Accuracy in Media

Dan Froomkin, the former quasi-White House watchdog for The Washington Post and current Obama administration lapdog at The Huffington Post, thinks all journalists should drop the pretense of objectivity as he did long ago.

Here’s how he answered a query from the Democracy In America blog for The Economist when asked whether “the media should strive for objectivity in its reporting”:

No. Journalists should strive for accuracy, and fairness. Objectivity is impossible, and is too often confused with balance. And the problem with balance is that we are not living in a balanced time. For instance, is it patently obvious that at this point in our history, the leading luminaries on one side of the American political spectrum are considerably less tethered to reality than those on the other side. Madly trying to split the difference, as so many of my mainstream-media colleagues feel impelled to do, does a disservice to the concept of the truth.

Froomkin is partially correct. Today’s journalists have proven repeatedly that they are incapable of achieving the admittedly high standard of objectivity on a consisent basis. That’s why I said earlier today that I would rather read the solid reporting of blogger-activists (regardless of their political leanings, by the way) than the work of journalists who say they are objective but behave otherwise.

Froomkin used to be one of the liberals I occasionally enjoyed reading for that reason. I knew he approached his journalism from a far-left perspective, but he was an aggressive watchdog. Then Barack Obama was elected president, and Froomkin went soft.

He still is. Froomkin’s primary gripe about media coverage of Obama is that journalists, especially television networks, treat him like a celebrity and emphasize fluff over substance. He’s right on both counts, but he’s wrong about this:

This administration, I’m happy to say, is not unprecedentedly and spectacularly dishonest, incompetent and secretive, and therefore doesn’t require the kind of courage to cover that the Bush-era White House press corps, to its shame, failed to summon. The unique and much less daunting challenge of covering this president is that he is such a celebrity.

Obama is so dishonest that he has been shouted down from the well of the U.S. House and called out by voters marching in the streets of Washington. The left-leaning Associated Press exposed Obama’s lie, albeit reluctantly, about his healthcare plan not funding abortions. Liberal journalist George Stephanopoulous confronted the president about his amazing capacity for breaking promises.

And the list goes on. As Jim Geraghty has detailed regularly at The Campaign Spot, “All Barack Obama promises come with an expiration date. All of them.”

Froomkin acknowledged as much in his Economist interview. “The Obama White House was a model of transparency … for two, maybe three days,” he said. “… Obama has been a terrible disappointment. Where’s the change?” Yet Froomkin still insists that Obama’s team “is not unprecedentedly and spectacularly dishonest”? A watchdog can only reach such a conclusion if he is looking at the world from his master’s lap.

Froomkin’s distorted worldview is even more obvious when you consider his response to the White House’s war with Fox News. The $5 million White House communications team has agreed to a cease fire for now but undoubtedly will pick another fight with Fox in the future — and Froomkin clearly thinks they should. He parroted White House talking points to criticize journalists who dared defend Fox:

The Obama administration’s recent characterization of Fox News is a long overdue acknowledgment of the obvious: Fox News is not a legitimate news organization — indeed, after many years of serving as the research and messaging wing of the Republican Party, it has now gone beyond even that, to become the electronic evangelist of an ultra-partisan and non-reality-based world view.

… The litmus test is that the Obama White House is not upset at news gatherers for doing their job. What Obama and his aides are correctly pointing out is that the people working at Fox News are doing another job altogether.

Seriously? Froomkin has watched Major Garrett, who used to work and CNN, and honestly concluded that the Washington news he reports is illegitmate? Froomkin thinks Bret Baier and Chris Wallace are “doing another job altogether” on “Special Report” and “Fox News Sunday” than the anchors for other evening and Sunday news shows?

I don’t believe it. It’s far more likely that Froomkin, like the White House, is judging all of Fox News based on the success of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and its other opinionated talk-show hosts.

But if that’s true, Froomkin has no right to complain. Fox’s talkers have done exactly what he has done, and what he wrongly believes even newsmen should do — forsaken objectivity and balance as the gold standard of journalism. Froomkin lives in an Ivory Tower made of glass, so he’s really in no position to be hurling stones at Fox News or advising other journalists how to do their jobs.

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