Category Archives: Dan Froomkin

Check this Out

My brother has a new project: Press Watch, “a collaborative project to monitor political reporting and encourage more responsible, informed and informative campaign and government coverage before the 2020 election.”

About This Site

The problem

We’re entering a critical period in American politics and American political journalism is not up to the task. Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency have exposed and exploited chronic weaknesses like never before. And despite some progress, elite political press coverage insufficiently rebuts lies; normalizes abnormal behavior; asserts false equivalences; remains overly susceptible to spectacle, conflict, and gamesmanship; fails to contextualize the news with expertise – and on and on.

The opportunity

Over the past several years, a considerable number of expert groups, commissions, panels and individuals have voiced elements of what, writ large, is a fairly coherent and consistent critique of the current practice of political journalism at our major news outlets (see above). But on a day-to-day basis, it’s diffuse. Press Watch will aggregate, amplify, curate and centralize the consistent application of that critique by a network of smart, critical readers.

We’ve also identified some solutions, such as prominently rebutting misinformation; practicing radical transparency; holding politicians accountable to the citizens’ agenda; imbuing our work with civics lessons; pursuing solutions journalism; and encouraging civic engagement. But too much of our discussion of these solutions is theoretical. There’s an urgent need for practical, recreatable models and best practices.

The work product

  1. A four-day-a-week, real-time assessment of political coverage in the form of a column with critiques harvested from a wide network of expert readers. Our first publishing partner is Salon.com
  2. Guided, goal-oriented workshops – physical and virtual, held in collaboration with journalism schools and other organizations — that dive into specific elements of political reporting and generate concrete deliverables including guidelines, examples, and recreatable models.

The impact

Political reporters are hard to influence. But they are more likely to respond to pressure if the critiques are reasoned, detailed, constant, and coming from respected members of their profession and other experts. They are more likely to do their jobs better if we offer them plausible alternative approaches that don’t create more work or risk. Meanwhile, a lively ongoing discussion of political coverage will encourage the public to read more critically.

The project lead

Dan Froomkin is a trailblazer in the area of online accountability journalism with 21 years of experience building, editing and contributing to websites including the Huffington Post, The Intercept, and the Nieman Foundation’s Watchdog Project. Over 12 years at the Washington Post, he served as Editor of the website and wrote its enormously popular White House Watch column, which aggregated and amplified insightful political coverage. He has taught online journalism at the Poynter Institute and the American University Graduate School of Communication.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, The Media | 1 Comment

My Brother Imagines a Hypothetical World in Which Republicans Answer Hypothetical Questions

Dan has a whole bunch of sensible questions that reporters should be asking members of Congress from both parties about what they believe constitutes an impeachable offense. I agree they should be asking them.

So rather than asking Republican members of Congress about impeaching Trump, we should be getting them to say what they themselves consider impeachable offenses – arguably locking them in, when and if Mueller can prove they were committed.

These are straightforward yes-or-no questions:

  • If a president is found to have solicited or knowingly accepted help from a foreign government to influence an American election, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
  • If a president fires a special prosecutor investigating him, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
  • If a president directly orders the Justice Department to prosecute his political rivals, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
  • If a president pardons himself, isn’t that an impeachable offense?1
  • If a president promises pardons to potential witnesses against him, isn’t that an impeachable offense?

And, bonus essay question:

  • What level of presidential lying to you consider an impeachable offense?

But I think I know what most of the answers will be: “I don’t want to get into hypothetical questions.”

Even so, reporters should be asking them. Maybe the follow-up should be: “Wait, you mean you think there’s actually a sufficient probability of this that you consider the question hypothetical?”


Bonus xkcd on hypotheticals:


  1. Note by MF: For the record, I think there are two good arguments that if a President pardons himself the pardon is invalid. First there is the idea that ‘no man should be the judge in his own cause.’ Second there’s the idea that a pardon is a thing one person confers on another, so a self-pardon just is incoherent. []
Posted in Dan Froomkin, Law: Reading the Constitution, Trump | 5 Comments

Vertebrate Paleontology

Congress gets a spine and nobody notices because it’s about Yemen.

Read this very interesting piece of Congressional vertebrate paleontology and thought, “Dan would like this; it’s the sort of thing he’d want for his rebooted White House Watch.”

But of course, it turns out that he wrote it.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Politics: International | Leave a comment

White House Watch is Back!

My brother is reviving White House Watch. It was his best journalism, back before he got sucked into management, and I’m really happy to see it again.

He even has a sort of manifesto, of which this is a part:

I see two ways it can add value above the din:

1. By relentlessly putting Trump’s incremental actions in their proper, alarming context as an ongoing, corrupt assault on pluralism, shared truths, and core liberal democratic values; and
2. By convening an ongoing online dialogue about what we need to do once Trump is gone, with an emphasis on strengthening our democracy and curbing executive branch powers that have grown unchecked.

We can’t allow this to become the new normal. So how do we restore pre-Trump expectations? And having learned some very painful lessons, how do we apply them to rebalance and reenergize our democracy?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m excited about asking the questions and reporting what I hear.

In addition to multiple postings using the latest news as a point of departure, I’ll do my own reporting and interviews. I’ll talk to experts about the weakening of the checks and balances intended to protect us from tyranny, and how to strengthen them. I’ll review literature on key topics, especially related to the violation and restoration of norms. I’ll experiment with online annotation of articles, essays and white papers. Depending on the site’s budget, there could be podcasts and even teach-ins.

I’m also intent on offering a megaphone to the growing community of groups and individuals already focused on the work of restoring and protecting democratic principles. The endless scandals, outrages and distractions of the Trump era have robbed them of the national attention they deserve. White House Watch will work with them on internet time to inject their important perspective into the daily political discourse.

(My only question is why I had to hear about this from Mom?)

Posted in Dan Froomkin, The Media | Leave a comment

A Dose of Optimism

Mueller’s Big Reveal Is Coming, and it Could Be Huge by some guy named Dan.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, The Scandals | Leave a comment

Boy’s Club?

Over at ACS Blog, my brother notes that of the 29 people Trump has nominated for U.S. attorney positions, 28 are men.  And 25 are white.

Makes for a nice collage:

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Law: Everything Else, Trump | Leave a comment