wash post. It is indeed a sad day for american print journalism.

Posted by: Dan Switzer | December 14, 2005 12:10 PM


The Post is insulting our intelligence. Thank God for Froomkin! He is a breath of fresh air! Nobody -- nobody -- is confused by the name of his column. That is a load of bull.

Stop with this kowtowing to the Republicans. If you can't stand up and tell the truth go work for Fox News.

Posted by: JJ | December 14, 2005 12:10 PM

"Says Digby:
Fine. F**k it. Change the name if it bothers the "real" white house reporters so much. Call it The Wh**ehouse Report. It amounts to the same thing."

http://www.firedoglake.blogspot.com/

Thank you Digby, you've captured the essence of Mr. Harris' position!

Posted by: firedoglake lover | December 14, 2005 12:26 PM

Parsing and parsing and parsing will not change the fact that Mr. Froomkin writes what readers want to read. Why? Because they are tired of the toady crap put out by the rest of your staff.

Posted by: John Gage | December 14, 2005 12:31 PM

Mr. Harris, Mr. Downie, Ms. Howell I wonder if you have a clue how embarassed you should be at this moment.

A very sad moment, indeed, for the Washington Post.

Posted by: Emma9 | December 14, 2005 12:34 PM

1. Dan Froomkin writes a blog, not a column. Mr. Harris should understand that.

2. I wish Mr. Harris would post some of the correspondence from readers who are confused by the "White House Briefing" blog. Perhaps I'm not looking in the right places, but I've not seen any.

3. An odd statement: "It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case." So it isn't Froomkin who offends Mr. Harris--it is Froomkin's liberal readership.

Posted by: Harley McIlrath | December 14, 2005 12:36 PM

John,
You really need to get a clue. The reason the MSM in its print form is dying on the vine is that it is not covering the news well anymore. The orientation of the Washington Post is so close to being a WH lap dog, that the only thing I read there any more are the comics and Froomkin. I get my news from far better sourced writers and more objective reporters online. The WaPo is truly toothless these days.

Posted by: regina | December 14, 2005 12:38 PM

Mr. Harris,

I mean this in the most sibcerest forms of advice. You need to check your staff members political party at the door. The attack on Mr. Froomkin shows that you are no better than the the men that Mr. Fitzpatrick is investigating on the Hill. I hope that your paper realizes that you are a NEWSPAPER, not a spin machine. After reading your interveiw with Mr. Rosen. I'm now convince that not even your paper can't be trusted to stay nuetral when this country needs it so badly. I hope Bush pays well.

Posted by: Kris Harding | December 14, 2005 12:43 PM

I am a long term fan of Froomkin who has never been confused about his roll.

But if his column's title is to be changed, might I suggest:

A Froom with a View

Posted by: Jeff Gibbons | December 14, 2005 12:45 PM

Bottom line, Mr. Harris -- do you have the guts to respond to any of this?

Posted by: Aisthesis | December 14, 2005 12:45 PM

The "Post news room"? But if what Mr. Froomkin writes in opinion, then what's the big deal?

Change the name of his column. Call it "Non-Toady Opinion".

Then strap on your knee pads and get back to work.

Posted by: John Gage | December 14, 2005 12:48 PM



For my part, I shall read everthing Harris and his lofty White House Reporter"s have to say in this matter with morbid fascination, but I reserve the right to buy today's WPOST in the handy, four-roll pack.

Had Harris been in Bradlee's shoes, Nixon would have died in office.

Posted by: Robert | December 14, 2005 12:53 PM

Does the Washington Post really base its editorial and content decision on what the White House tells it is uncomfortable or inappropriate?

Perhaps I should clarify that question: does the Washington Post really choose NOT to cover certain subjects because the White House tells the WaPo that it is uncomfortable with them being covered?

sPh

Posted by: sphealey | December 14, 2005 12:57 PM

I read washingtonpost.com daily, often multiple times a day. I do not read or subscribe to The Washington Post. Do you notice a difference, Mr. Harris? Spotting any trends?

Posted by: Mike Baldwin | December 14, 2005 12:58 PM

Whoever called WaPo "Pravda on the Potomac " has it dead right

Posted by: constate | December 14, 2005 01:08 PM

30 years ago I would get up at 5:00 in the morning and wait for the Post to come so I could follow the Watergate story. Today you're trying to bump one of the few really critical minds off your paper. It's a good thing we're not dependant on you for the truth any more.

Posted by: Achsah | December 14, 2005 01:11 PM

I have a suggestion for the WAPO news side. I am assuming from what I've read in Jay Rosen's piece, that the political reporters' underlying concern (which they really should state publicly) is that the White House is somehow denying or impeding access because of Froomkin's column. It would cerainly be in character for the Rovian White House Office of Press Manipulation.
So here's the best response to that. (I read it on Josh Marshall's site. And I'm paraphrasing.) Don't knuckle under and let the WH manipulate coverage. That the WH would attempt to control access is a news story in itself. Refuse granting anyone at the WH anonymity. Make the White House into a secondary source. Access goes both ways.
My personal comment: And publicize prominently each and every subsequent attempt to manage your coverage. Make the story the denial of access and attempted manipulation.
Aren't you tired of dancing to the White House tune? Don't you wish all your job entailed was to print the complete and whole truth, not the WH version of the truth?

Posted by: Cee | December 14, 2005 01:12 PM

I must admit that I have often been confused by the printing problems the post. No matter how many times I pick up the Washington Post, I don't see Kevin Drum's insightful blog in the printed page, even though his blog says Washington Post prominently on every page.

Posted by: jerry | December 14, 2005 01:21 PM

What is wrong with reporting the truth? I might not like the column as much if it were reporting on Bill Clinton in the same fashion, but I would read it and examine the "facts" behind it to see if it were true. If it is true, what difference is the bias?

The first problem is this bleeding heart concern to be "fair". Give me the truth, not what is fair.

The second problem is whether it is true. It is not like that garbage that Fox reports as "news".

The third problem is Republicans and conservatives are more interested in getting their "message" out rather than the truth or what is in the best interest of the country. If they have a problem with the column, ask them where is the fabrication, lie, or other improper statement. If they just don't like the slant of the articles, tell them to mature and grow up into adults.

The fourth and biggest problem, is your continued reporting of lies and evasive non-statements from the White House and the Republican party as if it were news or the truth.

So, how about this:

1. Fact check Froomkin. If he gets the facts wrong, then make him retract it. Otherwise, tell the Republicans and conservatives to stop being the whiners they are and tell them to worry about the truth and what is best for our country. They should put the interests of our country ahead of their party.

2. Refuse to print any of the non-responsive answers from the White House. If Scott McClellan will not answer a question about why Rove has not been fired, don't print his response. Instead, print something like this:

When asked why the President had not followed through on his statement that anyone involved with the Plame leak would be fired, Scott McClellan refused to answer the question. Instead, he offered up an evasive response intended to excuse the President from directly answering why he has not lived up to his word. This was an attempt to manipulate the press and the American people. The Washington Post takes the position that any such evasions of direct questions which should be answered will not be printed in this paper as it is Propaganda and not news.

3. Shut down the Republican spin machine because it is NOT news. Yet, you print it over and over. Make the White House answer the question, or cut their responses off. Then maybe your "real" reporters could get to some facts and news.

In my opinion, the "real" reporters are just embarrassed because the column shows how cozy they are with the White House and how the reporters are not willing to go after a story. Until Bush gives an honest answer about not firing Rove, it should be on the front page every day. Call it the:

Countdown to Bush actually answering the Question why Rove was not fired.

That would be a good headline.

Get some backbone and take back the news.

Bentz

Posted by: Bentz | December 14, 2005 01:54 PM

I have read many of the above posts - scores certainly, maybe over a hundred - and I didn't see one in support of Mr. Harris' notions or his editorial record.

I live too far away to read the Post on paper, but there is no doubt as to the difference between the newsroom stories and the internet stories.

It is one of the great tragedies of our time that once-great papers like the Post and the NY Times have become the lapdog travesties they are.

Now the LA Times seems to be joining the pack under its new editor, and Republican fatcats are sniffing at the Knight Ridder papers and may buy them.

Where is the I.F. Stone we so clearly need today? Well, Asia Times Online, The Guardian, Froomkin, and other online sources are trying to pick up the slack... maybe there is hope.

Posted by: Gary Starkweather | December 14, 2005 01:57 PM

The readers of the WP blogs have spoken. Leave Froomkin's blog alone. The WH should not pressure against the mainstream media or mainstream bloggers for their political agenda, and the WP (blog or otherwise) should conduct its business upholding its own mission. I find Froomkin's blog a great source of information that can be checked because he gives all the links to his posts. I like its name too. It's a roundup of the WH responses to issues. All those who read it understand it's mostly a round up of many articles. Leave Dan's style alone. It works and maybe that's why the WH is against it.

Posted by: prabhata | December 14, 2005 02:03 PM

And when all is said and done, it comes to this:

Harris' "grassroots conservative weblogger" is in fact Patrick Ruffini, who is currently eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee? Nice disclosure.

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/12/astroturf_vs_gr.html

It just gets better and better.

Posted by: Ian Coleman | December 14, 2005 02:03 PM

The readers of the WP blogs have spoken. Leave Froomkin's blog alone. The WH should not pressure against the mainstream media or mainstream bloggers for their political agenda, and the WP (blog or otherwise) should conduct its business upholding its own mission. I find Froomkin's blog a great source of information that can be checked because he gives all the links to his posts. I like its name too. It's a roundup of the WH responses to issues. All those who read it understand it's mostly a round up of many articles. Leave Dan's style alone. It works, and maybe that's why the WH is against it.

Posted by: prabhata | December 14, 2005 02:05 PM

I keep thinking that "analyses" like Mr. Harris' are a temporary abherration at the Post, and that one day it will be worth reading again. Alas, it appears to be a permanent change. How tragic that the paper that unravelled Watergate no longer practices journalism, but has chosen to become the White House stenographer of record. Until the Post finds its way out of the White House Hall of Mirrors, I will continue to get my news elsewhere.

Posted by: Dave Lee | December 14, 2005 02:09 PM


What would Ceci Connally do?

Posted by: truthman | December 14, 2005 02:10 PM

I'm impressed with the WaPo's flexibility in meeting the demands of White House, RNC, etc. You guys sure can turn on a dime!

With Mr. Woodward at your side, you're riding off into a brave new world. One where newspapers like the Post no longer matter because they can't be trusted as anything other than a party Apparachik.

Welcome to Pravda (circa 1960), Comrade Harris!

Posted by: Ken S. | December 14, 2005 02:29 PM

Harris should turn in his credentials as a professional journalist. What he's essentially saying is, "The White House is beating up on us, so we have to toe the line in order to keep our press passes to the White House briefings so we can stenograph what they demand us to tell America."

How sad, that such a once-great newspaper has sunk so low.

Richard Kelly
Tampa, FL

Posted by: Richard Kelly | December 14, 2005 02:32 PM

Good (and funny) idea of how to label Froomkin so Harris and Co. don't get so anxious and worked up.

http://uggabugga.blogspot.com/2005/12/washington-post-to-change.html

Posted by: ByteB | December 14, 2005 02:34 PM

I am upset with Tony Blankley's latest article in the Washington Post

http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/tblankley.htm

Once again, he blames Clinton.

