Watchdog Blog

Dan Froomkin: On Calling Bullshit

Posted at 5:09 pm, November 30th, 2006
Dan Froomkin Mug

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.

It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography. I’m convinced that my enthusiasm for calling bullshit is the main reason for the considerable success of my White House Briefing column, which has turned into a significant traffic-driver for The Washington Post’s Web site.

I’m not sure why calling bullshit has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons. There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

The return of Democrats to political power and relevancy gives us the opportunity to call bullshit in a more bipartisan manner, which is certainly healthy. But there are different kinds of bullshit. Republican political leaders these past six years have built up a massive, unprecedented credibility deficit, such that even their most straightforward assertions invite close bullshit inspection. By contrast, Democratic bullshit tends to center more around hypocrisy and political cowardice. Trying to find equivalency between the two would still be a mistake – and could lead to catty, inside-baseball gotcha journalism rather than genuine bullshit-calling.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

But here’s the good news for you newsroom managers wringing your hands over new technologies and the loss of younger audiences: Because the Internet so values calling bullshit, you are sitting on an as-yet largely untapped gold mine. I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

169 Responses to “On Calling Bullshit”

  1. Chris says:

    Harry Frankfurt couldn’t have said it better. Thanks for writing this.

  2. lloyd spruce says:

    thanks for fighting the good fight.

  3. Bordo says:

    Amen, brother! Please, God, may the press corps hear this clarion call. Many of us are fed up with the chronicling of an absurd kabuki theater and are hungering for journalists to grow a backbone in their dealings with this administration. To those who fear a backlash from the public, I would point to two things: First, as Dan Froomkin notes with regard to the popularity of his column, there are many folks who will seek out and reward the truthtellers by reading, listening, watching, etc. Second, those who hate the press will never learn to love you no matter how much you try to sugar coat the errors of this administration so don’t even bother.

  4. TBH says:

    Dan, you’re right on the mark as usual. I’d like think that journalists would take professional pride in calling bullshit.

    But instead, during these Bush years, much of their pride seems to center on virtuosic efforts to take our leaders’ bullshit seriously and to draw some sort of legitimate meaning out of it.

    Case in point (one which you know well): Bush’s ubiquitous straw man arguments. And countless others.

    But I guess it’s the “serious” thing to do, to take our serious leaders seriously. Unless, of course, they yell a crowd-stoking cheer into a microphone at a political rally.

  5. PeterP says:

    Well, you know, some of us LIKE it when our morning paper reads like a 30-year-old copy of Pravda. It makes us feel secure.

    Besides, if the Washington Post and the New York Times start acting like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who are all the hip young political comics going to make fun of?

  6. jfaberuiuc says:

    Thanks again (as always) for having enough repect for your readers to not bullshit us and to appreciate politics as more than just theatre. We need more journalists like you. Many more.

  7. brendan says:

    I love, love, LOVE the yoking of “bullshit” and “gold mine”.
    Great imagery!
    A brain fart is preventing me from re,mebering who coimned that phrase…

  8. Barry says:

    It’s no coincidence that Keith Olbermann’s ratings are going through the roof, largely due to his bullshit-calling spoecial comments.

  9. clb72 says:

    Ten-four. As an addendum, can we add the principle that journalists should regularly attempt to call their own bullshit?

    Just as an example: “When I wrote last year that any Democrat who based his/her campaign on opposition to war in Iraq was unprincipled/immature/headed for defeat, sweet God was I full of bullshit!”

    And for bonus points: “Here’s what I’ve learned from being 100% wrong about what I wrote before….”

    Too much to ask?

  10. Sean Brodrick says:

    So are you going to call bullshit on George Will? His smear job on Jim Web is total bullshit and distorts the Post’s own reporting!

  11. Deacon Blues says:

    Danny boy, you’ve hit the nail on the head, and the question that should be asked — by stockholders in the media companies — is why don’t these Grand Old Media Men see that speaking truth to power is a way to make MONEY?

  12. Jason M says:

    It’s depressing that this even needs to be pointed out.

    But hey, better late than never.

    Finding leaders who would actually LEAD rather than spouting bullshit. Now that’s clearly too much to ask.

  13. » Blog Archive » Bullshit says:

    [...] Froomkin has a crazy idea. [...]

  14. nitpicker says:

    The first magazine to publish a photo of Bush with a large block header reading “BULLSHIT!” would not only be sold out in minutes, but become as iconic as the Playboy Marilyn Monroe cover or the National Lampoon’s “Buy This Magazine or We’ll Shoot This Dog!” cover.

  15. Ken says:

    On Web, as Sean mentioned above?

    It’s a rather glaring example of the course of action you just espoused.

  16. Raphael Cruz says:

    give me three amens and a half-dozen hallelujahs… dead on, mr. froomkin…

  17. dmbeaster says:

    As others have noted, much of the media is in the habit of peddling the bullshit now rather than calling it out — it is part of the disease. So journalists are going to have to be just as pointed with their own as they would be with politicians. This is after all a disease of journalists that the politicians exploit — they do not cause this misbehavior.

    Just remember Stewart’s takedown of Tucker Carlson and Crossfire — again, why did it take a comedy figure to call bullshit on that?

    Or as noted above, who is going to call George Will on his bullshit about Webb? He deceptively edited Bush’s remark to Webb in order to make his point — seems like calling him out is in order.

    What will the WaPo do? It seems to be heavily infected with this disease, and showing no intent to take the required medicine to get better.

  18. Ed Horlick says:

    I’ll see Raphael’s three amens and half-dozen hallelujahs and raise him a full benediction. Thank you, Mr. Froomkin (and please do me a favor and smack George Will in the back of the head for his Jim Webb column, though I admit that you don’t really need a reason).

  19. alkali says:

    Apropos of this, I had occasion to watch NBC Nightly News a couple months ago and heard Brian Williams refer to the federal government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina — in straight newscaster copy — as a “fiasco.”

    I expect that some journalists would find that description improper. Surely there is someone who would have said, on camera with a straight face, that the federal government actually did the best that could have been expected in New Orleans. That person could have been presented along with a competing view, and viewers like me could have made up their own minds.

    As a consumer of journalism, my view is this: Williams did exactly the right thing. I do not have time in my day to sit through a newscast put together by someone who refuses to exercise any informed judgment about the subject matter of their presentation. I’ve got too much else to do. If you feel that you cannot be trusted to exercise that judgment in a fair and objective fashion, well, perhaps journalism is not the profession for you.

    Oddly, you don’t find that kind of hemming and hawing on the sports pages, which cover events of far less import. If a sports page refused to remark on how the local team was doing, preferring to defer to the competing views of a bleacher rat and the team manager, no one would ever read it.

  20. janeboatler says:

    Anyone who uses bullshit that many times in a column in reference to journalists not calling it, is a hero to me.

  21. Jay says:

    I’ve always wondered which sources would dry up if reporters were perceived as hostile to a certain side. Are we talking about the young conservative kids like the NASA administrator who have been placed into government by Bush? I wouldn’t think that they would be talking to the media anyway, and conveniently for the media they do not appear to know anything important.

  22. DWG says:

    An example of this problem can be found today in Gwen Ilfil’s chat on the, where she congratulates herself on her “moderation” — this in response to a question about the reluctance of media to call the current Iraq debacle a “civil war.”

    It’s one thing to be fair and even-handed — it’s another to baldly refuse to acknowledge the POLITICAL AGENDA of the people who pressure journalists not to use the phrase. For the love of GOD! Do you think this advances your credibility?

    I’m sorry. You are exactly right. It’s way beyond the time for journalists in general to POINT IT OUT WHEN THEY ARE BEING LIED TO.

    Sorry for yelling. But my head is exploding.

