Dreaded 'Traffic' Made the Washington Post Fire FroomkinS

Today was Dan Froomkin's last day with the Washington Post, who canned him despite his being generally one of the better things about that paper. And why did they can him? There are theories!

City Paper editor Eric Wemple, a veteran Post Kremlinologist, has a lengthy reported story on the firing of Froomkin. It is very good! But it has its flaws. Wemple really, really wants to trash both the Post and the idiot liberals who trash the Post, so he quickly dispenses with the "it's because Froomkin was too liberal" theory, mocking the bloggers who've made that argument.

But, well, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald are both terribly excitable and prone to hyperbole, demonization, and over-simplification—but they are sure as hell not idiots.

Still, we accept that ideology was not the reason! It was traffic! "'His traffic had gone way down,' says Fred Hiatt, the paper's editorial page editor. Froomkin himself uses the same talking point: 'Traffic definitely did go down.'" And why is that?

"'A chronic problem had been promotion of the column on the homepage. My readers complained that it was harder and harder to find all the time,' says Froomkin." But that might be because of the ideology thing we dismissed earlier! So we hedge: "Zero: The amount of sympathy Froomkin will get from other Posties on how visible and navigable his stories have been on washingtonpost.com-that's a common affliction at the paper."

And, meanwhile, the Greenwald/Sullivan argument that Froomkin bugged the shit out of everyone else at the paper by having bigger balls and calling them on their bullshit (this is what they mean by "liberal" btw)? Well it's true that they refused to let him print anything that too much resembled "media criticism," which was a lot of his work.

"Marisa Katz, the paper's Web opinions editor, says the dinner story 'read more like a Howie Kurtz media column, or one of Dan's Nieman Watchdog items, than a post focused on the Obama White House.'"

God, the day Howie writes anything as perceptive about the media as Froomkin we'll send him flowers.

But in the end, yes, we believe the "traffic" thing. We also happen to believe that "traffic" is a shitty reason for a newspaper to fire a reporter, and further we are pretty sure that his traffic would've been better if he'd been promoted better, and the reason he wasn't promoted better was maybe because he bugged people on the print side, and of course, at the end of the day, "traffic" is not actually a standard they'd apply to a print columnist. And most of their print columnists fucking suck.

So yeah, $100,000 a year is a lot for a struggling paper to pay a guy with falling page views, but how much do they pay Dana Milbank? Or Richard Cohen? And what's the ROI on those guys? (Actually, the traffic for those two is probably pretty good, because everyone on the internet fucking hates them.)