How can you keep printing this guy?

Posted by: jerry | December 14, 2005 02:37 PM

John Harris HEAL THYSELF! You and your crackpot reporters HELPED this WH duped the nation into a war that they now don't know how to get out. Worse Iraq may become a puppet of Iran in the end which would be many times more dangerous than Saddam's Iraq.

This attempt to muffle Dan Froomkin is pure censorship by a bunch of jealous reporters who are losing their traditional audience to a new medium and their ability to manipulate the news.

The thing about the Web is that by the number of clicks you can tell right away if a column is popular or not. I'll be willing to bet Froomkin is one of the main attractions of the Wash Post site.

As for the title let me point out something to you Mr. Harris: it's the job of the WH press secretary to brief you guys. It's not your job to be briefed. Ayy idiot can do that. It's your job to DEBRIEF these gov't types to seperate truth from lies.

So go do your job Harris, and let Mr. Froomkin do his. He has served his readers much better than you Harris.

Posted by: Tom | December 14, 2005 02:47 PM

"People in the newsroom want to end this confusion. We do not want to spike his column--or at least I don't"

I know you guys are addicted to anonymous sources, but don't you think it's time to say who in the newsroom wants to spike Dan Froomkin? Come on, what's more important, privileged access to your journalist colleagues in the objective newsroom, or faithfulness to your readers?

Glad to know you're looking out for the spikers. God knows they couldn't have an axe to grind, unlike that biased Dan Froomkin.

Seriously, though, you should listen to them. Spike the column. Froomkin's too good for you and he's too good for martini-sipping with David Addington and Lewis Libby and Karl Rove and Tom Delay and Duke Cunningham, and even Dick Cheney and George Bush, Junior. One of these columnists, one of these reporters, is not like the others.

Dan should resign, buy danfroomkin.com, and continue White House Briefing; at your Christmas parties you can toast him and wipe away the crocodile tears.

Posted by: Dan Lewis | December 14, 2005 02:51 PM

Update: 'Wash Post' Online Chief Won't Re-name Column
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001659333
Money quote:
Washingtonpost.com Executive Editor Jim Brady said he does not plan to change the name, claiming it has not caused the misinterpretations that some believe it has. "The column has been on the site for two years and that is not something we have heard," Brady said about concerns."


In light of this, let me suggest cancelling subscriptions to the print Post (which employs Harris, Downie, and Woodwards) but continuing the visit the website (run by WPNI, and employs Froomkin). Make it clear to both your reasons for doing so.

Posted by: andy | December 14, 2005 03:00 PM

doesn't omnbudscretin (i'm borrowing) deborah howell have a problem on her hands now?


in her column last sunday howell accepted what was a lie from editor john harris; the lie being that the name of the froomkin column ("white house briefing")needed to be changed because it "confused" some readers and affected the "credibility" of post political reporters.

the truth is that this charge is a cover for the fact that both political editor harris and executive editor downie are worried that the bush whitehouse is unhappy with froomkin's criticism of bush, et al.

so now that howell has promoted and this lie in the omnbudsman's column, and has supported changing the name of froomkin's column, how will she explain her actions to wapo readers.

i'm betting on:

"you all misunderstood me."

like hell we did.

or john harris' exculpatory "this is really a very narrow issue." (meaning it's only about a little ol' name change.)

like hell it is.


i can't wait until next sunday.

Posted by: orionATL | December 14, 2005 03:00 PM

Make John happy. Rename Froomkin's column WHITE HOUSE DEBRIEFING! It's more appropriate.

Posted by: Tom | December 14, 2005 03:09 PM

Holy Moly Mr. Harris! You've done it AGAIN!

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/12/astroturf_vs_gr.html

As if your ThinkPress wasn't bad enough...

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised that I won't comment on this.

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised that I won't comment on this.

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised that I won't comment on this.

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised that I won't comment on this.


Way to go Buddy!

Posted by: hello | December 14, 2005 03:09 PM

This is heartbreaking- It's so sad to learn how stupid the National Politics Editor of the Post thinks we are.

But it explains a lot about the quality of the paper.

Posted by: Jeff | December 14, 2005 03:11 PM

Once again, a supposed reporter attacks our intelligence by submitting that somehow we are confused about the content of Mr. Froomkins column, although last time I checked it was available through the OPINION section of the Washington Post. Perhaps instead of questioning whether Mr. Froomkin tarnishes your cedibility it might behoove you to start looking into the Truth, instead of mindlessly quoting "anonymous" sources. You, sir, are you own worst problem. Go ahead and change the name of the column if that keeps your access to your prized sources, but leave Mr. Froomkin alone to do what he is doing. He is the only bright spot left in your paper.

Posted by: Monica | December 14, 2005 03:13 PM

"I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions."

Puleese! When you're so far out on the right as this administration (and, sadly, the Post) even the center looks like it's liberal. You, sir, have lost your bearings. There *are* liberal blogs out there. Please read some to gain some perspective on what it really means to be "liberal".

Posted by: Mr M | December 14, 2005 03:17 PM

I just wonder at what Katherine Graham would have made of all this.

Now off to read Dan's column.....

Posted by: Bill H. | December 14, 2005 03:18 PM

Interestingly, there are several links embedded in Harris' response, but I could not find a direct link to Froomkin's news round-up.

Maybe I just missed it--maybe I didn't.

Just, interesting.

Posted by: jawbone | December 14, 2005 03:27 PM

I suppose we should be somewhat grateful that Mr. Harris and the Post generally have given up the pretense of being anything other than a mouthpiece for the Bush White House and any liberal-hater with a few bucks. (Not "Conservative with a few bucks." Conservatives have principles and ideas; these people have nothing more than their hatred of the Left.)

But wouldn't it be great if DC had an actual newspaper?

Posted by: Molly, NYC | December 14, 2005 03:28 PM

Mr. Harris: 2 simple questions:

1) Did you, when you sent your answers to Jay Rosen yesterday, know that your "grassroots conservative weblogger" Patrick Ruffini had been a Republican campaign operative in 2004?

2) Did you, when you sent your answers to Jay Rosen yesterday, know that your "grassroots conservative weblogger" Patrick Ruffini was now eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee?

Posted by: william | December 14, 2005 03:58 PM

Mr. Harris, like you I was at first confused by the title of Mr. Froomkins column. The title suggests it might contain a dry transcript of a White House briefing, or something like that. I can see where you would be concerned about similar misunderstandings. But then I read the column, and, mirable dictu, the scales fell from my eyes. You might advise the other befuddled folks you deal with to try it. (I've found this technique also works if you read the body of a story after reading the headline.)

Posted by: Seen the Light | December 14, 2005 03:58 PM

With the history that the Wash. Post has of NOT questioning the the administration's talking points - when history clearly indicates that the paper's reporters should have taken a more questioning attitude -- you'd think the Post would have learned a thing or two and not only be happy they have Froomkin but encourage their actual White House reporters to take a line or two from Froomkin's approach.

Posted by: Fuzzhead | December 14, 2005 04:06 PM

Mr. Harris:

Do you really believe the Post and Mr. Woodward have any credibility? We still have not seen the story by Woodward that should have been a blockbuster 2 years ago: "White House aide outs CIA operative in effort to discredit her husband."

If you do not realize the importance of that story that Woodward did not write, then you have no business being the "political editor" for any news outlet, large or small.

Posted by: steve in austin | December 14, 2005 04:15 PM

Ok - why not just handle the so-called "situation" professionally within the confines of the building rather than hashing it out on the pages and in the process leaving the insinuation that Dan Froomkin is himself unreliable and biased (because that is what you've done).

Seems the only explanation for this is that you've felt the need to prove your "balance" (i.e. Republican street cred) to the arm-twisters.

Posted by: Mountebank | December 14, 2005 04:16 PM

John Harris says this:

"washingtonpost.com 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"

Froomkin is not assigned by the post to cover the news? So he's just some punk who hacked the website and put his opinions up?
Can somebody explain the difference here? Sounds like contrasting apples and apples.

Everyone likes to believe their unbiased. Everyone is.

Posted by: nightwarrior | December 14, 2005 04:16 PM

What a toady to power and conventional wisdom the WP has become. Yech!

Posted by: WorldBank | December 14, 2005 04:22 PM

Are you so unaware of how the public sees you? A well established Washington reporter for another media outlet (owned by your company) referred to your "star reporter" as a stenographer for the Bush white house. This is mild compared to how the rest of the country thinks of you. If you learned anything at all in j-school you should have learned that it is your job to get in the government's face and stay there. Not to rub elbows with them at their cocktail parties. If you are such a weak character as to be seduced by this you should not be in management anywhere.

Posted by: geek god | December 14, 2005 04:37 PM

Froomkin is one of the few associated with the Washington Post worth reading these days. One day someone will do an archaeological dig and find a massive site containing journalists' spines from the early 21st century.

Posted by: Jeff | December 14, 2005 04:38 PM

Mr. Harris' position is neatly incapsulated in the following quote:

"It might be the case that he would be writing similarly about John Kerry if he were president. But I guarantee that many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case"

Translation: Any critical analysis of the current administration is nothing more than liberal bias.

Mr. Harris, I am not a journalist. However, I do think I have a handle on logical thinking. If the truth, the facts, weigh against the Administration, that is not bias. Transcribing Karl Rove's talking points and representing them as somehow refuting the truth is. And it is not objective reporting.

So what: I have a liberal bias. As far as I know, Mr. Harris, a freely held political ideology is my entitlement as an American citizen. If I am to understand your quote, that also means I can't understand the truth.

Insult your readers, Mr. Harris. That should help flagging circulation.

Posted by: Aldorossi | December 14, 2005 04:50 PM

Mr. Harris, there's a real story here that you might want to assign to your political reporters:

1) While you first said that "readers" had complained, later you made it clear that it was "Republicans". So which is it? I guess Republicans can be readers too, but who specifically complained? And what was the nature of the complaints, and why did you think that was worth starting a public fight with a colleague over-- and why didn't you come clean originally about the source of those complaints?

2) Mr. Downie further refined the identity of the complainers to people in the White House. Was Mr. Downie also involved in the decision to take this public? If so, what did he hope to gain? Was he attempting to control the editorial content of a separate division of the company? Did he also get complaints, and again, why can't we hear the nature of those complaints and more important, the specific identity of the complainers? Did you and Mr. Downie promise them confidentiality? If so, why?

3) When the Nixon White House complained about the Post's coverage of Watergate, John Mitchell used very clear and plain language, to wit, that the then-publisher Mrs. Graham would get a particular portion of her anatomy "caught in a wringer" if the Post continued to publish the Woodward and Bernstein stories. Ben Bradlee was editor then, and he printed the entire quote, attributed directly to Mitchell, minus only the obscenity. Mrs. Graham was so cool, she joked about this to Carl Bernstein. Now please explain why instead of standing up to the current White House like that, you and Mr. Downie chose not only to do their bidding, but also to obfuscate whose bidding it was? And what do you think Mrs. Graham would say to you now?