  23. Lee Brotherton says:

    While I agree with Froomkin’s main point it puzzles me why the point needs to be made at all. Is it not as plain as the nose on one’s face that “journalists” are making joke of themselves by being the handmaidens of the rich and powerful? Colbert and Stewart are popular because they are the only people who are being honest with the public. Professional “journalists” have are little more than prostitutes conveying the safe and simple minded messages their corporate pimps allow them to convey. Since theie appalling performance in the Monica days right through the Bush years “journalists” have been doing a disservice to the public by doing little more than serving as an echo chamber for the voices of those who own them. Pathetic! The truth is though, that the “journalists” who control our news content are nothing more than corporate bureaucrats and careerists who are no more interested in serving the public interest than they are in volunteering for service in Iraq as a marine. The namby pamby norms and standards of their profession which use the farce of “nuetrality” to ignore their duty to report that lies are untrue and that criminal acts are, in fact, crimes and so on is not only a disservice, but a disgrace. “Journalists” and their fake, phony pretense of neutrality, focusing on the trivial and irrelevant and refusing to call a spade a spade is hurting our country and is a major part of what is wrong with our modern politics. Stephen Colbert made that point brilliantly at the White House Correspondents dinner this year and I loved it! Colbert made it clear that everyone knows their game and recognizes their failure to do their duty by the public. That’s why none of them thought it was funny of course. To paraphrase the great Jack Nicholson line: they can’t handle the truth! Unless “journalists” get back to honest reporting of the news the people will go and find the truth.

  24. Tom says:

    Maybe I don’t know much about this topic (ask anybody), but it occurs to me that reporters – like anyone working for a living – need to keep their careers moving forward as much as possible. In the past, I think the “real” reporters would have killed for such a clear and obvious need for investigation (such as the Bush Administration). But now, we have journalists who very much enjoy being “in the loop” with Rove and such like. The journalists know that if they upset the apple cart too much by investigating, they chance not staying “in the loop”. Because their careers need to survive above all else, why would they risk losing their “access”. Note please I am not defending them for this short sighted display of “loyalty” or laziness. I am just considering the question of why they would put their future employment at risk to get the exclusive. It is safe to say we have a collection of talking heads who are not up to the job. It will take much time, I think, for the pendulum (sp?) to swing the other direction.

  25. John Gillnitz says:

    Well said, Dan. What we have to be on the lookout for now is those who look like they are calling out bullshit, but are really just shoveling it out with a different rhetorical shovel. I’m looking at you Lou Dobbs.

  26. grytpype says:

    Well that’s just like… your opinion, man!

  27. Leif Garrett says:

    Remember, it takes two to bullshit – one to do the shitting and one to be shit upon. It’s like nature’s perfect cycle played out in the newsroom.

  28. Eric says:

    The herd aspect of journalists behavior is also worthy of note. It is this, more than Will’s twisted tale, that is a problem. The pundit’s role is to express an opinion and no one should be surprised that Will expresses opinions favorable to the client group to which he appeals. Much more pernicious, Will was also apparantly setting the theme for coverage of Webb. Let’s see what the echos are and respond strongly if and when journalists follow Will’s lead.

  29. JJF says:

    Three problems with today’s so-called professional journalist class:

    1. Fear of losing access — reporters think they have to kiss ass to get their calls returned.

    2. Corporate control of major media channels — two problems here: one, big corporations do not want to make waves, and two, they tend to promote a Republican agenda.

    3. News “stars” — TV is primarily guilty here, but the effect of getting our news from people who are in the top 0.0001% of income earners is that they are much more closely associated with the elites in power than the average American.

    It took a while to get where we are today, and it will probably take longer to fix. But bloggers and comedians have filled the vacuum, and it would be great if some regular news outlets would finally get it.

    Enough bullshit. We can all agree about that.

  30. Nit P. Icker says:

    Methinks the “matter” in paragraph 6 is supposed to be “manner.”

    Great post.

  31. Marge says:

    Isn’t it odd. The people who should know what readers want are the ones suppressing it. Remember when you used to get the newspapers to read what was really happening. Now there’s no need because you know what they are going to say. Bush and his administration is doing a good job. Period end of story. I am so thankful for the internet. I am one senior citizen (soon to be 74) who loves it and does not even buy ANY newspaper anymore.

  32. canCanMan says:

    Thanks, Dan. Y’know, unlike what the guys said about (who was probably kidding), it’s really not just your *opinion*, though. It’s kind of an empirical fact: the press should report the truth, even if the story is “our president makes sh&t up.”

  33. Mike Finney says:

    Speaking of Bullshit, whe is that moron Fred Hiatt actually going to READ one of your columns?

  34. arbitropia says:

    How shrill. When will you dirty fucking hippies get serious?! Patriotic centrists like Joe Lieberman and John McCain are out there speaking truth to power, and the relentlessly liberal MainStreamDriveByMedia falls all over itself to discredit their views and denigrate our troops and undermine the War. It’s almost enough to–wt–sdg-hdxtnfg-awefzvsd %*(&$&%

    Oops! Sorry about that, my ass was using the computer without my permission again. Excellent post, Mr. Froomkin, I totally agree.

  35. getalife says:

    “I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter”

    Or blogger. I find being informed frustrating reading all the bullshit spewed today.

    As a member of the reality based commmunity, I say, get real.

    Report the facts and leave the bias out of the reporting.

    It is pathetic.

  36. RagingGurrl says:

    Excellent post – and I love the reader (alkali) in your comment section who refered to the pundits as Bleacher Rats. So true.
    There are more idiots commenting on the news than journalists reporting the news; Why is this? Everytime I tune into CNN there seems to be a dozen pundits talking out of their asses for each reporter talking about a news event.

    It’s a pain in the ass, just to watch these news shows. Just give me the news, all of it and I’ll make up my own damn mind.

  37. Phoenix Woman says:

    Upton Sinclair explained it best way back in the last century: “It is difficult to get a man to understand a thing when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  38. flem snopes says:

    Not only should you call bullshit on Will but the Post should ask for his resignation. I think he’d fit in perfectly on the editorial page of the Washington Star.

    Oh wait, the Star went out of business in 1981. Well, I still stand by my statement.

  39. The Crapture says:

    add a few more Amens and Hallelujahs from me on this subject.

    I mean seriously, it’s been bad enough that the so much of the media has been so soft and sycophantic towards Bush to the point that they refused to call Bullshit at nearly every opportunity (i’m being generous today) but they’ve spent the last six years perfectly willing to help DISTRIBUTE the bullshit as if they were so many monkeys who, to their delight, found an incontinent bull in their enclosure one morning and since then cannot restrain their glee in flinging the neverending flow of bullshit far and wide.

  40. The Story So Far… » Blog Archive » We Have A Free Press. Maybe Someday We’ll Have A Courageous One… says:

    [...] Dan Froomkin on calling bullshit… [...]

  41. Tom Wood says:

    Of course, now that the Democrats are relevant again, everybody wants to point out how it’s time to start calling bullshit. But the last time the MSM called bullshit was the last time Clinton got a blowjob; once Bush came along, they acted like bullshit was a delicious meal.

  42. Tim Russert says:

    If I lose my beach house where will I go in the summer? don’t mess with my money or my tax breaks you liberal dork!!

  43. Craig says:

    Dan Froomkin nails it once again. It’s heart-lifting to hear a real journalist trying to reinject reality into the media.

    The funny thing is Dan gets called a “liberal” because he calls bullshit bullshit. The truth is his political leanings are irrelevant. Bullshit is bullshit, period, and he calls it like it is.

    If that means the Republicans get yet another opportunity to work up some mock rage by pretending there’s a “liberal” media, then too bad for those whiners.

