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Froomkin’s White House Briefing…Briefly

What is everyone saying about whether to change the title of Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing?

See Jay Rosen’s great round-up here.

Marty Kaplan blogs about it over at the Huffington Post.

So does Jane Hamsher, and see the various Postie takes after the jump…

  • Freeport, Ill.: Mr. Baker, I was wondering if you are one of the insecure, jealous, Washington Post reporters who feel threatened by Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing. Sir, would you please comment on getting a life, doing your job relentlessly and not being so afraid anymore? Thank you. I look forward to your reply.

    Peter Baker: Insecure? Jealous? Need a life? All of the above. Threatened by Dan Froomkin’s column? Hardly. Dan compiles links to other people’s work and throws in some thought, analysis and opinion of his own. There’s great value in that. But it’s a different thing from being a White House reporter.

  • Redondo Beach, Calif.: Political Editor John Harris wrote yesterday on the blog that Dan Froomkin’s “White House Briefing” column that “-the confusion Dan’s column unintentionally creates about the reporter’s role has itself become an obstacle to our work.” As one of the aforementioned White House reporters, can you give your readers an example of how Froomkin’s column has impeded your ability to report on the Bush administration?

    Peter Baker: Okay, lot of questions on this topic today, so let’s go ahead and get into it. John’s point is only one of clarity. Let’s make sure there’s no confusion. There shouldn’t be any debate about that. We don’t put Richard Cohen or George Will on the front page, we put them on the op-ed page where everyone understands what they write is based on their own opinions. The web site is less clear simply because we don’t have the traditional design of the newspaper with a front page and an op-ed page.

  • Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene,

    Interesting ombusperson column this weekend, Harris and new ombuswoman vs. Dan Froomkin.

    A few minutes ago there were 600+ comments posted to the blog on the subject, 99.99 percent in favor of Froomkin.

    Care to weigh in on the controversy?

    Gene Weingarten: Yeah. The Post reporters are wrong. Deborah is wrong. Froomkin is right. His column is really good, and I don’t much CARE if people get confused about whether he works for the Post or dotcom. Fact is, he works for both, and he is a columnist, and columnists have opinions, and people understand that.

    Pat the Perfect, ME: Let it be clear that the ombudsman did not say it was a bad idea for The Post’s Web site to have a highly opinionated columnist. She was arguing that the name of the column should not be “White House Briefing.” “Briefing” is indeed a lousy word for “my personal opinion on.”

    Gene Weingarten: Well, why? First off, most of the column is links to what others have written. It is “Brief.” I don’t get it.

  • After two days of controversy, several newsroom staffers at The Washington Post, including Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., said today they do not object to online columnist Dan Froomkin’s “White House Briefing,” which has sparked a debate over its title and its alleged liberal content. But they contend that it should be clearly labeled an opinion column and urged Web editors to change the name.

    “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.”

  • 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. “The column is extremely popular and it is not going anywhere.” When asked if a name change might occur in the future, Brady said it is possible, but “I have no odds on it.”

  • Speaking with E&P on Tuesday, Harris reiterated his point that the name of Froomkin’s column is cause for concern. He added that in today’s polarized political atmosphere, in which some readers believe news stories are written with a political agenda, it is most important to clearly separate opinion pieces from news articles. “There is a lack of understanding that seems to exist of the role of our profession,” Harris said. “That we are an ideologically neutral newsroom. A lot of people don’t accept that.”

  • But for Dan Balz, a veteran political reporter, the uproar is “much ado about nothing.” Balz adds, “the guy can write whatever he wants, it is just an issue of labeling. I have not heard anyone who thinks that column should not exist.”

  • Jim VandeHei said that his concern as a White House reporter is that readers may believe Froomkin is also a White House reporter, and that “he is opining. … I don’t think anyone has a problem with Froomkin, but they want it labeled as opinion.”

  • Peter Baker, another White House correspondent, agreed: “It has nothing to do with Froomkin, it is how the column is presented and that it is clear what he is. I have heard concerns that people might think he is a reporter in the White House briefing room.”

  • Adds Michael Fletcher, another White House reporter, “I am in the camp that I wish his column had a different name, but short of that, I don’t have a problem with what he does.”

  • Following Howell’s Sunday column, Froomkin weighed in to defend himself on Monday, writing online that “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.” Readers posted more than a hundred messages supporting him at the Post site on Monday.

  • Harris had added to the dispute late Monday when he weighed in with a lengthy note countering Froomkin’s views and defending his staffers. “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,” he wrote. “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.”

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