4) You have in the print edition several columnists. Some are considered conservative, some liberal. Have you also received complaints from the White House about them? What about from the Democratic Party? Have you addressed these complaints to the editorial page editor?

5) One of your reporters, Mr. VandeHei, appeared recently on a TV talk show and surprised us all by opining that Stephen Hadley was Rove's source for the CIA leak. He turned out to be mistaken-- that he misspoke, and meant that Libby was Rove's source. Is this true? If it is true, why isn't he writing a story about it? If it's not proven true, why is he saying this on TV? If it's only his opinion, should he be also reporting on this same subject, if he's so opinionated? Did you receive complaints from Mr. Hadley and/or Mr. Libby about this?

6) When Brad DeLong called you about the Froomkin issue, you several times refused to comment. Are you a truth-teller, or a truth-hider now?

7) You linked to a "conservative blogger" who called Froomkin "a hack". Turns out this "conservative blogger" has been a Republican operative off-and-on for years, and he's On Again. Did you know this? If you knew this, why didn't you mention that when you linked to him? Don't your readers have the right to know who this person is? It's the only person you linked to-- why did you choose him? Do you think Froomkin is a hack? What evidence do you have to prove that? If you don't think that, why would you provide a link to someone who had that accusation in his headline?

7) You mention that a source of yours who has run political campaigns was confused about Froomkin's status. Do you generally associate with political operatives who know so little about journalism? Can we have this person's name, please? Is this the same "conservative blogger" you linked to?

8) Do you actually think WaPo readers are as stupid as you keep suggesting? Do you think that the only reason readers might like Froomkin's column is that they're liberals, and that the commenters who say they are not liberal are either wrong or lying? Do you think that there's something wrong with being liberal?

9) Did you vote in the last presidential election? For whom? You might well think that's an intrusive question, and I would never have asked it, except that you have chosen to characterize the politics not only of Mr. Froomkin but his readers, and so if you're going to do that, I think you need to put your own politics on the table.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Posted by: apostrophe | December 14, 2005 05:16 PM

JH writes "there are many people--especially conservatives but increasingly many liberals as well--who have no regard for the tradition of objective journalism and view much of our work as an ideological weapon in the guise of neutral reporting. I profoundly disagree with this view, but this view is a reality and I believe we have to push back against it and do our work as best we can."

Wow. And his branding DF a "liberal" is how to push back?

Posted by: e brobston | December 14, 2005 05:23 PM

"If I worked outside the paper, I might presume myself that a feature titled "White House Briefing" was written by one of the newspaper's White House reporters."

Then perhaps you should learn to read and pay attention to the top of Froomkin's column where it says "Dan Froomkin, Columnist."

Is the White House Post responsible for some of their readers (and reporters) inability to understand the plain english that is right in front of their nose?

You folks have generated enormous bad will with this little dustup. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for you if you will only learn it.

Posted by: Alan S. Atwood | December 14, 2005 05:26 PM

Between December 12, 6:20 PM and December 14, 4:50 PM there have been 831 comments posted here (indluding double postings).

Anyone care to count the posts actually supporting John Harris and the W.H. reporters he claims to speak for?

Please, be my guest. Count them. I'd like to see how the percentages stack up.

Posted by: J i O | December 14, 2005 05:26 PM

""Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does?"

Perhaps the fact that you don't think it would be OK for a White House reporter to write in the fashion that Froomkin does reveals more about you than it does Froomkin. Why is it that pointing out the truth instead of engaging in the rather useless brand of "he said, she said" reporting is a problem? Perhaps it's time for American journalism to find its b*lls and start to once again speak truth to power. When the president says things like "By far, the vast majority of my proposed tax cuts go to the bottom forty percent", what exactly would be wrong with reporting the fact (FACT!) that he's either lying or confused?

The problem here isn't Froomkin or his column. The problem is a press corp without much of a spine. Balance for balances sake without regard to the truth is worse tha useless, it's absolutely harmful.

Posted by: Robert Brooks | December 14, 2005 05:41 PM

John I know what I am, but what are you?

Neil

Posted by: Neil Robertson | December 14, 2005 05:54 PM

As I posted at Froomkin's site, we are not stupid--we DO know that Froomkin is NOT a White House reporter.

Mr. Harris, could you be more specific re: "...based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that [Froomkin is a White House reporter]..." What "many examples"? Are you getting "many examples" confused with the many phone calls from angry White House staffers who cannot--or will not--differentiate between the three (is that too many for them to keep track of) White House reporters and Mr. Froomkin?

I wonder: does the government's program of paying Iraqi papers to place favorable articles extend to domestic papers? To be truthful, it is more difficult to tell the difference between the sunny articles regarding Bush, the war, etc. the Post has printed (and continues to print) and those the Iraqi papers have published.

Posted by: Liz, Houston, TX | December 14, 2005 05:58 PM

THOUGH BOUND TO RAISE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE,

DO NOT MISS READING THESE INTERVIEWS!


http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/12/13/frm_qa.html

John Harris and Jim Brady Get Into It About "White House Briefing." Dan Froomkin Replies.

Samples:

Q & A with John Harris, national politics editor, Washington Post, and Jay Rosen, PressThink.
------------------------------------
With John Harris
Q: What sort of complaints or reactions have the political writers received (and from whom) that would lead them to think that White House Briefing is harming their credibility?

John Harris: I don't keep a running log, but I regularly run across people who think Dan is one of our White House reporters. One of them was a very news-saavy source of mine who actually runs campaigns. That tells me there is a large chunk of readers--I'm not saying most but a lot--who are not clear who he is and that he is writing as a commentator and not a White House reporter.

The ombudsman says she regularly gets comments on the theme of how can you pretend to objectivity when your White House reporter writes "insert Froomkin quote here."

The question is has the website done enough to address such confusion? They are doing better. Most of the time (but with some slips) he is presented as an "opinion columnist." But I think the title "White House Briefing" (which, as Dan acknowledges, is really a pretty minor issue) invites confusion.
------------------------------------------
With Jim Brady:
Q: Could you elaborate on your thinking about possibly adding a conservative blogger? Does that mean you have accepted the view of Howell and Harris that White House Briefing is tough on Bush because Froomkin is a liberal?

Jim Brady: Actually, the desire to bring on a conservative blogger has never been related to Dan. Ever since we launched our new Opinions area back in August, we've been trying to recruit someone from the right to help anchor that page. We do have a fair amount of online-only opinion columnists, but we don't have one who clearly brings a conservative perspective on the issues of the day. For the sake of civic debate and assuring that the entire political spectrum is represented on post.com's opinion page, we feel like adding someone from the right makes sense. But we're not trying to find someone to rebut Dan; we're looking for a different voice altogether.

Dan Froomkin responds: "My job is to watch the White House like a hawk."

Posted by: izzy | December 14, 2005 05:59 PM

"If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;"
RUDYARD KIPLING - 1865-1936
John,
Maybe you are right and, like our president, should persist in the face of about 1,000 readers who not only disagree with you, but are so stron in their opinion that they feel compelled to write into the paper.

Maybe we are just a mindless mob who is swayed by emotion and demagogues.

But, on the other hand maybe, just maybe, we are right. Maybe the Post has been played successfully by this administration and is at risk of becoming a "House Organ".

Just consider it.

Posted by: Quaker | December 14, 2005 06:20 PM

If you guys were really doing your
job, you would be all over the Ohio
voting fraud story:

1. 2004 elections thrown from Kerry
to Gore because of crooked Diebold
machines, manipulated remotely, as in
Florida.

2. 2005 referenda which were FORTY
PERCENT off from the usually reliable
Columbus Dispatch polls.

3. Ohio House 3 passes, which *forbids
recounts* in federal elections, along with
forbidding citizen review of electronic
voting machines. How convenient.

WHERE IS THE PRESS? Our electoral
freedom is being stolen. WHERE IS THE
PRESS?

Posted by: egregious | December 14, 2005 06:32 PM

Somehow I stumbled into this blog controversy (it's all over the web) and checked out Froomkin for the first time today.

That's how I found out about the White House Conference on Aging. Interesting.

Not a thing about that in today's Portland Oregonian which gets most of its national news from AP, the NY Times or the LA Times-Washington Post syndicate.

I don't know yet if Froomkin is left or right, but his column does seem to be informative and worth connecting to in the future.

Ken Bonnem

Posted by: Ken Bonnem, Oregon | December 14, 2005 06:33 PM


If you guys were really doing your
job, you would be all over the Ohio
voting fraud story:

1. 2004 elections thrown from Kerry
to Bush because of crooked Diebold
machines, manipulated remotely, as in
Florida.

2. 2005 referenda which were FORTY
PERCENT off from the usually reliable
Columbus Dispatch polls.

3. Ohio House 3 passes, which *forbids
recounts* in federal elections, along with
forbidding citizen review of electronic
voting machines. How convenient.

WHERE IS THE PRESS? Our electoral
freedom is being stolen. WHERE IS THE
PRESS?

Posted by: egregious | Dec 14, 2005 6:32:13 PM

Posted by: egregious | December 14, 2005 06:40 PM

Dan Froomkin's blog is one of the few things in the Post worth reading -- along with anything by Dana Priest, Barton Gellman, and Walter Pincus.

Froomkin's column belongs in the print edition of the paper. It's far superior to Howie Kurtz's press column. Howie is such a suck-up, and serves so many masters, that it's difficult to chart just whose interest he's defending at any moment -- but it's certainly someone's.

Froomkin is a breath of fresh air -- it's depressing to see that the Post is not interested in supporting such a useful voice.

Viva Froomkin!

Posted by: Alabama Reader | December 14, 2005 06:53 PM

Doesn't the fact that The "White House Briefing" appears in the OPINIONS section make it pretty darn clear that it is an opinion column? FYI Fromkin's column is the only reason I even hit the WAPO site. If you are not breathing down the necks of the powers that be, then you are not doing your job as a journalist. If you need to be liked by the whitehouse, then you should go work for them!

Dan Froomkin is the future of journalism. You are gonna need to adapt buddy.

Posted by: Gabrielle | December 14, 2005 06:56 PM

Froomkin has another great column today. Pointing out that NO ONE including the print edition of the Washington Post - covered the fact that Bush is the first President to skip the Council on Aging meeting (instead he went to a photo-op with elderly supporters).

From now on I will support the .com edition of the Post. But the print edition and Harris can continue to kiss Karl's ass - because they won't get a dime from me.

Posted by: fed up but happy bout Dan | December 14, 2005 07:09 PM

Mr. Harris:

Shame on you. We all worry about the increasing influence by this administration on the "free" press, and you reveal that it's happening already.

I'll continue reading Froomkin, but the rest of you editors can just stick with your Republican masters.

Again, shame on you.

Posted by: Thomas | December 14, 2005 07:38 PM

Just wondering: where was the outrage on the part of the WaPo's steller trio of White House reporters when that fake, gay prostitute with a website featuring lewd photos of himself was given credentials--and he was not even a reporter?