  44. Fran Freidman says:

    And you add the tremendous ratings Olbermann is getting as a result of calling the bullshit.

    Dan, every MSM newsroom editor should read this. And they can start by calling Israel’s actions in Palestine what they are: murderous, wrong, and the basis for the foment in the ME affecting everyone globally. And they can cut out this self-hating Jew bullshit while they’re at it.

  45. Fran Freidman says:

    And I meant to add … I’m an American first. That’s my nationality. That’s my first allegiance. This pissant little country, Israel, now run by Eastern European peasants who couldn’t get to first base in their former burgs are destroying everything that was promised in 1948.

  46. Mooser says:

    Recently we have learned that the “journalist” who authoured the comment above had meetings with the Bush administration on the presentation of the Iraq war, and did not inform his viewers of that fact.
    That’s not bullshit-that’s deadly poison.

  47. Mooser says:

    Whoops- I meant Russert, of course! Anyway “bullshit” doesn’t really cover the extent of the collusion between the media and the Bush administration.

  48. easyrider says:

    Bravo, Dan.
    Yours is the only column I bother to read anymore. Until a few days ago I still read E. Robinson, but alas, his last column was in two words, “Old Bullshit”.

  49. IncandenzaH says:

    Sean Brodrick says:

    November 30th, 2006 at 6:02 pm |
    So are you going to call bullshit on George Will? His smear job on Jim Web is total bullshit and distorts the Post’s own reporting!

    Sean — read “Will vs. Webb” in Froomkin’s column today… he does a nice job of doing just that, but in the most politically deft way you can imagine… steering people to the dozens of pages of criticism in COMMENTS on Will’s OpEd, indeed! Good on ya! Plus he links out to Josh Marshall, too. Splendid!

  50. character first says:

    Dan, you truly speak the truth. Our country has become so me obsessed we are imploding from within. You should look at journalists and see who was man enough to serve their country when it was their turn. People forget that a PATRIOT loves, supports, and DEFENDS their country. Ranting and waving flags does not cut it.

    I am a veteran of the Vietnam era and see so many who talk the talk, but won’t walk the walk. The truth is sending others to fight wars for you is the sign of a coward. Only a puss would accuse someone who flies airplanes into buildings as being a coward. I would call that individual stupid, but never a coward. And that is no BULLSHIT.

  51. stephen clark says:

    The Republicans instituted the era of implausable deniability, the ability to lie without being questioned, and they were indeed enabled by the whipped dog press. But they did not create the culture of corruptin that the democrats are so wont to attack, they took it over and raised it to new heights. I can still remember the smarmy sweetness of Jim Wright and other than the impolite Mr. Webb, I don’t see much new in the Dems. Both parties are owned by corporate interests, it will be interesting to see if either can break free, or even if they want to.

  52. Commander Ogg says:

    Yes, Mr. Froomkin is 100% correct. But I would add a 4th Caveat as to why Reporters are afraid to call Bullshit when they see it: The right wing noise machine.

    In 2004, the swiftboat liars for Bush were ganging up on John K. The MSN was too scared to call Bullshit when the swiftys smeared Kerry’s Service Record.

    CBS news saw this and attempted to report that the Flightsuit in Chief ducked out of his Military service. We all know what happened after the mighty wurlitzer attacked CBS and Dan Rather.

    This process continues today, with those whores Malkin and Reynolds, the AP, and the burned bodys in Iraq.

  53. chuck says:

    You stopped too early. Giving examples would have really enhanced an already very intelligent commentary.

  54. Not ogg says:

    Ogg, progressives are working on neutralizing the right wing noise machine. We need to start by reinstating the Fairness Doctrine and codifying it into law — even in its original form, it would help tons, because broadcast radio and TV are still a primary source of news for millions in this country. Better if it were extended to satellite and cable, which are highly controlled one-way, closed broadcast mediums. (It should not extend to the internet, where the barrier to entry is the ability to type.)

    It would help, though, meanwhile, if journalists and editors would start to think about the difference between criticism of journalists from the left and criticism from the right. This comic:
    really says it all. Might want to think about that next time you get attacked by the wingnuts.

  55. Not ogg says:

    Sorry, let’s try that link again:

  56. JJohnson says:

    I just wanna say “Bang on” – there’s a reason I’ve been getting my news from the internet and things like the Colbert Report; because they actually give me information I want to know!

  57. Sandman says:

    One excuse I am sick to death of hearing is that news organizations behave like craven lapdogs for the GOP and the far right because “it’s all about the ratings, man.” What a lazy cop-out. What poltroonish, “Good German” goose-stepping masquerading as informed comment. What crap.

    Can anybody, just for two seconds, take the concept one vital step farther and ask why the newsies consider being stenographers for their patrons rather than actual reporters to be in their best interest? Why is it that the “ratings” argument supports that kind of whorish misbehavior? It’s really not such an incredible expenditure of brain sweat to ask “why?”

    I swear– it’s like “the machines will just steal your vote anyway” all over again.

  58. KayInMaine says:

    Can you imagine the size of the pile of crap one would see if all the bullshit of the last six years was exposed and actually written about? Wow! That would be some huge crap pile! Holy crap!

  59. Avedon says:

    I have no hope. I was listening to Matt Bai being interviewed earlier and, although I already knew he was full of it, I just wanted to bang my head against the wall. I get the same from most of them. How can they recognize bullshit when it’s become the substance of their own thinking?

  60. The Daily Background says:

    [...] Digg it! No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTMLallowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  61. Vast Left says:

    This is, to my mind, the most prevalent kind of bullshit out there:

  62. Peter J Allard says:

    The long and the short of it is corporate ownership. Just as local papers are loathe to piss off advertisers when evidence of local skullduggery is uncovered, editors of corporate-owned papers are reluctant to expose the corruption they know their corporate masters so enthusiastically engage in and cheerlead. Your own paper is an example. When stockholders matter more than readers, the traditional nature of news in this country is doomed. But take heart, news junkies – the ‘Net and the blogs have taken up the slack. MSM is writing itself out of the information age as long as it refuses to call bullshit. Look to the “net and the blogs to fill that regrettable gap.

  63. enthusiastically call bullshit « floosh says:

    [...] enthusiastically call bullshit Published November 30th, 2006 News and politics Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. source [...]

  64. Sassquatch says:

    Froomkin wrote “It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography. I’m convinced that my enthusiasm for calling bullshit is the main reason for the considerable success of my White House Briefing column, which has turned into a significant traffic-driver for The Washington Post’s Web site.”

    Exactly. It’s why I keep reading you, and it’s sad that you are a rare source of honesty. I’m glad to see the Post recognizes your value. So why don’t they put you on paper?
    Thanks for the truth, Sasquatch

  65. » Why is the mainstream media becoming increasingly irrelevant? says:

    [...] they’ve forgotten how to call bullshit [...]

  66. watou says:

    The return of Democrats to political power and relevancy gives us the opportunity to call bullshit in a more bipartisan manner, which is certainly healthy

    Strongly disagree! A reporter should call bullshit in a way that is completely blind to partisanship. By “healthy,” I think you meant “less dangerous to one’s career in today’s corporatized media.” A true journalist shouldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about partisanship. Otherwise, thank you again, Dan, for such an excellent analysis.

  67. Publicus says:

    When “journalists” simply report what the administration says, without fact checking, they are merely stenographers. That’s why more accurate news is available from Comedy Central.

  68. badgervan says:


  69. jack moss says:

    Considering your rag printing leaks got a agent friend of mine killed, you have no reason to brag. You and the rest of your cohorts are slime of the first order.

    And that’s no bullshit.

