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Washington Post, Dan Froomkin And “Liberal Bias”

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So let me ask everybody a question. When is reporting “liberal bias” and when is it simply pointed opinion?

To explain…first read this from the Post’s new ombudsman, Deborah Howell. She takes a swipe at Dan Froomkin’s daily, washingtonpost.com-only column, “White House Briefing”:

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

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

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

I think the Post’s political reporters have just cause to be concerned. The title of Froomkin’s column can be, and has been, misinterpreted by many a reader. Also, since it’s a daily column, the confusion becomes even be more pronounced. Sure, most of what Froomkin does is merely point to other reporting, much like us bloggers do, but that doesn’t make it look any less official when it’s at washingtonpost.com.

Still, I don’t think that this is a case of liberal bias, and I’ll let Froomkin explain it in his defense

There is undeniably a certain irreverence to the column. But I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable. And he should be able to easily withstand that scrutiny. I was prepared to take the same approach with John Kerry, had he become president.

This column’s advocacy is in defense of the public’s right to know what its leader is doing and why. To that end, it calls attention to times when reasonable, important questions are ducked; when disingenuous talking points are substituted for honest explanations; and when the president won’t confront his critics — or their criticisms — head on.

The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so — not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do.

This is what I’ve been saying all along, and I’ve always had a tough time listening to the critics of the MSM. Sure, I hear them lay a big liberal blanket over the entire flock of reporters and such, but that’s lazy and everybody knows it. You can point to little examples here and there of all sorts of “bias,” but that doesn’t make it institutional. And it seems to me that many who accuse the media of liberal bias seem to forget the situation less than a decade ago with a president named Clinton.

But my advice to Dan…change the title of your column. It’s distracting from the content.