The MSM barely batted an eye when this phony was exposed and certainly did nothing to investigate just how such a travesty occured.

Hypocrites.

Posted by: Liz, Houston, TX | December 14, 2005 07:46 PM

Facts have been taken hostage by this administration and you are acting as its "bagman". How far the Washington Post has fallen under your tutalege! Mr. Harris, redeem yourself.

Posted by: Leslee | December 14, 2005 08:01 PM

Mr. Harris,

Have you read Mr. Froomkin's column today? Funny, but if it wasn't for him, I would not have heard about Bush's absence from the White House Conference on Aging in favor of a staged photo-op. Of course, that fact is actually just Froomkin's liberal opinion, right? Hmmm..is the truth "liberal"? Is that why I didn't read about it in your section?

Time to wake up, sir. You've lost your way and we will no longer follow you. That goes for Ms. Howell as well.

Posted by: JS | December 14, 2005 08:08 PM

What amazes me is that you can spend so much time agonizing over Dan Froomkin and so little time on Bob Woodward, who has done tremendous damage to your credibility and really needs to think about retiring. Maybe you could replace him with Froomkin. I agree with many of the other posts: What has happened to the Washington Post? If you didn't have Dana Priest I'd give up on the paper entirely.

Posted by: David New | December 14, 2005 08:37 PM

WaPo: Should change its name to

"Washington Past" Who reads it or cares anymore. The blogs are way ahead of them on reporting. firedoglake is outstanding, as is TPM.

Posted by: Claudia Ryan | December 14, 2005 09:12 PM


Re: Criticism of the government

What does it matter how critical Froomkin's column is, so long as the criticism is well-founded?

Is it the Washington Post's official policy now that the paper is to publish only flattery and fluff? Or no less than 75% fluff?

Tell me, Post: What serves the public interest? Fawning stenography? Or a tough, skeptical, critical editorial stance?

The White House is not an aristocracy. They are not your betters. (Or anyone's). They may be richer than most people at the Post, but they are allegedly public servants, who feed at the public trough, and take home fat redundant paychecks that could be better spent on other things.

It's your job to put their feet to the fire, in good times and bad, but especially in bad times. It's not your job to take them at their word, ever.

They are not entitled to fawning, naive coverage. If you think you need to publish that kind of a loyal monarchist rag, move someplace where there is a royal family.

If you want to stay in America, but don't want the job of serving the public interest, you should just drop most of the paper and rename yourselves "White House Style".

Posted by: Jon Hendry | December 14, 2005 09:15 PM

I bet it does create problems for the
credentialed White House reporters, but that was the exact purpose Nixon had in
covering up the pool, building the press room, and creating "status" for a de facto
court reporting establishment. It took more
time than he had, but in the long run it
worked, Executive Office handouts became
news stories prepackaged for distribution
by free media or the permanent campaign.
So, you really do get it when a professional Republican operative/blogger
pings you to tilt the game against the
journo/blogger that describes the circus
that is the West Wing these days. It will
not save you though, Murdoch has the franchise cold, and he is intent on moving
into the blog field as well. You have some
fine journalists who can help you with
the transition you all face...perhaps
cooler heads will prevail and the Washpo
can save itself, but you will have to
lose Woodward and his ilk, they are dead
weight.
Best Regards

Posted by: w. bell | December 14, 2005 09:43 PM

Mr. Harris:

Looks like you need some time off - a "mutually agreed upon" leave of absence?" You know, to spend more time with your family? A lot more time.....

Posted by: Froomkin Forever | December 14, 2005 09:52 PM

The more I read of all of this little tempest, the more pissed off and disappointed at the Post and you I become. I've gotten more out of reading Froomkin since he started than I have from you. The words of our esteemed VP come to mind as my advice to you, Mr Harris - "Go f*&k yourself." You can pass that on to Karl and the gang also. In the past 4 1/2 years they have convinced me to NEVER vote for a Republican again. And, since according to current lifespan expectations, it could mean I'll be a voter for more than another 50 years. Congrats guys, maybe you're doing better in Iraq!

Posted by: | December 14, 2005 10:13 PM

Shame on you for propagandizing on behalf of this administration full of traitors, thieves and war criminals.

Posted by: Ardant | December 14, 2005 10:18 PM

Let me just echo the previous sentiments that the Washington Post is no longer a trusted source that I, or many of my colleagues, turn to for news. I thought the recent developments involving Bob Woodward was icing on the cake. I guess not. What in the world does the GOP have on you people?

Posted by: Stephen | December 14, 2005 10:29 PM

Steve in Austin posts: "If you do not realize the importance of the story Woodward did not write, then you have no business being the "political editor" for any news outlet, large or small."

Amen, that's it in a nutshell. Now that they've exposed themselves, who do we write to put Harris', Howell's and Downie's politics on the table?

Posted by: Sara B. | December 14, 2005 10:42 PM

My guess: this time next year Harris is working to "get the story out" in one of the hundred-million-dollar State Department Pentagon GOP publicity programs.

Posted by: Vicinus | December 14, 2005 10:50 PM

I have read most of the posts herein and am reminded yet again (and as a Canadian need to be from time to time) that very large numbers of the American citizenry have neither the government nor the media that they deserve. Froomkin was one of the columnists I selected most days for my quick perusal of the non-Canadian press and expect and presume that I will continue to do so. Spiked indeed, I don't think so.

Posted by: Robert Paehlke | December 14, 2005 11:01 PM

I am a Froomkin fan. I turn to his column/blog every day to catch the latest from the White House of propaganda. I find it sad, even shameful, that Mr. Harris and Ms. Howell are actually concerned about the content of Froomkin's column/blog.

This incident simply illustrates the cowardice of the MSM. The idea of "balancing" Froomkin's work with a conservative column just "because" is why the MSM is failing in so many ways. You reduce stories and opinions to rubble in the attempt to appear fair at all times. Sometimes a newspaper, like it or not, has to stand for something. Your goal is to seek and to report the truth, not to appease the political desires of every point of view.

Posted by: Kathy | December 14, 2005 11:12 PM

I am insulted by the suggestion that if Froomkin had employed the same approach he does to the current administration to a hypothetical Kerry administration, "many people who posted here would not be Froomkin enthusiasts--or be so indifferent to the concerns I raise--in that case."

Do you really find it that difficult to believe that your readership might include large numbers of people who place a high importance on a free press demanding accountability from a government of any stripe?

That is the kind of belief that seems well on the way to becoming a self-fulling prophecy, as readers who want honest, courageous and unconflicted coverage of national affairs leave the Post to look for it elsewhere.

Posted by: Mark | December 14, 2005 11:27 PM

Mr. Harris there is an old concept that journalists are supposed to adhere to. And that is speaking truth to power. Dan Froomkin is doing just that. You quite obviously are not.

Frankly the Washington Post is a disgrace. Instead of shining the light of public scrutiny upon the administration, the Post and its editors appear to be in bed with them. We would all be better off if you would climb out of that bed and actually start doing your job.

Posted by: L McGarity | December 14, 2005 11:37 PM

The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that.

Q: Can you give any examples--other than Republican National Committee eCampaign Director Patrick Ruffini http://www.patrickruffini.com/archives/2005/10/same_fight.php--of people who are seriously confused about Dan Froomkin's role at WPNI?
A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised I won't comment on this. [Excerpt from your interview with Brad DeLong in Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal, Dec. 14, 2005.]

Sure.

Posted by: | December 15, 2005 12:00 AM

I know this probably hasn't been your easiest week as National Political Editor, but I hope you and the other editors will thoughtfully consider what so many readers and critics of the Post are saying as you are noting the passion with which they express it.

Reading the comments above, there are an enormous number of thoughtful comments (even in many of the more bitter and vituperative ones), and there is much more to this than just partisan anger.

Your readers want more "old fashioned" shoe-leather journalism that doesn't rely so much on the whims of the powerful to grant access. They are tired of access journalism, of anonymous sourcing for spin rather than legitimate purposes, of "he said" "she said" journalism, of faux balance for balance's sake no matter where the obvious truth may lie and of journalists and editors who censor themselves out of the fear of the powerful.


And your using a blog post from the former chief blogger for the Bush campaign in 2004 to justify your critique of Froomkin and this quote from Len Downie certainly does not alleviate anyone's concerns.

"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.."

Posted by: Ben Brackley | December 15, 2005 12:05 AM

I am only an occasional Froomkin reader, but his column is the only reason I ever access the Post.

Having read Mr. Harris' piece (I'm not sure what else to call it), I agree with the several readers who are encouraging Froomkin to strike out on his own. He's way too good for the likes of Harris and the Post.

Posted by: Jeff Boatright | December 15, 2005 12:09 AM

It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe [Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters].

One examples why I don't respect the MSM: the assertion that "many, many examples" = "large share" of readers = "beyond any doubt."

Posted by: Therese Fenwick | December 15, 2005 12:13 AM

It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers believe that John Harris is a ....

Sapper, petard, hoist.

Mission accomplished.

Posted by: Cybertaunter | December 15, 2005 12:22 AM

Mr. Harris, I presume that this is your last week as National Political Editor, in light of the deceptions that you practiced on Washington Post readers -- but without any of the drama of Judy Miller or the ponderous pontificating of Bob Woodward.

The Washington Post can't keep on its staff a reporter -- much less a National Political Editor -- who lies to the readership, right?

It's all here in Brad DeLong's blog post:

December 14, 2005
Astroturf vs Grassroots (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)
Grassroots vs. Astroturf

I talked to John Harris, national political editor of the print Washington Post this morning. It didn't go very well:

Wednesday December 14, 2005. 9:07 PST

Q: Thanks for calling. My name is Brad DeLong. I'm a professor of economics at U.C. Berkeley. You've actually been on my to-call list since last August, when Gene Sperling, the New York Fed's Tim Geithner, and I had a very good long conversation about your very interesting Clinton book while playing hooky from a Fed conference session. You see, Orville Schell and Susan Rasky have been persuading me to co-teach a course at Berkeley's Journalism School next semester--where I get to be the ivory tower intellectual explaining how you should cover the economy, and she gets to be the practical nuts-and-bolts person on how you can cover the economy without getting fired. And I'm trying to put together a syllabus. But the impetus for this call is different: yesterday, I read you telling Jay Rosen http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/ that Dan Froomkin critic Patrick Ruffini http://www.patrickruffini.com/archives/2005/03/dan_froomkin_se.php was a grassroots conservative weblogger. And my jaw dropped because he is eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee. A matter not of conservative grassroots complaints about liberal bias but rather Bush-can-do-no-wrong paid Republican operatives working the ref. So why did you characterize Ruffini in this way?

A: He wasn't at the time working for the Republicans, he wasn't when he wrote that piece [about Froomkin last March]...

Q: So you knew [Ruffini] had been a Republican operative in 2004, and didn't tell that to Jay Rosen?

A: [Ramble of which I caught only scattered phrases] But assuming you aren't posting this at least immediately... A good relationship between the print Washington Post and WPNI... Happy to answer privately... Really don't want to be quoted on the record... If you want to call me an idiot without my response, that's fine...