  70. Pester says:

    This whole Hadley-memo leak points up the press’s a very willing accomplice to this admin’s manipulation. Snow and Bartlett didn’t even try to cover up that they were going to discuss the memo. There’s a transcript that says that they’re going to go to Snow’s “old friend” the Senior Administration Official.

    Haha. The press then goes out and dutifully reports that a senior admin official amplified the memo’s message. They all knew that this was not only an official leak, but reinforced in order to cover Bush’s butt while he was in Jordan. What a surprise– Maliki takes offense. So here was the idiotic spectacle of the press reporting on Maliki’s “snub” and mentioning this leak without ever saying the very relevant info that it was deliberately leaked by the administration. And of course that means they can’t speculate about why. It’s embrrassing how Rove et al maniupulates the press– and how unwilling the press is to call this bullshit. Howard Kurtz even pretends that it’s absurd to say that the admin might be bullying the press. And he’s supposed to be a media analyst! There are great-grandmothers in nursing homes who have figured out what the Post’s supposed media analyst is too naive (or dishonest) to share with his readers.

  71. Edward Kelly says:

    What disappoints me (and ceases to amaze) is how telling Lies (Bullshit) has become so accepted in today’s society.

    I honestly believe that Politicians should be FORCED to be held accountable for their Bullshit and the same goes for Newspapers and TV.

    Having said that, I now refuse to buy any Newspapers and do not watch the rubbish that TV producers like to term (loosely I might add!) “News”. I prefer to get the news off the internet, where I can check there accuracy.

    Why do people accept Liars? Why do they let Politicians tell them Lies constantly and so blatantly?
    The Mid-Term elections were a strong message to the Republicans that what they are doing, is just going TOO FAR!!

    Also, I honestly believe that George W Bush, Cheney and Donald Rumsfield are so habitual in their Lying that they probably couldn’t tell the truth if they had to.

    Honestly, Integrity and Telling the Truth are admirable Virtues, unfortunately none of the 3 Men above and many in the Press corps are seriously lacking in those areas.

  72. monchie b monchum says:

    I first noticed the so-called liberal media’s bullshit-spewing early in the Reagan era, and it’s gradually gotten worse with each passing year. Back then, it was similar to the form we see now: The administration’s dishonest bullshit was passed along by the media either as if it were fact or as if it were just one side of a he said/he said argument.

    During the Clinton years, the form was a bit different: The media regurgitated the dishonest anti-administration talking points of right-wing operatives as if they were fact. Thus was created phony “scandals” such as Haircutgate, Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, Campaign Financegate, etc., etc. Finally, the right wing operatives dug up a real scandal–Monicagate–but one which was none of our damn business. So, the Mighty Wurlitzer of the media went to work to make sure it was our business.

    Now that a Democratic congress will soon be sworn in, we have to be aware of this second form of bullshit as well. Over the past year, we’ve already seen attempted bullshit attacks on Harry Reid from AP’s John Solomon, as well as some early BS attacks on Nancy Pelosi over the Murtha/Hoyer majority leader race and the intelligence committee chair issue.

  73. JT says:

    Amen. Just “amen”.

    If reporters, and more importantly, their editors, listen to this clear-headed analysis, well, then, the next few years of journalism will yield some real treasures.

    If, as I expect, they hide behind false equivalencies and the false idol of the wisdom of the pack, well, then, the bloggers will eat your lunch and there will be a major shift in media power.

    The comedians will just pee on the pack wisdom, because that’s their job. Unfortunately, I fear their jobs are going to be very, very easy.

  74. James Garland says:

    Don’t be looking for the MSM to start calling Bullshit. When television and print media conglomerated into what is known as the “Big Ten”, the obituary for investigative journalism from those sources was written. They’ll never, ever go back to the way it was. They are spearheading their efforts toward curbing free speech and censoring the internet instead. Our only hope is that the people will revolt against the tyranny when it finally comes out in full view.

  75. bigislandbarb says:

    Isn’t it about time for a press corps boycott of these bullshit spewing sessions staged by these imposters? Last night’s conference with Bush/Maliki was a prime example…at one point it seemed like Bush noticed someone sitting either in or with the corps (Hadley perhaps?) and a little Osama light went on in his head reminding him he needed to say Al Qaeda at least 7 times during the conference so he strung off about 6 sentences and accomplished that task in about 45 seconds. Bush was superhyper–too much caffiene or too much cocaine–and while I’m on a tangent, aren’t government employees drug tested? Kudos to last night’s foreign press who inserted some REAL questions. I long for the day when we have a president who understands the need to answer questions instead of bullshitting like a frat boy giving an oral essay response to a question he accidentally didn’t know beforehand. The press needs to grow a pair and demand real answers. Thanks for the article! Forget impeachment, let’s imprison the imposters!!

  76. MarkC says:

    I was just thinking this about the same issue — I saw several stories that took Bush’s “gracious exit” line seriously, as in “Bush rejects calls for ‘gracious exit’”. How coked up do you have to play along with something that cynical? And what does it mean about what you think of your readers?

  77. NoozMann says:

    Two points:

    1. Daily Show and Colbert are satires not of politics, but of journalism. It’s instructive to remember that and to ask why such a thing is necessary.

    2. Those who seek an “unbiased” media have gotten their wish and it is truly horrible to behold. Biases inform reporting; they suggest that the author has learned enough about a subject to have an informed opinion on it. We need a press corps that is biased — in many different ways — but which can present a balanced view of issues and, yes, know enough to call bullshit.

  78. Ba'al says:

    It is even worse than you let on. It is not just censorship, there is all too frequently deliberate misinformation printed as fact. Look no further than George Will’s op-ed in today’s Post. Admittedly, an op-ed is not a news article and a pundit is something somehow different from a journalist. Still, George Will misleads by leaving out a key sentence that George Bush said to Jim Webb that changes the tenor of their exchage entirely. There are so very many examples of this kind of thing, I could go on ad nauseum, I just mentioned this one because it happened today. And the funny thing, surprise surprise, is that they always seem to spin the same direction, the direction favored by the corporate interests.

    More people need to get fired for that kind of thing. Somebody besides Dan Rather.

  79. Robert Green says:

    jack moss

    no offense, dude, but i call “bullshit”. you are lying for reasons of propaganda. i’m so sick of this kind of gratuitous attempt to shut down debate. you want to know a factual event which occurred where a leak caused real damage to real people, not the strawmen in your peanut field of bullshit? valerie plame, my non-friend, valerie plame, the leaking of whose identity did material and possible devastating damage to our national security. but of course, that’s not what you mean.

  80. Brain Blob says:

    What I don’t get—and am frankly tired of my own ranting about it—is why journalists with their MSM stripes and their White House press passes don’t understand that calling the bullshit is the FUN part of journalism. Beats access reporting all to hell, I would guess, and is sure to be more entertaining than the semi-posh parties. Just imagine the hilarity of calling the bullshit. But they don’t.

  81. Alma says:

    Dan, thank you once again for fighting the good fight.

  82. Randy Campbell says:

    As someone who as not simply mouthed, but lived the premise of your column, I say “What took you so long?”

    Our small town, alternative weekly newspaper has been speaking truth to power since 1980. We’ve seen three ownership changes in our local daily paper, from the MacLean family, to the NYT Company, to the now notorious Wendy McCaw. And every year our company has grown in influence and revenue to where we now have higher citywide circulation than the daily, and dominate the retail ad scene in everything but classifieds.

    By reporting with a point of view and our tongues untied, we’ve become the mainstream paper in our area.

    It’s not because we are so pretty, or so smart (although I believe we’ve got a bit of both); it’s simply that we have never wavered from our desire to tell the truth as best we know, give great value at a fair price, and have fun.

