The emperors’ new underwear

When I said I wanted to see more transparency in newspapers, I didn’t mean that they should be sharing their family squabbles…. though I am glad they are, for it’s just so entertaining.

I’m already over the Froomkin kerfluffle but I’m amazed at the newsroom sniping that’s coming out in public. See Brad DeLong’s incredible phone interview with Washington Post political editor John Harris:

Q: So you knew [Ruffini] had been a Republican operative in 2004, and didn’t tell that to Jay Rosen?

A: [Ramble of which I caught only scattered phrases] But assuming you aren’t posting this at least immediately… A good relationship between the print Washington Post and WPNI… Happy to answer privately… Really don’t want to be quoted on the record… If you want to call me an idiot without my response, that’s fine…

A: No I want your response.

A; [stream continues] But I shouldn’t respond… I’ve promised people I won’t respond… We need to cool this down… It’s a really a very narrow issue: are there people confused about Froomkin’s role…

This is followed by the editor first going off the record and then refusing comment. Journalists should be the last people to do either.

: Now go to Ken Auletta’s New Yorker story about tsuris at the New York Times with some deft slipping of shivs between the shoulder blades of executive editors: Keller v. Raines v. Lelyveld. Most entertaining.

: Some are positioning l’affaire Froomkin as political: See Kos. Others are gamely trying to laugh it off as a turf war over a home page. See Aschenblog. Some see it as resistance to change: See Yelvington — “It’s time to change your people, or change your people.” I see it as that and as a war of journalistic worldviews about alleged objectivity vs. transparency.

But a wise editor I know said it better in an email: “The elbows are getting very very sharp right now.” And the reason is that the business is shrinking and the print guys and online guys — forced together in newsroom meetings and mergers — are like dogs growling and snapping over that last scrap of meat. When the going gets tough the tough get snarky.