A: No I want your response.

A; [stream continues] But I shouldn't respond... I've promised people I won't respond... We need to cool this down... It's a really a very narrow issue: are there people confused about Froomkin's role...

[We go off the record for a while]

[We go back on the record]

Q: Can you give any examples--other than Republican National Committee eCampaign Director Patrick Ruffini http://www.patrickruffini.com/archives/2005/10/same_fight.php--of people who are seriously confused about Dan Froomkin's role at WPNI?

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised I won't comment on this.

Q: Did you, when you sent your answers to Jay Rosen yesterday, know that your "grassroots conservative weblogger" Patrickk Ruffini had been a Republican campaign operative in 2004?

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised that I won't comment on this.

Q: Did you, when you sent your answers to Jay Rosen yesterday, know that your "grassroots conservative weblogger" Patrick Ruffini was now eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee?

A: I cannot comment for the record because I've promised that I won't comment on this.

My belief--but since he won't answer the questions, I do not know--is that John Harris knew full well that Patrick Ruffini was a onetime Republican operative when he characterized him as a "conservative weblogger" to Jay Rosen, but was trying to pull a fast one. That John Harris had not done his homework and did not know that Ruffini is going back to work as eCampaign Director for the RNC. And that he doesn't have evidence of serious confusion about the purpose of Dan Froomkin's column--that Harris has just been pounded on by a bunch of Bush-loyalist Republicans working the ref.

I do wonder how Harris found Mr. Ruffini's website. It's not that easy to do. It ranks 498th or so in the TTLB weblog ecosystem directories. I don't see how it is possible to wind up there if one is looking on the web to sound out grassroots conservative opinion.

I remember Lloyd Bentsen once cursing that American journalists had no ability to distinguish between "grassroots" and "astroturf." I think this is a point of data that many of them, at least, know full well the difference: the problem is not one of lack of ability to distinguish.

Posted by Brad DeLong on December 14, 2005 at 09:49 AM in Better Press Corps | Permalink

Posted by: Prof | December 15, 2005 12:28 AM

Sandy K said: "Journalists are there to REPORT the news, not become part of the story. Look at Froomkin's response -- he created a story that never needed to exist. That isn't journalism, it's appealing to the mob to avenge another media darling."

Go back to the beginning (was it just yesterday?)-- this began not with Froomkin, not with his readers-- but with a Harris-inspired column by D. Howell. Froomkin did not create this story. He responded to accusations by authority figures that seemed to him (and to many of us) to be limited at best and wrong at worst. What would you have done? Would you have sat there and just taken it when Harris practically called you a liar and your readers stupid? No, of course you would have defended yourself.

And then it turns out that it's not even readers or reporters who complained, but someone in the White House. Doesn't that make you wonder, Sandy? Doesn't that make you think that someone -- not Froomkin-- is withholding a vital part of this story? You say you love the news-- isn't it news when the White House is seeking to quiet a columnist? Sure was when Nixon was president!

Posted by: fell | December 15, 2005 12:34 AM

Mr. Harris,
First a disclaimer: I wrote earlier (yesterday morning).

Although some of the bloggers here have been a bit over the top, overall I think that people have responded genuinely and honestly. The ombudsman and you have, perhaps, started something far more significant than you intended. It is an extremely important matter for our country and it's future.
The Ship of State is truly floundering and heading for the metaphorical rocks. I won't get into blaming a particular party for the problem for both have played a part in the mess in which we find ourselves.
The point here is that the press and the the electronic news media have also failed, and failed seriously. Two egregious examples are the New York Times and your paper.
You were the leading news organizations in the nation. Both organizations have let us, the American public, down. I'm quite amazed that this has come about and seems to be continuing.
How do you set things straight? Is it possible to disentangle yourselves from the cronyism and sycophancy that has become the norm in Washington? I will be hopeful and say yes. Whether or not it will happen may, sadly, be another matter.

Finally to Froomkin, because with him and his modus operandi there is perhaps a key: He doesn't go to the White House. This allows him some perspective. He's not myopic so, context is easier to see. I'm guessing that he doesn't have "cosy relationships" with anybody in the administration. Speaking the truth (however one sees it) is easier when there is no need to write about your buddies.

Whoever is in the White House needs watching, no matter who they are. The press must be sceptical and critical. It hasn't been, and that is a big reason why the country finds itself in the mess it's in.

Jim Young
McMinnville, Oregon

Posted by: fahrender | December 15, 2005 01:47 AM

It's been over 48 hours and still no further info from Harris. To write such an inflamitory piece and then just feck off is at the very least rude.

I'm left to wonder why it takes Mr. Harris so long to respond to hundreds of readers. Is he busy conferring with Rove? Is his position so hard to defend it takes him this long to compose a response?

Is it really that difficult to spin your way out Mr. Harris or are you just hoping we'll all forget? Hint: we won't.

Posted by: Kevin Lyda | December 15, 2005 03:28 AM

Mr. Harris,

One question:

Did you laugh at the President's "woops, no WMD over here" joke, or did you find it offensive and out of touch?

Posted by: Where is Osama | December 15, 2005 03:36 AM

Something very insidious is at work here. Pressure ends up at Mr Harris' feet. He caves. The intent is twofold: either force Froomkin out, or, even worse, intimidate him so that his columns will not offend the Establishment. I think that Harris has badly misjudged Froomkin; he will not easily be dissuaded from speaking the truth to power!

Posted by: Thomas Butch | December 15, 2005 03:52 AM

Dear Mr. Harris,

As you can tell by the number of comments, many readers would like you to publicly address the issues brought up on this thread.

When do you plan to do so?

Posted by: Steve J. | December 15, 2005 04:16 AM

Dear Mr Harris,

There's a big scoop here about anti-Froomkin complaints to your team on the spot in Washington.

Balance demands the full anti-Froomkin story. The thousands of bloggers responses amunt to unremitting pro-Froomkin bias. Balance demands the full anti-Froomkin story.

Let's hear the voices and know the complaints, whether it's just plain folks, pundits, officials, even bloggers (some must exist). Balance demands that someone report the conservative side of the story.

As things stand it looks like you and your ombudsperson lobbed Froomkin's liberal stooges some softball. WP should disabuse its readership of any such notion.

If anyone complained about Froomkin unattributably that's OK - I admire journalistic integrity. Just report their story and give us their non-Millerian status.

Thanks in advance ...

Posted by: AlanDownunder | December 15, 2005 06:02 AM

If you guys actually did your jobs and reported on the Bush administration instead of acting as their official mouthpiece then people wouldn't confuse your political "reporting" with propaganda and opinion.

Posted by: Steve Naive | December 15, 2005 06:10 AM

Whenever I get frustrated by the Washington Post's coverage (or non-coverage) of the Bush Administration, I have to remember this series by Michael Hasty:

Secret admirers: The Bushes and the Washington Post (part 1)
http://www.onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_175.shtml

Secret Admirers: The Bushes and the Washington Post (part 2)
http://www.onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_176.shtml

Posted by: FMJohnson | December 15, 2005 07:09 AM

"Why is Downie all aflutter assuaging White House perceptions of any critical converage?"

Because she's a good little party apparatchik who has been installed to make sure the media toe the party line.

It's not like the good old days any longer. When I was in my prime the likes of Mr.Froomkin were digging salt before their feet could touch the floor.

Posted by: Uncle Joe Stalin | December 15, 2005 08:19 AM

"Given that there is such confusion, the question is whether this is a problem. For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions."

Given that there is also confusion whether Mr. Harris takes his cues from "grassroots" conservatives, or party operatives (a la Ruffini), the question is whether this is a problem. For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on Mr. Froomkin as coming through an administration prism -- or at least not trying at all to avoid such perceptions.

Posted by: Eric R. | December 15, 2005 09:17 AM

why are you such a whiny-ass titty-baby, and how does it feel to know that you'll ALWAYS be known as the archetype of the kind?

Posted by: John K. | December 15, 2005 09:21 AM

It's really sad that while the White House he's supposed to cover is responsible for more and more unnecessary deaths every day, Mr. Harris seems more concerned about Dan Froomkin's reports about the White House than the loss of lives caused by this White House. American soldiers - husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers, and innocent Iraqi men, women, and children are dying every day in a war that is so utterly meaningless and what is Mr. Harris outraged about? People are dying every day because reporters such as Harris did not do their job responsibly and were more concerned about their relationship with this White House than the lives of people. I'm so disappointed by the newspaper I've read and loved for more than 30 years.

Posted by: LizaC | December 15, 2005 09:38 AM

I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism.

Gee Mr. Harris. Your rag also publishes Krauthammer and Will. And the White House Stenographer Sir Woodward. And David Ignatius. And Jim Hoagland. And that nice liberal Mr. Cohen, the one who not like the mean traitorous ones. But I forget. They write for the PRINT version, so they are ok, and anyway, nothing they write upsets Mr. Rove.

Posted by: Ba'al | December 15, 2005 09:39 AM

While the White House may deserve respect. The Occupant of the Office of President should have to earn respect. This one has not. He has lied often and damaged this country at the cost of tens of thousands of innocent lives. He is ignorant and arrogant. He said/She said is not reporting. It's color. Four quotes from each side is not balance, it's gossip. Quit asking flaks for facts, It's not working.

Posted by: SSquirrel | December 15, 2005 09:42 AM

Look at that! NEarly 1000 comments. Keep it going, folks!


I, for one, wonder why Mister BigPants Harris was so willing to jump on the previous thread and reply to "us po' readers" but now that he's heard the voice of the grassroots as opposed to his pal Ruffini Astroturfi... he's gone off yellow-bellied and frightened into a corner.

That's my guess, I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that his lack of further response is based on being a gutless wank.

Posted by: nearly 1000 | December 15, 2005 09:47 AM

Wow, what a great debate.

I'm both a faithful WP print subscriber and a devoted wp.com fan, and would like to add my vote to those asking for concrete examples from Howell and Harris as to why they believe Froomkin's column is "liberal."

Posted by: Allison | December 15, 2005 09:52 AM

I suggest that we start a drumbeat of demands that John Harris reply to the 1,800 readers who have posted messages disagreeing with the factual predicate of his attack on Froomkin:

Mr. Harris, when are you going to reply here?

Posted by: Prof | December 15, 2005 09:56 AM

Yes, Mr. Harris, when are you going to reply?

Posted by: Debby Smith | December 15, 2005 09:57 AM

Just change the name of the column if that is what upsets you so much.

The fact that the incident has gotten this big may imply in many readers that you are trying to send a signal to conservatives that you are not biased. Please be aware of this.

Maybe this is just in-fighting among journalists; maybe it was just a mistake.

There have been times when the editorials and opinon section appears to me overwhelmingly conservative. I just attributed that to chance. Since these are opinion pieces, it never occurred to me to complain against your newspaper for being biased.

This incident has taught me a lesson. The next time I run into a solid, conservative block on the op eds or the online opinion section, I will write letters complaining of bias.

Maybe then you will put pressure on conservative columnists.

On the other hand, I read again your last few sentences, claiming that the trouble column is making your job more difficult.