    –Randy Campbell
    The Santa Barbara Independent

  83. Jeff says:

    Froomkin, I love your column in WaPo because you call ‘em like you see ‘em and your analysis of the media’s coverage of current events is concise, cogent and spot on.

    If your column is driving a lot of hits for the website, why not devise a strategy to add comments to your column, perhaps a comment thread for each section and watch the traffic multiply.

    How many hits has Woodwards’ latest book generated?

    Have you read Elizabeth de la Vega prosecution of Bush et al. for consiparicy to defraud the citizens the United States with pre-war misinformation, exageration, and false pretenses? She makes a good case.

    All the best Dan!

  84. Kathy says:

    Someone – Robert Parry? – noted that good investigative reporting on Iran-Contra and right wing death squad activity in Central American was a career killer during the Reagan years. Those who went along to get along are now the editors who control the newsrooms.

  85. Jesse says:

    Absolutely. As the bullshit has increased, the will of the press to challenge it has declined. Objectivity has been replaced by balance. But balance, even well-intentioned balance, only ensures that liars are given equal time to tell their lies. Freedom of speech has to be met by serious questions. If the press can’t show us who’s right and who’s wrong, and every debate remains unresolved, then won’t many just decide it’s not worth paying attention? Some debates are complicated, granted. But many more debates have only appeared inconclusive because of the press’ refusal to referee the debate responsibly. So, for example, when it was said over and over that Valerie Plame’s identity at the CIA wasn’t a secret — this was either ignorance or lying. The reason we know that is because Plame was an employee of an energy consulting firm called Brewster, Jennings & Associates based at a fake address in Boston, MA. The lack of emphasis on this very basic fact set the stage for a totally unnecessary months-long debate. This is a particularly egregious example, but there are plenty more. In the end, the press needs to decide what’s true and false based on the evidence. Those who continue to challenge the evidence shouldn’t enjoy a presumption of credibility, no matter who they are. So, for example, when Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press on March 16, 2003 and argued that IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei was wrong to conclude that the documents re: uranium sales between Niger and Iraq were forgeries, Tim Russert should have asked Cheney to explain himself. Instead, Cheney simply ratcheted up his rhetoric: “We believe Saddam has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” When the White House quietly backed off these claims soon thereafter, there was little reaction from the MSM. In the end, honesty is about honor (the two words are ultimately connected). Those who abuse their freedom of speech and lie repeatedly need to be called out. They are without honor.

  86. Prabhata says:

    AP and Reuters set the standards, but their reporting is poor. Unless those two organizations start calling bullshit, there is not hope.

  87. Sherry says:

    As a former journalist, I find myself scanning only headlines in the MSM but reading Froomkin avidly just because it’s such a relief to see someone pointing out the obvious–which is how much bullshit we’re supposed to swallow not just from the usual suspects but from journalists. This column is exactly right about the appeal of Stewart and Colbert–and Froomkin and Olbermann. Every time I wonder if I’m insane, they remind me that SOMEONE is paying attention and isn’t afraid to point out where the real insanity lies. All of them belong right up there with George Orwell and his essay, “Politics and the English Language.” Keep it up! We might have a fighting chance now.

  88. Bring it On! » Blog Archive » The Bullshit Police says:

    [...] Isn’t the Media supposed to be the bullshit police? Well, Dan Froomkin thinks they outta be and he’s sayin’ it out loud. As the media in the US is consolidated under fewer and fewer corporate owners, the tendency to “rock the boat” has decreased. In the old days of journalism, grabbing a headline that called bullshit for what it was, was often admired but now it seems US journalists would rather have access to useless informants and power-hungry madman than to actually print the truth of a situtation. Our Democracy depends on media watchdogs to expose the bullshit, how else or we gonna find out about it? Is it corporate consolidation or something else that drives jounalists to be complacent sheep? How long before these pusillanimous folks grow some nuts and take the morons that are running this country to task? It had better be soon… Click these buttons to share this story:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  89. MoMo says:

    The fact that the MSM does not point out any of the bullshit is why I turned to the blogs. I got rid of cable and have not watched a televised news report in over a year. I just couldn’t stand the fact that no one in the corporate media world was willing to say that the emperor had no clothes. And they are all still trying to figure out why the blogosphere is so popular and powerful. What a bunch of idiots who undersestimate the American public.

  90. Lexie says:

    Perfect. I attribute Keith Olbermann’s sharply increased audience numbers to his regularly calling bullshit.

  91. Plunderbund » Calling bullshit says:

    [...] Dan Froomkin on what makes The Daily Show and Colbert Report so popular – and what the media needs to get back to doing: calling bullshit. Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy. [...]

  92. Paul says:

    Nice, Dan but where were you for the last six years. Calling bullshit now seems contrived and cowardly, you have had limitless opportunities to make your case and did not. It took comedians to make a point that almost all but a select few so-called journalists refused to do.

  93. TNT! total naked truth » Blog Archive » On Calling Bullshit says:

    [...] Full story [...]

  94. ymr049c says:

    I think that since the 2000 presidential campaign, the pros have been downright too embarrassed to be frank about our “leaders.” That a major political party would in all seriousness put forward such a ridiculous candidate was just… embarrassing. They were too polite to say anything.

  95. Anais says:

    Thank you, Mr. Froomkin. Would that we could return to the days when journalists afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted by reporting the truth, instead of getting into bed with the Bush administration and waking up to cheer for them.

  96. cary says:

    I don’t know where Paul’s been for the last 6 years but he obviously hasn’t been reading you. Dan, you be the man. News flash for Tim Russert and your damn beach house: how about you start asking some real questions instead of kissing everyone’s ass? No, your not in danger of losing your precious beach house and $$ but you have lost our respect, but I get the feeling that you can live with that… more’s the pity.

  97. mpabner says:

    MoMo says:

    December 1st, 2006 at 8:45 am |
    What a bunch of idiots who undersestimate the American public.

    Don’t you mean misunderestimate?

    Great post Mr. Froomkin.

  98. Thingumbob, esq. says:

    Really, what this great object lesson vis-vis professional journalism serves to demonstrate is the fallacy of the mathematics of statistics. This is irrefutably so because if one gives typewriters to the journalists, a.k.a. monkeys, it is the case that even in an infinity of time they would not produce Shakespeare, but I’m afraid only bullshit. QED.

  99. Illegal Immigrants Worked Romney’s Lawn :: SOTUblog says:

    [...] Updated 12/1/06, 6:56am: Completely unrelated but a must-read from Dan Froomkin. [...]

  100. Waldo Jaquith » Blog » The media must recalibrate their BS detector. says:

    [...] Dan Froomkin on the importance of calling bullshit. (Via Daring Fireball) [...]

  101. sooner says:

    There’s gold in them thar’ bullshit calling!
    That’s why i’ve never understood Media timidity in the face of Bushco

  102. donviti says:

    I think you drive so much web traffic b/c of your awesome picture Dan….you stud

  103. jeff weyand says:

    One need but contrast the innocuous pap shoveled out at NPR with the Democracy Now! daily news broadcast to get a powerful glimpse of how pathetic what passes for journalism has become. When allegedly well educated, white America can assume they’re well informed by NPR then that in itself becomes a huge stinking pile of BS. Like Froomkin’s, WHB, Democracy Now! is a Monday-Friday gig. Which means severe raisining for this cowboy on the weekends when no one is on watch.
    Blessed with no TV, and continuing a long standing boycott of newspapers, I rely on the following partial list of those doing their jobs: Amy Goodman, Froomkin, Stewart, Maher, Olbermann, Pilger, Fisk, Zinn, Chomsky, Phil Rockstroh, Paul Craig Roberts, and, the blogosphere. It’s out there folks, as Chomsky is wont to say, “it’s all documented and easily found”. And just try and find the Latino, Black, Indian voices on the MSM. Aren’t we a bit one sided with allegedly well educated, white talking heads dominating the media? It will take Americans demanding real journalism, rediscovering “participatory democracy” (see Oaxaca), and engaging civic responsiblity to right this sinking, leaking supertanker. And, importantly, there’s an independent journalist still in jail in SF for refusing to divulge sources, three months and counting. And there’s a people’s revolution going on in Mexico right now. It would do well for Americans to pay attention. That is, of course, after the consciousness suspension and national consumer frenzy of “The Glorious Faux Christian Spectacle of Corporate Christmas”

  104. bleat my little Aussie goat bleat says:

    Can a law be enacted stating, “all and any Austrailian billionaires buying American citizenship in order to acquire ownership of 800 radio stations shall be whipped to within an inch of their lives in a public square as a condition of their citizenship,” retroactive to 1980?

