Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

NYT takes a quizzical look at the WaPo’s Froomkin firing

The article is here. Its core concern is the hazard of judging writers purely in terms of reader response (something that the web allows publishers / editors to do with unprecedented precision):

Still, the rationale — even if it was masking other reasons for Mr. Froomkin’s departure — surprised some writers who are uncomfortable being judged by their Web traffic. The Washington City Paper, in an analysis of Mr. Froomkin’s departure, called it a historical marker for The Post, “the first time that a major personnel decision has hinged so squarely on Web hits.”

Why is that disturbing? The Onion explains here.

Joking aside, I think that a shitty thing to get upset about. Hits are in large part a function of links from other websites or blogs discussing the points being made. In that sense, while the raw numbers alone are in themselves uninformative, they signify the breakdown of what I think was the worst feature of the old industrial mass media: the way it trapped readers / viewers in the role of passive receivers able to communicate nothing but their willingness or unwillingness to continue to purchase the aggregated media product (the selection of which was as slim as the diversity of perspectives offered within that selection was narrow).

As such, were it the reason for Froomkin’s firing, I would find it far less disturbing than its alternative, gestured towards between m-dashes in the beginning of the quote I pulled above and explored comprehensively throughout the liberal blogosphere: that Froomkin was fired, not for inadquately slaking his readers’ thirst for Bush bashing in a post-Bush era, but for not toeing the line of the political class (a much more prickly issue to pick up and address directly for the New York—“it’s not torture if Cheney says it’s not, even if we call the same techniques torture when the Iranian regime uses them”—Times).

UPDATE: Extra strange, as was just noted at the Dish, it’s funny to focus so much on this issue when not a single web traffic number can be found in the piece. I don’t doubt that traffic fell to a degree, I think that’s reasonably likely, but the Post’s editors have given no indication of how much it fell or from when to when. I would still bet that Froomkin was the Post’s premier blogger. As is also pointed out by Froomkin via the Dish, the WaPo’s page views were down after the election as well, and he suggests proportionately. Weird.

protecting you from reality


In other news SCOTUSblog is liveblogging the Sotomayor hearings. Check it out here. You can watch the hearings live at any number of places, but I’ve been watching them here.


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