So, is this really about losing access to politicians because of Froomkin's column?

Please let us know.

Posted by: Hugo Estrada | December 15, 2005 10:02 AM

Actually, that's my question too -- is Harris willing to reply, or has he gone hiding?

Posted by: Meryl Delios | December 15, 2005 10:02 AM

I agree that Harris should reply here.

I also think that he probably has to resign, since he was caught hiding the fact that the person he was citing as a source of complaints against Froomkin as an official of the Republican National Committee -- but Harris lied about the complainer's true identify.

Are you going to resign, or reply to the comments here, or neither one, Mr. Harris?

Posted by: blog-reader | December 15, 2005 10:05 AM

John Harris, I would also like a reply.

Posted by: Sam Young, Bountiful, Utah | December 15, 2005 10:10 AM

blog-reader has a point. This is from one of the previous comments above:

"Q: Did you, when you sent your answers to Jay Rosen yesterday, know that your "grassroots conservative weblogger" Patrickk Ruffini had been a Republican campaign operative in 2004?"

Harris, you didn't reply to that question yet.

Are you going to reply to any of us here?

Respectfully,

George Strait

Posted by: G. Strait | December 15, 2005 10:16 AM

Harris doesn't have the balls to reply.

Posted by: Harris-without-balls | December 15, 2005 10:22 AM

Ladies and Gentlemen, please.

Mr. Harris will soon clarify everything, and he'll be very careful to type simple responses for us, simple-minded readers.

At 11 AM, sharp.
Tata.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2005/12/08/DI2005120801368.html

Posted by: vanfur | December 15, 2005 10:27 AM

What did Harris know and when did he know it?

Was Harris intentionally covering up his conversations with Republican National Committee officials?

John Harris, at least show us the basic decency of REPLYING TO YOUR READERS QUESTIONS HERE.

Or is the Washington Post Blog just a one-way megaphone?

Reply
a-n-s-w-e-r
REPLY
don't hide
R*E*P*L*Y

Posted by: Marylander | December 15, 2005 10:32 AM

Busted. You can not withhold information from the online community. We now know, Mr. Harris that many of the concerns voiced to you came from Patrick Ruffini, aka eDirector for the RNC. You are revealed. Being critical is not being partisan but accomodating party activists surely is.

Posted by: Veeve | December 15, 2005 10:32 AM

I have never confused Froomkin with a WP White House reporter. Mr. Froomkin deals in facts not stenography.

When will the Post address the questions raised by readers on this forum?

Posted by: carolyn13 | December 15, 2005 10:58 AM

Probably Mr. Harris is too busy not answering questions in the online chat to come here and not answer questions.

Posted by: James Johns | December 15, 2005 11:01 AM

It's past 11:00.

Where's the live chat, tittyboy?

Posted by: Fed Up | December 15, 2005 11:04 AM

Here goes:

Des Moines, Iowa: Is there a reason that your concerns about Dan Froomkin's column surfaced now after it has been running for (I believe) over two years?

John F. Harris: Good morning, folks. There are TONS of questions on this topic, as I knew there would be. It's been boiling on blogs in recent days, and some comments I made there have been a big part of the conversation.

To be honest, I'm only going to answer a couple on this, for two reasons:

--I've addressed it in other forums, and the whole matter has been diverting me from other work.

--More important, the uproar on blogs has made what is by agreement of everyone at the paper and website a pretty narrow issue seem like a huge deal. It's not, and I'm eager to cool it down.

The narrow issue is how washingtonpost.com labels Dan Froomkin's popular White House Briefing column, and whether enough is done to make clear that he is a commentator but not a Washington Post news reporter. The Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, wrote a column saying more should be done to clarify that, and I was quoted agreeing with her. An uproar ensued in some places, getting the issue all tangled up in controversies about the war and journalism generally. As if we needed a reminder, these are emotional times.

For those who are actually interested in the details, Jay Rosen's site "pressthink" did a full and responsible airing of this relatively minor issue, and I said everything I need to say (and a little more)on that.
http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/

For all its interesting and useful features, some things I don't like about the on-line crankosphere are its frequent humorlessness and tendency to blow issues way out of proportion.

After I popped off on some of these issues, some colleagues gently suggested I might be flirting with these traits myself. (They are liars and no longer my friends.)

I did get irked by one thing Dan had said on-line, which I took to be suggesting that Post reporters don't work hard to hold the White House accountable. He later quite graciously made clear this was not at all what he intended, and I felt bad about responding hotly. I like Dan and his column.

It just goes to show what my mother always said about counting to ten before speaking in anger. Unfortunately, we've fallen out, since she apparently loves Osama and Saddam more than America.

Posted by: izzy | December 15, 2005 11:15 AM

I'm John Bolton and I'm here to stop this discussion.

Posted by: John Bolton | December 15, 2005 11:27 AM

My comments will be lost in the groundswell here, but just in case anyone is reading, I find Mr. Harris' comments rather condescending.

Froomkin's blog--buried as it is in the underneath material of the online edition--is one of the more refreshing parts of the paper. Shame for you that the rest of the paper, especially the reportorial staff that Harris vaunts so highly--are so willing to cover up the evasions, errors and gaffes of this White House. That someone is willing to report this--without comment, I might add--reflects good journalism standards.

Mr. Harris, we do understand the distinction--but it really only reflects poorly on your record, not Froomkin's.

Posted by: Binky | December 15, 2005 11:36 AM

HAS EVERYONE DULY NOTED THAT J. HARRIS HAS CENSORED THE QUESTIONS IN THE "Daily Politics Discussion" (Live, On,line).

He has allowed only one question on the Froomkin controversy to be taken up.

HE IS ACCOUNTABLE TO NO ONE !!

Posted by: BBS | December 15, 2005 11:44 AM

HAS EVERYONE DULY NOTED THAT J. HARRIS HAS CENSORED THE QUESTIONS IN THE "Daily Politics Discussion" (Live, On,line).

He has allowed only one question on the Froomkin controversy to be taken up.

HE IS ACCOUNTABLE TO NO ONE !!

Posted by: BBS | December 15, 2005 11:45 AM


HAHAHA...Hey, Live from Wash DC, it is Thursday Morning Live! What an absolute farce this chat with Harris is.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: What are your least favorite catchphrases used by journalists/broadcasters these days. Mine are "on the ground" (as opposed to "in the trees?"),if you will (what if I won't, buddy?), and "at the end of the day" (as opposed to mid-afternoon?). Just curious. Thanks for your work and these chats. I like both you and Froomkin.

John F. Harris: These do seem like cliches, and I'll try to remember to take them out of reporters copy when I'm editing it.

My favorite new word is "truthstigious" invented by respected journalist Stephen Colbert, who says his show is the most trustworthy and prestigious on television.

Posted by: izzy | December 15, 2005 11:57 AM

Not only are the questions being censored in the Harris chat,the answers must be filtered through the White House because they are so s-l-o-w.

Posted by: covert | December 15, 2005 12:07 PM

John Harris response to last question in live chat session....

Sterling, Va.: When will you fess up to what exactly you know/knew about Patrick Ruffini and when exactly you knew it?

Your unwillingness to comment makes the WP look -really bad- in light of the Woodward mess.

Or won't the White House permit you to comment?

John F. Harris: I said I was not going to return much to the Froomkin matter today, but I'm going to take this one because it bothers me. Also because many other questions I'm not posting are on a similar theme.

I did refuse to answer questions posed by a blogger named Brad Delong asking whether I knew that one of the people on record complaining about the confusion over White House Briefing was affiliated with Republicans.

As a journalist, I hate not answering questions, even from (in this case) someone who clearly was coming from a point of view quite hostile to me. But I had jointly decided with colleagues that I had responded enough to the blogosphere, so I took a pass.

I'll address the matter here. I did know that some people raising questions about Froomkin are Republicans, but there was a particular instance two months back that made me wonder whether we ought to be paying more attention. An old friend, quite liberal, who has been around politics all his life said to me, "I love that column your White House reporter writes." I said, "Um, Dwight, I'm delighted that you enjoy the column, but you know, right, he's not our White House reporter, and he does not report to me?" He said, "Well, why is it called White House Briefing?"

That suggested to me that maybe this is an issue causing confusion. But here's the thing: It's a very NARROW issue, not a question of trying to suppress one of the website's most popular voices.

As a Post editor, I have a great relationship with washingtonpost.com editor Jim Brady and his deputy, Russ Walker, and the newsroom and the website will discuss and work through this one calmly--as we do similar issues all the time.

For all the shouting, that is all this issue is about, and at the end of it all it's pretty pedestrian.

These chats themselves are an example of the great things the website and newspaper are doing together.

That's it for today, my last chat of the year. Thanks to everyone, including probably a record number of questions I could not get to.

I've figured out a way to get around the Bill O'Reilly issue. I'll say Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays!

I'll chat again in the new year.

Posted by: | December 15, 2005 12:20 PM

Sterling, Va.: When will you fess up to what exactly you know/knew about Patrick Ruffini and when exactly you knew it?

Your unwillingness to comment makes the WP look -really bad- in light of the Woodward mess.

Or won't the White House permit you to comment?

John F. Harris: I said I was not going to return much to the Froomkin matter today, but I'm going to take this one because it bothers me. Also because many other questions I'm not posting are on a similar theme.

I did refuse to answer questions posed by a blogger named Brad Delong asking whether I knew that one of the people on record complaining about the confusion over White House Briefing was affiliated with Republicans.

As a journalist, I hate not answering questions, even from (in this case) someone who clearly was coming from a point of view quite hostile to me. But I had jointly decided with colleagues that I had responded enough to the blogosphere, so I took a pass.

I'll address the matter here. I did know that some people raising questions about Froomkin are Republicans, but there was a particular instance two months back that made me wonder whether we ought to be paying more attention. An old friend, quite liberal, who has been around politics all his life said to me, "I love that column your White House reporter writes." I said, "Um, Dwight, I'm delighted that you enjoy the column, but you know, right, he's not our White House reporter, and he does not report to me?" He said, "Well, why is it called White House Briefing?"

That suggested to me that maybe this is an issue causing confusion. But here's the thing: It's a very NARROW issue, not a question of trying to suppress one of the website's most popular voices.

As a Post editor, I have a great relationship with washingtonpost.com editor Jim Brady and his deputy, Russ Walker, and the newsroom and the website will discuss and work through this one calmly--as we do similar issues all the time.

For all the shouting, that is all this issue is about, and at the end of it all it's pretty pedestrian.

These chats themselves are an example of the great things the website and newspaper are doing together.

That's it for today, my last chat of the year. Thanks to everyone, including probably a record number of questions I could not get to.

I've figured out a way to get around the Bill O'Reilly issue. I'll say Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays!

I'll chat again in the new year.

Posted by: | December 15, 2005 12:22 PM

Mr. Harris feels no need to respond to the blogosphere cranks, since they are, at best, only readers or subscribers to the Post.

Way to go. Note to the Post. Fire Harris, or face the well-deserved anger of your soon-to-be "former readers".