  105. johnqmedia says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The business of journalism has become too much about the business and not enough about the journalism. If mainstream news sources are ever going to compete with independent journalism (blogs, etc.) they’re going to have to find a way to use their remaining exposure and influence for the sake of the public and not for the sake of their own interests.

  106. feckless says:

    Im naming my first child “Froomkin”.

  107. Jim Leinfelder says:

    Mr. Froomkiin:

    I agree with your assertion that readers appreciate candor from journalists. But the class to which they now aspire to be members is the class dominated by the veneer-thin politelness ethic of those they cover.

    Your man, Woodward, writes ill of the Bush administration, for example, only after the polls confirm for him that it will not risk his chair at the best dinner tables in Georgetown. Judith Miller at the Times gladly traded access for “calling bullshit” because it inflated her sense of her own importance and the social access it afforded her. Ever since journalists started going on television and writing best-selling books, they have become more and more averse to “calling bullshit.”

    Colbert called bullshit at your bullshit correspondents’ dinner and they tut-tutted like a pack of Gerogetown biddies. My apologies, but I believe they like being members of the D.C. elite more than they like calling bullshit.

  108. Retired Catholic says:

    The problem, as I have often stated to Post Ombudsperson Deborah Howell, is the fact that journalism is plagued by too much laziness, ignorance, incompetence and spinelessness, all of which leads far too many to substitute he said she said stenography for objectivity. The rising success of Keith Olbermann shows what can happen to someone who is not afraid to use their brains on the air. As far as I am concerned, Olbermann is about the only genuine news show worth watching on a regular basis. Even the News Hour on PBS has become a bastion of boredom and pablum, and apparently that’s the way they like it. Stewart and Colbert create a healthy and satirical view of the news that lends perspective to events by looking up the sleeves of the wheelers and dealers. I read the Post on line and the Broders, Cohens and Ignatius’s have all outlived their usefulness, if they ever had any in the first place beyond reinforcing the common wisdom of the herd, the one penned up in the beltway.

  109. Lisa Casey says:

    The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage. – Carl Bernstein

    Bullshit or garbage being fed to us via wolves in journalists clothing. Tucker Carlson, Joe Scarborough types do make for good comedy though.

  110. Zzonkmiles says:

    Hi Mr. Froomkin. I’m one of those guys who now visits regularly all because of your White House Briefing column. Your BS-calling is one of the primary reasons why I enjoy reading it. If only the news execs at the other media outlets had the same idea…

    Keep up the good work.

  111. Doug says:

    Probably should include this:

  112. Zhanate says:

    I agree that “laziness, ignorance, incompetence and spinelessness,” as mentioned above, are factors. So are corporate mandates of various sorts. Then there are the misguided efforts to seem fair to everyone. Add in those who chose their field because they wanted to be insiders or have some kind of fame.

    And of course: “I don’t want to deal with the phone calls.”

    It’s sad.

    But I think “calling bullshit” will be done more regularly only when it becomes the latest popular fad. Mainstream media try to appeal to the masses, and I don’t think the masses want the stories they’d get if the mainstream media provided really good journalism.

    Philosophically that is a cop out.

    But providing the news requires making money (most journalists need to get paid), and making money means giving the customers what they want. Right now what they want is their truth, not the facts and certainly not what the journalist thinks is the truth, regardless of how much intelligence, energy, courage and integrity the journalist has.

    So, yeah, the mainstream media may well be or become irrelevant for those who want to know the truth, the real facts. But will the mainstream media become irrelevant to the mainstream population? I don’t think so, simply because they will adjust to what the people want: Material that makes them feel good, packaged as news.

  113. paul lukasiak says:

    Cable news (which drives most coverage and now controls the news cycle) is itself a “bullshit” factory. Most of the time, there isn’t nearly enough actual “news” to fill 24 hours of programming they require — so they fill it with bloviating “analysts” whose job is to create bullshit.

    Add to that the fact that most of the “journalists” you now see on cable spend more time in hair and make-up than they do finding out about the stories that they are reporting on, and you have tons of bullshit being thrown about and people who are too ignorant to call “bullshit” even if they wanted to.

  114. dennis says:

    Just a comment on the bullshit article , I totally agree with the general drift of the article, but would build on the thesis, basically it goes like this : rather than seeing it all as bullshit, I choose to view it in the following manner; the lite weight [say nothing to power] as chicken shit, and the out right practice of war mongering,facist propaganda as elephant shit, and viewing it this way simply puts greater emphasis on the depth of pollution in the atmosphere.

  115. Katie Walberg » Blog Archive » Saturday Morning News says:

    [...] Bullshit is the word of the day. Hat tip to stick for posting this article from Watchdog blog. Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. [...]

  116. links for 2006-12-01 « Dark Corner of the Empty Head says:

    [...] Watchdog Blog » Blog Archive » On Calling Bullshit Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and (tags: internet journalism media news newspaper politics publishing) [...]

  117. Make Them Accountable / Here’s why they’re getting away with … says:

    [...] Dan Froomkin: On Calling Bullshit [...]

  118. Adrian Atterbury says:

    In the UK one of our more famously pugilistic journalists on describing his interview style is credited with always asking himself “why is this lying bastard lying to me?” When an influential group of politicians ganged up to try to get him fired from the BBC or to moderate his style he was able to tell them to “grow up”, with the support of his employers.

    A famous piece of film is of another journalist asking a flannelling home secretary a question he obviously didn’t want to answer fourteen times, over an over, until the interview became excutiating to watch, never mind partake in.

    This confrontational style of journalism has its critics, not least among the political classes, but the benefit of having big questions put to those who would rather they weren’t asked by well informed, politically disinterested journalists, in a manner that suggests the nation deserves an answer, is well worth any drawback. All government eventually tends to aristocracy, but we don’t have to like it.

  119. Ella Does Squamish :: Dan Froomkin: On Calling Bullshit :: December :: 2006 says:

    [...] Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography. I’m convinced that my enthusiasm for calling bullshit is the main reason for the considerable success of my White House Briefing column, which has turned into a significant traffic-driver for The Washington Post’s Web site. Moreposted by TOTAL KAOS INC. Comments » [...]

  120. a crank’s progress :: links for 2006-12-04 says:

    [...] Watchdog Blog » Blog Archive » On Calling Bullshit (tags: news journamalism media) [...]

  121. carapace » Blog Archive » Monday December 4, 2006 - “THE TROUBLE WITH THE IRAQ WAR IS THAT IT WAS ALL PROPAGANDA, ALL THE TIME, ALL ALONG.” –Marie Cocco, “Lessons From an Immoral War” says:

    [...] [...]

