The Curious Case of Daniel Froomkin

Daniel Froomkin generated quite a following, especially on the Left, with his White House Watch blog during the Bush administration.  Froomkin took to the role of blogger quickly, using the blog to move away from a reportorial style and frequently assailed Bush, to the point where the Washington Post’s own ombud had to address complaints over its bias.  However, Froomkin attracted plenty of traffic and attention and became one of the more well-known opinion journalists at the Post.

Now, however, the White House is under different management — and coincidentally or not, the Post has told Froomkin that the WHW blog has “run its course”:

In a move sure to ignite the left-wing blogosphere, columnist Dan Froomkin (author of the “White House Watch” blog) has been let go by the news organization, POLITICO hears. In so many words, Froomkin was told that his blog had essentially run its course.

Froomkin’s work for the Post has, at times, been amongst the most popular, but he has also ruffled some feathers, including former Post ombudsman Deb Howell, who used a column to field complaints over the labeling of Froomkin’s “highly opinionated and liberal” “White House Briefing” column, which was subsequently changed to “White House Watch.” …

Froomkin was a frequent target of the right, but the left welcomed his voice within the Washington Post’s umbrella and Froomkin said that his mission was to “watch the White House like a hawk.”

The Post hasn’t abandoned the concept of blogging.  They just hired Ezra Klein to blog for them, and thus far don’t appear to be shutting anyone else down. Nor does traffic levels seem to be the problem, not from the explanation given to Politico’s Patrick Gavin from the Post, which is that they needed to “balance their resources.”

That leaves just a couple of interpretations.  One could be that the Post didn’t trust Froomkin to maintain an hawk-like watch on a Democratic administration.   That might be a problem, but I’ve talked with Froomkin, and he seemed to take that job seriously.  Perhaps the Post thought they couldn’t trust him to do that, but if that was the case, they should have removed him during the Bush years, and they didn’t, so that explanation seems unlikely.

The other interpretation is that perhaps the Post just doesn’t want that level of scrutiny during an Obama administration.  If so, we’ll see soon enough, because if they don’t bother to have a White House-focused blog that gives more careful scrutiny than their normal reporting, we’ll know that the Post has a different standard for Republicans than they do for Democrats.

Update: A couple of theories have come to me over the evening.  One e-mailer suggested that Froomkin was some sort of threat to the Post’s conservative columnists, which is just silly.  Froomkin was sharply left, but the Post managed to survive having him and Charles Krauthammer in the same organization, although there apparently wasn’t much love lost between them.

A source with some knowledge of the Post’s relationship with its bloggers suggests that it just might be a traffic level decision.  Froomkin worked as a free-lancer, reportedly on six-month contracts, and that would make June a decision month on whether traffic supported his work.  Liberal blogs have had a fair decline in readership since Obama took office, so that could be it.

Update II: The piece appeared on Michael Calderone’s blog at Politico but was actually authored by Patrick Gavin.  Sorry for the confusion — I just missed the by-line.