Posted by: ch2 | December 15, 2005 12:24 PM

Harris says: An old friend, quite liberal, who has been around politics all his life said to me, "I love that column your White House reporter writes." I said, "Um, Dwight, I'm delighted that you enjoy the column, but you know, right, he's not our White House reporter, and he does not report to me?" He said, "Well, why is it called White House Briefing?" That suggested to me that maybe this is an issue causing confusion. But here's the thing: It's a very NARROW issue, not a question of trying to suppress one of the website's most popular voices.

OK. Nice little story.
But is this anecdote to be taken as the evidentiary basis for saying that
"It seems to me--based on many, many examples--beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that."

Fess Up, John; you are covering up for a doozy of Fib. Why don't you just come out and say it: "I made that one up so that my proposals might have more authority."

We'd at least give you points for what you haven't shown till now: SIMPLE HONESTY !!

Posted by: BBS | December 15, 2005 12:33 PM

Aaw BBC, don't you know ? You talk to one liberal, you've talked to them all.

Posted by: ch2 | December 15, 2005 12:45 PM

Harris completely dodged the question.
Asked specifically about the embarrassment of his hiding Ruffini's background as a Republican campaign operative (calling him simply a conservative blogger), he went on to simply concede the weakest and most obvious form of the objection by saying:

"I did know that some people raising questions about Froomkin are Republicans... "

REPUBLICANS?? Is that it, John? Then again, some Republicans are simply more equal than others, I suppose.

Barry

Posted by: BBS | December 15, 2005 12:48 PM

Mr. Harris-

Perhaps you should have ducked and covered. Every time you express yourself, you reveal more about yourself and the way the Post operates.

"I'll address the matter here"--and then you don't address it. Very impressive. Dan, who is not a reporter, is a better reporter than your reporters, and so apparently is Brad DeLong. He has you talking like a White House press secretary.

"At the end of it all, it's pretty pedestrian." Well, we disagree. You might want to consider who we are. Brad DeLong is not just "a blogger"--he is one of the leading economists in the U.S. Many of the people who have commented above write better than you do and thus probably think better than you do. You have elicited a very large--I don't ever recall seeing more than 500 posts in a thread anywhere on the internet--response from some very intelligent people. But you are still unwilling to even consider the possibility that we have a point, or that this might be a real issue. You are well-described as "uncritical," just like much of the reporting that shows up in your newspaper. We are trying to force journalism to criticize itself, because we see that it has failed us, but you and the Post have not responded.

I would like to admire the Post, and I do not want journalism to continue decaying as an institution. Since this affair began, I have seen nothing from this newspaper that encourages me in either respect.

Nicholas Mycroft

P.S. OT I would add that the oddly prurient nastiness that has emerged as this thread gets longer doesn't do anyone any good.

Posted by: Nicholas Mycroft | December 15, 2005 12:57 PM

Of all the quotes, I liked this one from the chat: "I've figured out a way to get around the Bill O'Reilly issue. I'll say Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays!"

It lends itself to this question - are there any blowhards on the right that you won't cave to? I'm sure it's a short list so hopefully you'll take the time to answer it.

Posted by: Kevin Lyda | December 15, 2005 01:10 PM

"As a journalist, I hate not answering questions, even from (in this case) someone who clearly was coming from a point of view quite hostile to me. But I had jointly decided with colleagues that I had responded enough to the blogosphere, so I took a pass.

I'll address the matter here. I did know that some people raising questions about Froomkin are Republicans, but there was a particular instance..." blah, blah, blah.
That hate is obvious because he still did not answer the damn question. How about using that keyboard for Good and clear up the Ruffini reference you made in regards to Froomkin's column. Otherwise I have to assume you are comfortable with the appearance of carrying water for the administration which, by the way, is exactly what you are complaining about in reference to Froomkin's column.

Posted by: deeplite | December 15, 2005 01:50 PM

Below is a repost of the questions I submitted to Harris in today's "live" -- but actually heavily filtered and moderated "chat" with the political editor. Harris gave two generic "reponses" to questions about the Froomkin flap that he started, neither of them remotely satisfactory.

You have recently been hit with an avalanche of criticism for your characterization of Dan Froomkin's column as "highly liberal" and your suggestion that the title of Froomkin's column should be changed so that readers are not confused as to whether Froomkin is one of the Post's White House reporters. When you raised these concerns, you purported to be speaking on behalf of a an undisclosed group of Post readers (as well as Post White House reporters).

In response to criticisms from washingtonpost.com readers (a lot of them), you said among other things, that it is "beyond any doubt that a large share of readers do believe that [Dan Froomkin is one of the Post's three White House reporters]." Yet you failed to cite any kind of study to justify this empirically falsifiable assertion of statistical fact. Indeed, you failed even to cite any anecdotal evidence -- until pressed by Jay Rosen in an interview in which you acknowledged that you had "heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair." With this in mind, I offer the following questions:

(1) How do you respond to the criticism that you very much appear to be trumpeting the concerns of a narrow partisan interest group (say, the White House or the Republican Party), while pretending to be championing the interests of the Post's readership more generally?

(2) Don't you think you absolutely fueled that appearance by pointing, during your interview with Jay Rosen, to criticisms of Froomkin from a "conservative blogger," Patrick Ruffini, who happens to be a professional partisan Republican operative (who was the webmaster of the Bush/Cheney 04 campaign and who is currently eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee)?

(3) Given that one of your criticisms of Froomkin is that he is "not trying very hard to avoid ... perceptions [that he has a liberal bias]," are you now regretting these comments of yours that appear to do nothing more than transmit the concerns of a particular political party?

(4) (a) When you proffered Ruffini's website as a place to find a representative critique of Froomkin, did you know that he was (and is) a professional Republican operative? (b) Did you come up with his name and website through your own researches or was his name and/or website suggested to you by someone else? (c) If the latter, then who suggested it to you?

(5) Why did you refuse to answer Brad DeLong's requests that you identify any examples other than Ruffini "of people who are seriously confused about Dan Froomkin's role at WPNI"?

Posted by: Phil | December 15, 2005 02:46 PM

I simply love this! Post readers giving the once mighty periodical its comeupance. These are responses coming from YOUR subscribers, Mr. Harris! I cackle with nefarious glee at your litero-suicide. You are doing more work to discredit your slanted and biased paper than any liberal could ever do!! Keep the comments coming Harris!

Posted by: ghost poop | December 15, 2005 03:11 PM

Today's chat performance was terrific.

Nothing left to say. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

Posted by: | December 15, 2005 03:15 PM

Good job Johnny-boy... it just keeps getting better.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001699281

Posted by: | December 15, 2005 03:25 PM

Have you no shame?

I rarely ever read Froomkin, but I have never seen him print something that wasn't true. I wish I could say the same about your department, but you have chosen to use your forum to cheerlead for team Bush when the facts do not support your conclusions.

What have you done?

Posted by: grannyinsanity | December 15, 2005 04:29 PM

>P.S. OT I would add that the oddly prurient nastiness that has emerged as this thread gets longer doesn't do anyone any good.<

I agree. We aren't doing ourselves any favors with all the name-calling and below-the-belt personal comments.

We have a legitimate issue here and it can speak for itself without the personal attacks. Let's take a page from "their" manual and stay on point.

Posted by: Sheri Rogers | December 15, 2005 04:45 PM

What would Ceci Connolly do?

Posted by: truthman | December 15, 2005 04:49 PM

Mr. Harris, obviously you are not reading this thread. Too "threadening", I suppose, and you'd only dismiss us, as you already have, as "crankologists" or whatever neologism you came up with.

But please note that your readers are doing a better job of reporting this than you are-- a better job of analyzing the known information and asking the right questions. You refuse to answer these questions or evade them-- while you took a question about Ruffini, you never answered it, and instead came up with a quote that is seemingly irrelevant (about your friend "Dwight") but at least does show that you can't cite more than one reader who has apparently made this confusion.

You want to dismiss this as trivial-- but you started it. You made a big point of getting the ombudsman to write a story about what probably should have been an internal debate. You said some pretty rotten things about Froomkin, and insulted his and your readers. You told Jay Rosen that "Republicans" were the complainers, that after telling us that it was "readers" (and now you tell us it was "Dwight"). Now if a politician got this tangled up in his story, wouldn't you expect your crack reporters to delve into it, ask and continue asking about Ruffini, as Brad deLong did, and refuse to stop just because the politician grumbled that it was "hostile"?

What never ceases to amaze me is how thin-skinned many reporters are when they're the ones being questioned. We've seen that with Judy Miller and Bob Woodward, and now we see it with Mr. Harris. You can dish it out, huh, but you can't take it.

Posted by: leggett | December 15, 2005 05:26 PM

Ha! "The Fix" had to post a correction to their right-wing slanted Abramhoff posting earlier today ...

WE ARE WATCHING YOU, HARRIS. If can't do your job - then we'll help.

Storm's comin ... better get ready.

Posted by: | December 15, 2005 06:07 PM

The very fact that the Washington Post failed to even mention the White House Conference on Aging, which a sitting president has never missed, but covered the President's staged press conference on the same subject is perfect evidence of why Froomkin is so needed.

The Washington Post under Mr. Harris is a cozy tool of the administration. THAT is why they do not have a reporter like Dan Froomkin. They would never get their coveted access to the administration.

The paper has really been exposed for what it is, a PR vehicle for Bush and company.

Posted by: scootmandubious | December 15, 2005 06:29 PM

"Otherwise I have to assume you are comfortable with the appearance of carrying water for the administration which, by the way, is exactly what you are complaining about in reference to Froomkin's column."

To be clear, I'm refering to appearances, which is what his snit started out to be about.

Posted by: deeplite | December 15, 2005 07:09 PM

Mr. Harris:

Tell me:

If you had gotten so much as 10 or more responses supporting your position (out of 1000++) would that then be enough to "SPIKE" Dan Froomkin's column and restore your hegemony?

Too bad, I say-- but you didn't get even that, did you?

Barry

Posted by: BBS | December 15, 2005 07:42 PM

Good point by Harris. It seems rather disingenuous to me that Froomkin says he's not ideological. Of course he is if he's adversarial!

Really, this all seems much ado about nothing, and another reason for the "MoveOn.org" wing of my party to complain. No wonder we lose elections.

Posted by: Adam 4-4-2 | December 15, 2005 09:38 PM

adam:

sorry old boy but one does not need not be ideological to be adversarial. one does not need to have an ideology for that purpose or function. it seems you need to reread these posts to get a better perspective on what has been going on here now for more than 48 hours. it is most certainly not nothing which is going on here.
hint: it's not about elections or even political parties.

Posted by: fahrender | December 15, 2005 11:37 PM

I have been very discouraged by the comments made by John Harris that helped to start this, but what is worse is later he has tried to say this is just a little matter over-blown.

I don't think it is up to him to say this is a little issue. Obviously there is a problem here for so many people to respond. The Washington Post is facing a crisis of confidence, where a great many readers no longer believe that it's reporters behave as journalists, and think that they are nothing more than mouth-pieces of the current administration.

The Washington Post has a problem and I do not believe John Harris is the man to fix it. THe Post needs help.