  122. Binnie Willliams says:

    Those who forget the past . . . and here we are repeating it. Ten years ago there were more than forty major media conglomerates; the last time I checked there were four. How can you expect any journalist who has to work for a living to be straightforward about what they see? If they’re not part of a protected class who have found a little niche with a publication that protects them, they have to produce what they’re being paid for or move on. Playwright David Hare says there’s a new generation of young academics who insist on getting out there and reporting, and if he’s right, maybe there’s some hope for some mainstream media. Years ago when I joined the Birch Society (they were then a secret organization that didn’t talk to the press) to write about them, I learned that there are people who can set a goal that’s many years away, and without encouragement or immediate rewards, continue working toward that goal until it’s been accomplished. You don’t have to be a conspiricist to see some connectedness between the buying up of media conglomerates and the narrowing viewpoint over the last few years. When teenagers get into great trouble it is usually because they can’t see the ‘connectedness’ between their action and the consequences. The same is true for those of any age – if you fail to see, and act on, the consequences of the continuing actions of others. Thank goodness for the few independent publications that remain, and of course the internet. They haven’t succeeded in gobbling that up yet.

  123. Deborah barabino says:

    I’m late to the party but I’m awfully glad a party is happening! Good for you Mr. Fromkin! I make a point of reading your column every time it’s printed because you like Frank Rich use the correct word for the obvious action…an untruth is a big old fat lie! Keep on writing the truth.

  124. Dave says:


    I love your Whitehouse briefing column, and it is the main reason why I read the Post website. The MSM has done a piss poor job in holding this Administration accountable. Listing off the lies, deceptions and outright anti-american policies they spew would take volumes (Of which there are MANY of them on the shelves of bookstores). So why is it that when reporters report, they give these liars credibility?

    Anyway last thing: Dan, the post is screwing you… you used to have top billing on the politics page, now I gotta dig for your column. “The Fix” seems to be there all the time… and we’re 2 years away from the next election. The post needs to give it a rest for a year! And how about the Posts lame attempt at countering you? “Red State”? Who the $%^& is running that place?

    Keep on giving them hell!

  125. Dave says:

    Here are the people I most trust in the media:

    Dan Froomkin
    Keith Olbermann
    Joe Conason
    Paul Krugman
    Sam Seder
    Jon Stewart

    You guys ever consider teaming up?

  126. Paul Boudreau says:


    I’m a regular reader (that should read daily) for your White House Briefing Column, which i enjoy a great deal for its insight, broad coverage and the unbiased “Bullshit Calling” that you just talked about in this column. I have to say that, as usual, you’ve cut to the quick of the matter without beating around the Bush. The self-censorship of mainstream outlets is a constant threat to democracy in our society today, as is the consolidation of mainstream media in the hands of a small number of corporations and individuals. These players have vested interests in everything from political agendas to cross-promotional marketing that distorts the news and information they are relied upon for by so many.

    That being said, I agree whole-heartedly with your assertion that well traveled, skilled beat reporters are far more qualified and properly positioned for to call the bull in the halls of power. Columns such as your White House Briefing provide good examples of how the media can act to inform, entertain and even ([insert appropriate deity here] forbid) provide a little analysis for the discerning reader.

    Once again, thank you for the insight and keep up the work. There’s plenty more cow manure out there to be spotted, and we rely on you and your breed to do it.


  127. What real journalism is all about « Blog on the Run: Reloaded says:

    [...] Yeah, the language might be a tad offensive, but in the greater scheme of things, that’s hardly our biggest problem. [...]

  128. Watchdog Blog » Blog Archive » Reporters, Where’s The Outrage? says:

    [...] Among the reasons for this timidity and the failure to call bullshit, of which Dan Froomkin wrote, is the seeming inability of too many reporters to allow themselves a measure of outrage, a value judgment of what’s right or wrong, just or unjust. Instead they listened to Snow’s bullshit, without calling him on it and asking him and the president repeatedly and every day about the dead Americans, Iraqis, Afghans. Why are reporters so reluctant to show outrage? It is not breaking the stupid and outmoded rules of objectivity to tell the difference between right and wrong and pursue the wrong it as a story. At my bureaus–Knight-Ridder and Newsday–we began the day by wondering who is covering injustice with bullshit. Starting with a point of view on an obvious injustice and writing about fairly and accurately is what reporters ought to be doing with every wasted death in a wasted war. Yet unfortunately, too often reporters paint those who do get rightfully angry as nutty or extreme. As Walter Pincus pointed out in a fine Washington Post piece, the Democrats who turned out to be right when they spoke with passion and voted against granting the president were barely mentioned or described as “fiery.” [...]

  129. Political Kicks » Blog Archive » Calling the Bullshit says:

    [...] Journalists fear not. All is not lost because the f*&king hippies have blown up on the Internet. Just do your jobs and you shall be saved. So sayeth Mr. Froomkin Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do…read on [...]

  130. mbgms says:

    Thanks for the excellent commentary. If you caught Tues. nite’s Daily Show, you can see why Jon Stewart is doing us a favor. Why comedians? They are accustomed to look for truth in headlines. Even Bob Hope used to comment on ‘news.’ It just wasn’t so outrageous.(And he had Walter Cronkite to do the heavy lifting). Stewart and colbert don’t.

  131. Don Lantz says:


  132. Dan Rapoport says:

    Talk about GroupThink. More than 130 replies and only one who differs with Dan. Come on, do we really want reporters — and I’m taking about the people who cover stories, not comment on them — deciding what is and isn’t bullshit? Fran Friedman apparently would insist that every mention of Israel be preceeded by the adjective, “murderous.” How many of us think that’s the way the AP should cover the middle east. The best and only way for a reporter to label something bullshit is to dig up and then publish the facts that make the case.

  133. melior says:

    LOL! After 130 replies, someone out there surfaces to defend his right to be bullshat. Thanks for the giggle, Mr. Rapoport.

    But why look for it here, in Mr. Froomkin’s tiny little bullshit-free corner? (Psst, you’re soaking in it.)

  134. Daulnay says:

    It may well be too late for the journalists. I have given up on the NYT, NPR, CNN, and those valiant echo chambers the Washington pundits. Even the Economist now gets a sceptical eye, though it’s better than the U.S. offerings.

    There are several well-written, logically reasoned blogs that accurately provide facts as they call ‘bullshit’ that are far, far superior to the commercial media. The traditional media gives a pass to straw men, ad hominem attacks, and so much other fallacious rhetorical smoke that perusing it has become much more of a hindrance than a help.

    Why should we waste our time on such a debased forum? It is mortally decayed, perhaps. Until the blogosphere came along to expose the decay to sunlight, we had little alternative. Now we do, and traditional media has a very short time to heal itself before nearly all of us abandon it. Even my computer-phobic mother of 70+ years is giving up on it. A few Olbermanns and Froomkins will not rescue it, they are mere band-aids compared to the major surgery that is needed to stop the hemmohage.

    One thing far more than any other made the scales drop from my eyes; the ‘reporting’ on the Military Commissions Act. An earthshaking piece of legislation, with serious implications, that the media greeted with the usual shallow Beltway ‘partisan horse-race’ take on things. That showed how useless and dangerous it is to read, watch, or listen to the old media.

    And so I don’t much. I am only here because this piece was linked to by one of the blogs I now read. I will not be back, unless one of them again links in; sponsorship by traditional media now shows something to avoid, rather than to trust. (See George Will’s ironically petulant column today (9/21/06) whining about how shallow and narcissistic the blogosphere is, and how we really should turn to ‘expert’ media offerings to find worthwhile things. Hah! As if we would find much useful or thoughtful there. Yes, I still read a daily, but find it futile).

  135. Stan says:

    Interesting discussion. Interesting people.
    Interesting articles.
    All thanks. Has gathered a lot of new to itself.

  136. 中文域名 says:

    very good,study

  137. Wes says:

    The Mainstream Media is truly incompotent, even MSNBC whom I held in high regard above the others. Today they aired a story about there being no social conservative choices for the 2008 election, however this is truly a lack of deep journalism. Representative Ron Paul of Texas who is taking the lead in campaigning on the internet is consistently left out of their articles, not only is this irritating, but frustrating and annoying. These swine don’t know how to truly do their research, they are a most incompotent bunch.

  138. Johnny says:

    There is a lot of stuff which can never be discussed, even by “iconoclasts”. Media is owned by the big corporations which have certain agendas (including the perpetuation of the profitable war machine). Media corporate culture demands adherence to corporate values. If you start discussing certain ideas which should not be discussed in polite company and which are considered to be “off the table” you, as a media person, will find yourself out of work.

  139. Richard Prince says:

    Is anyone going to call bullshit on Hillary and her sudden conversion to being a gun-totting, beer drinking, Bible thumping good-ole girl as she’d like the primary voters in Pennsylvania believe? Jon Stewart did it last night. Okay. But what about the reporters on the trial? She’s standing at the bar throwing back shots and talking about her favorite all-nighter would be her and a bottle of Crown Royale to chase down her Budwesier, hummm.. I’m calling BULLSH#T!

  140. Randy Linder says:

    I’m rather late to this party, having just become aware of this essay while reading Dan’s live discussion today. I heartily endorse all that Dan wrote, being of like mind and opinion on this issue. What struck me most strongly was the following.

    “Trying to find equivalency between the two [Republican BS and Democratic BS] would still be a mistake – and could lead to catty, inside-baseball gotcha journalism rather than genuine bullshit-calling.”

    I believe there is a clear case of just this sort of thing in today’s Washington Post’s article by Dana Milbank on Barack Obama and his campaign. In fact, I used the word catty–prior to reading Dan’s essay–to describe what his journalism has become.

    In the case of Milbank’s article, there is the additional problem that it is inaccurate, but that failing is of a piece with what the MSM often does when they pile on the BS. Create a thesis, whether justified or not, seek evidence for it and in some cases create it. I not only call bullshit, but have had enough of it and had lost nearly all respect for the MSM. With the exception of rarities like Dan, I have almost no trust in what I see printed in major outlets or on television. Everything I see and hear is cross checked. And based upon this process, I have lost respect for once venerable media, e.g., Washington Post, NPR. They better start calling bullshit with some vigor or they will sink into irrelevancy.

  141. Jon says:

    Hear, hear!

    Journalists who don’t call bullshit imply to the public that it’s not bullshit; that comes very close to accessory to bullshit.

  142. Lessons from Froomkin – Henkimaa says:

    [...] what journalists were put on this green earth to do: Seek the truth, hold the powerful accountable, expose the B.S., explain how things really work, introduce people to each other, and tell compelling stories. And [...]

  143. Somraku medijske avtonomije* Borisa Vezjaka ob sproščeni rob at says:

    [...] spletni kolumnist Washington Posta Dan Froomkin je pred skoraj tremi leti na medijskem blogu Nieman med drugim zapisal: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not [...]

  144. HuffPost hires ‘passionate’ newspaperman « Whitireia Journalism School says:

    [...] that journalists were put on the Earth to “seek the truth, hold the powerful accountable, expose the B.S., explain how things really work, introduce people to each other, and tell compelling [...]

  145. The Progressive Mind » OpEdNews - Article: 5 Reasons that Corporate Media Coverage is Pro-War says:

    [...] former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in [...]

  146. 5 Reasons that Corporate Media Coverage is Pro-War « Dark Politricks Retweeted says:

    [...] former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in [...]

  147. 5 Reasons that Corporate Media Coverage is Pro-War « Sense of Deception says:

    [...] former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, [...]

  148. AJ says:

    I see that this is written years ago, and frankly that only upsets me more that the media STILL isn’t calling bullshit on a regular basis. There’s a lot of BS news (news that really isn’t news) but not nearly enough calling people on out the BS they spew. Great article.

  149. 5 Reasons that Corporate Media Coverage is Pro-War | says:

    [...] there’s something wrong with our …. system.As former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but [...]

  150. New Media Fail: A Truther on HuffPo’s Homepage | FrumForum says:

    [...] involves Dan Froomkin, a writer who became a hero of the lefty blogosphere during the Bush years for his ferocious [...]

  151. David Frum: Huffington Post takes a tumble over truther | Full Comment | National Post says:

    [...] involves Dan Froomkin, a writer who became a hero of the lefty blogosphere during the Bush years for his ferocious [...]

  152. brad johnson says:

    i don’t watch either one…i don’t watch tv….i don’t own one, i’ve heard them, i don’t laugh

  153. Mainstream Media: Presstitutes for the Rich and Powerful | Japan Quake Report says:

    [...] former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, [...]

  154. Corporate Reporters Reveal Mainstream News Is Censored, Controlled, And Paid For By The Government says:

    [...] former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, [...]

  155. Mainstream Media: Presstitutes for the Rich and Powerful | says:

    [...] former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, [...]

  156. Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: Government Has ORDERED the Media Not to Cover 9/11 | Set You Free News says:

    [...] Washington Post – and now Huffington Post – columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006: Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, [...]

  157. When Candidates Lie, What’s A Political Reporter To Do? | My Blog says:

    [...] “We can certainly say: ‘This is a lie; here’s the evidence that it’s a lie,’ and we can keep asking questions about who’s responsible for the lie,” McBride said. In fact, she said, “I think that there’s a market for that.” [...]

  158. The Media’s Masquerade « The Life (and Strife) of Brian says:

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  159. Yes, The New York Times Should Definitely Be a Truth Vigilante | Con Games says:

    [...] well underway. We don't know if he plans to catch up, or start fresh," Rosen said. "Here's an example [of the discussion]: five years ago." With the enduring debate between the two newspapers [...]

  160. slacktivist » Broken news: The New York Times pulls a Brisbane says:

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  161. The New York Times: Should We Conduct Investigative Journalism? Should We Tell The Truth? | RevolutioNation says:

    [...] Denial was successfully maintained, even as criticism built and journalists inside the fraternity announced what was happening. Professional practice even shifted to take account of the [...]

  162. Nacho says:

    Access. Pure and simple. If journalists ask tough questions, they are denied access. Even more so during the Bush Admin. where there were more shutouts than at an Orioles game.

  163. spiritwoman says:

    Thanks for the bullshit!! Keep it up.

  164. Nonie says:

    “If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.”

    It may already be too late.

  165. H.Finn says:

    Excellent piece, nice to have what has been harped on for some time now by the Chomsky’s of the world distilled for the main stream media…now let’s see if any of the current league of journalists take the time to read it.

  166. Rik Elswit says:

    Excellent column. It’s ironic that it takes a couple of clowns to clearly illustrate what a joke our political process has become. You are one of the few actual journalists with the courage to say these things.

    Minor nitpick. When did it become necessary to add an extra syllable to words like “relevance”, “competence”, and “equivalence”?

  167. Robert says:

    Maybe it is time to break up the “too big to fail” corporations, who have proven they are not really loyal to the country they are trying to bring down. There are only six corporations controlling all of the media in this country. The last bastion of a Free and Independent Press is here on the internet, and we just helped down the first attempt of some corporations to take over the internet. “Those who control the information, control the POWER”. Just saying…..

  168. Dan Froomkin says:

    Hi everyone. I love that this post continues to get attention, but I feel obliged to point out that I wrote this over five years ago (in November 2006). Since then, the Washington Post terminated my contract, I’ve gone to work for the Huffington Post — and in the MSM, everything’s only gotten worse.

  169. Dan Froomkin: On Calling Bullshit says:

    [...] Read More: Nieman Watchdog  [...]

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