JR

Posted by: jrolsen | December 16, 2005 12:29 AM

More proof the MSM is in the pocket of the Bush administration. The NY Times waited a year (A YEAR!) to report that Bush okay'd domestic spying (btw, HI! big brother). Harris is just part of the problem. If you could hear Chris Matthews drooling over Bush tonight because he got to rub elbows with Bush at at the WH Xmas party! (Matthews probably got a new nickname or something).

How are we to trust these guys when their kids go to the same schools, their bosses vacation with WH officials, and they attend the same parties?

Who is looking out after us? (Apparently not the WP or the NY Times.) Our civil liberties mean nothing when you can cozy up to the boss. I guess it is not too hard to sleep at night when you have a nice house in Georgetown, and your kids go to a good school.

Posted by: | December 16, 2005 09:32 PM

Adam said: "Good point by Harris. It seems rather disingenuous to me that Froomkin says he's not ideological. Of course he is if he's adversarial!"

Me-- you know, Adam, you might think about what "ideological" means. It doesn't mean "against Bush". An ideologue believes in an idea, or an ideal, and holds to that no matter what. So someone who believes in, say, tax cuts or civil rights, is going to judge presidents on whether they increase tax cuts or improve civil rights. The idea matters more to them than other ideas or general performance or the person. So those who support Bush are, most of them, NOT ideologues, because they're more for the man than any big idea.

Similarly, an adversarial type-- and I don't think Froomkin is, I think he's skeptical, which isn't the same thing-- isn't usually an ideologue, because he's against the person in authority. He's likely to be against whoever is in authority, regardless of any particular idea or ideal. Like from that old juvenile delinquent movie: "What are you rebelling against?" "What do you got?"

I don't think Froomkin is either an adversary or an ideologue. I don't think most people are either one, as they require a rigidity of purpose and personality that most of us don't have and don't want to have. Both require knee-jerk responses-- but not to the same thing. An adversarial type is going to rebel against a person or institution in authority. An ideologue is giong to support a principle or idea above all else.

It really doesn't do much good to call people in today's America ideologues, because there aren't really many. It's really hard to be a true ideologue and get much power, because Americans tend to be wary of fanatics with single issues. And adversarial types are going to change their tack whenever the authority changes its tack.

But Froomkin isn't either, so your muddy argument just gets muddier.

Posted by: list | December 17, 2005 02:42 AM

I don't consider Dan to be adversarial; in fact, I wish he hadn't used the word to describe what he does. I see Dan as the readers' advocate on coverage of the Bush presidency. He is the true ombudsman for many of us, one of very few journalists who provides context and clarity in the coverage of an administration that has no use for either.

Posted by: SR | December 17, 2005 06:29 AM

harris i hope you don't really believe what you wrote.no one else does!

Posted by: tom | December 17, 2005 09:47 AM

Mr. Harris:

You wrote: ""Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and *adversarial purpose.*"" [emphasis added]

As Ken, another poster pointed out, there is no such acknowledgement as *adversarial purpose* anywhere in Mr.Froomkin's response.

The fact that you have lowered yourself to
such a deliberate misrepresentation is clearly indicating your preferred attitude towards the truth: cavalier to say the least.
I suggest to you that the rest of your retort is just as cavalier and certainly failing to convince this "confused" audience.

After you have posted a similarly tainted response at Huffington's on December 12, early enough in the afternoon, I took the liberty to address to you this quote and my comments elsewhere in this blog:

From 'What America Means to Me', by Pearl S. Buck: "Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied".

Regretfully, you failed that halfway moment-- a very long split second-- recalled nothing, added some miserable explanations, misrepresented, and in a complete fashion insulted our intelligence.
That was a poor choice for you to make!

Have you even bothered to skim over the posts you and the ombudsman have drawn out of this readership with your obvious, but illiberal, disdain?

Posted by: Pleno Jure | December 17, 2005 04:15 PM

RE: Robert D. Lenhard

Get _YOUR_ news at FireDogLake. You will find the truth there. I can tell you that you will not find the truth at the Washington Post. The Washington Post is surely aware of the facts, they just don't print them.

http://firedoglake.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_firedoglake_archive.html#113485007313391863

And in an uncharacteristic moment of cheerful bipartisanship, Bush is also appointing a Democrat, Robert D. Lenhard, who was quite helpful to the 1600 Crew as part of the legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

But there is perhaps another reason why Mr. Lenhard is being rewarded by BushCo. at just this moment. He's the husband of Viveca Novak, whose testimony now provides the foundation for Karl Rove's defense in the CIA leak case.

A small but rather key fact that both the Washington Post and the White House Press Release manages to leave out, wouldn't you say? They WaPo is having quite a stint in the GOP stenography department this week, it would seem.

Richard Quick
Valley Park MO

Posted by: Richard Quick | December 17, 2005 04:56 PM

I am sure that the crack political reporters at the Washington Post NEWSPAPER will be sure to REPORT to their readers that President Bush has picked the husband of Viveca Novak as a new nominee to the FEC. You remember Viveca... maybe you'll see her at a Christmas her hubby's great news.

Posted by: Frank Booth | December 17, 2005 06:26 PM

I am sure that the crack political reporters at the Washington Post NEWSPAPER will be sure to REPORT to their readers that President Bush has picked the husband of Viveca Novak as a new nominee to the FEC. You remember Viveca... maybe you'll see her at a Christmas party or two and can ask her about her hubby's great news. You report, we decide.

Posted by: Frank Booth | December 17, 2005 06:29 PM

Ok new title for the column:

White House Bluffing

Posted by: egregious | December 17, 2005 06:32 PM

Mr. Harris,

YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING, RIGHT? ARE YOU CRAZY or JUST ACTING LIKE IT?

Just because Bob Woodward jumped ship, lost all credibility, and made a little moola writing a book doesn't mean you have to as well.

It certainly seems like you're setting yourself up in order to resign, loose all credibility, and make a little moola writing a book about your personal arrangement with Karl Rove and how the WaPo became the official White House BushCo. Stenographer. "Unofficial Senior Administration officials have seen you and Karl at lunch and the waiter did not deny witnessing the exchange of the envelopes.

all kidding aside ...

You CLEARLY are not aware of the fact that most of your readers KNOW the WaPo regurgitated WH statements daily, BEFORE the war. WE DONT TRUST THE WAPO ANYMORE and the Enquirer has better fact-checkers. In fact, if THEY were reporting on Bush before the war, you can bet there'd be a lot more live solders right now.

You need to be very quiet at this point in the game, sir. The more you speak, the more Webster wants your pic next to you their definition of Idiot. I think your writing ridiculous crap on purpose just like O'Reilly and the pseudo War on Christmas.

Oh, and BTW ... I'm not a journalist, so perhaps you can explain your last sentence to me:

"The confusion about Dan's column unintentionally creates about the reporter's role has itself become an obstacle to our work."

WTF?!?!!?!?

Journalist?, National Politics Editor?, riiiight. Just resign now and go write your flippin' book.

Spare us, all. Please.

Posted by: | December 17, 2005 08:16 PM

American or Fascist?

Which side is your news organization on?

Does fascism deserve "balanced coverage" - Look at this historically.

Posted by: Spare Us All | December 17, 2005 10:50 PM

Like so many other posters, I cannot relate in any legitimate sense of what constitutes journalism to Howell and Harris. After 9/11, for a time, anyway, I thought mainstream journalism was getting over the urine yellow insanity that warped it into something nearly useless during the Clinton years.

I find the pov taken by Harris-Howell on what is objective and what is political twisted beyond the ability of three dimensions to contain it. Their concept of journalism reuqires some sort of string theory.

Yellow journalism with its lack of proportionality or fact checking due diligence is frightening, but when it is presented as legitimate and as the gold standard of reporting, it is even more alarming.

Posted by: Bill McMichael | December 19, 2005 02:23 PM

Mr. Harris, have you no reply?

Posted by: Leita | December 21, 2005 09:08 PM

Dear Mr. Harris,

Please be assured, your concerns are misplaced.

Froomkin's column asks the type of skeptical questions upon which good investigative journalism depends.

No one will mistake him for one of your White House reporters.

Posted by: Mark | December 21, 2005 10:57 PM

Mr. Harris, this is simply amazing. Your nerve is breathtaking.

Woodward is directly involved in what could very well be a major crime and covers up his own role in it for months, all the while criticizing the investigation into the crime.

Woodward isn't fired. He doesn't even get an ombudsman column. Not a peep out of you. Apparently, this is just fine with the Washington Post.

Froomkin writes a very good column that is critical or at least asks hard questions of the Bush Administration, and you automatically assume that Froomkin must have a liberal bias, and waste everybody's time complaining about it. Apparently, because Froomkin is acting like a real reporter and your own reporters don't, it bothers you and you assume that Froomkin must be a liberal.

Do you see how this makes you look stupid?

If you don't, then God help us.

Posted by: Craig | December 22, 2005 05:58 AM

Brad DeLong rounds the whole thing up over at his site:

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/12/a_platonic_dial.html

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | December 22, 2005 10:30 AM

If the issue is that somehow the readership is being confused by the title of Mr. Froomkin's column, then change the title. If the issue is that readers somehow believe Mr. Froomkin to be a White House reporter, then include a disclaimer on every column. Period. End of argument. Mr. Froomkin's column will continue to be one of the most informative, thought- (and research-) provoking spots in media, regardless if it is called "White House Briefing" or "Liberal Tripe" or "Dan's Personal Belief Blog". If it's just a matter of the title, or a disclaimer, that's irrelevant to Froomkin readers. Readers are interested in the actual text.

Posted by: RDS, New York City | December 27, 2005 12:30 AM

I have a sense that this "l'affaire Froomkin" is having the effect of a Tsunami at WaPo, but the editor's reactions are being played out at low key, having been quite smashingly put in their places by the readers, as evidenced by the response threads, such as here.

Just today (12-27-05), WaPo has an editorial titled: "White House Prevarications." furthermore, Print reporters such as Mike Baker have been much more aggressive in their questioning at the McLellan follies. This is a purely anecdotal observation, but it may be true nonetheless: Froomkin and the readers have set the bar for accountability a few notches higher.

Barry

Posted by: BBS | December 27, 2005 06:25 AM

It's because Bush lies and gets away with it that Froomkin's column is so popular? Huh?

I'd have loved a column like this during the Clinton years.

It doesn't matter! You guys have picked the wrong dog in this fight and instead of cleaning up Howell's mess, you did one better and doubled it.

Sad.

Posted by: Seth | December 27, 2005 03:29 PM

To Seth: I think lies come in degrees. I can understand a man lying about an affair, no matter how distasteful I find such behavior personally. What I can't fathom is lying about the kinds of things - life and death things - that seem to characterize everything Mr. Bush and his minions say to us.

I don't feel safer with this administration at the helm. Indeed, I don't think the country has ever been in more danger than it is at this moment in time. I would love to see Bush impeached - except that it might mean Dick Cheney ends up in the Oval Office. That, arguably, would be the worst-case scenario. Maybe there's a way to throw them both out at once?

Posted by: Sheri Rogers | January 2, 2006 11:27 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company