Sunday, October 02, 2005

Judy and the Times revealed

Jay Rosen: Judith Miller and Her Times @HuffPo:

By choosing confrontation when she didn't have to, and by going to jail in circumstances that allowed for other, subtler options (good enough for her peers but not for her) Judy Miller has made a great newspaper's history for it. The case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, after all. Her confinement ended because she suddenly made a practical decision to quit standing on principle. And that too -- confusion between the epic and the expedient -- now attaches itself to the reputation of the Times.

Indeed, Miller's confounding case has so handcuffed the editorial capacity of the Times that it couldn't manage the simple act of reporting the news that she had been freed at about 4 pm Thursday. (See Editor & Publisher.)

The Philadelphia Inquirer got a tip earlier in the day, confirmed it with officials at the jail that afternoon, and published the news about Miller's freedom at 6:40 pm. The Inquirer guys said they were surprised the Times wasn't reporting its own news. "We were checking their Web site," they said. "We thought they would put it up and they didn't." The Times did post its story around 8:45 pm that night (according to CJR Daily), but what does it mean when the simple act of breaking your own news becomes impossible for the Washington bureau?

"When asked Friday why the Times did not report the story for several hours after Miller's release, New York Times Washington Bureau Chief Philip Taubman declined comment," Editor & Publisher reported. No comment, huh? Judy Miller's Times is an institution that ties itself in knots. It can't speak clearly, or it contradicts itself. Instead of giving out information, it withholds. It can never tell the full story.

"Today, Sunday, there is not a single mention of Judy Miller in the entire New York Times (except a correction about a July 2003 Miller article on WMD in Iraq)," Arianna Huffington wrote Oct. 2. " Has the New York Times ceased journalistic operations?" It's a fair question.

Time will tell, of course, but I suspect that we will see how much Judy's adherence to the code of omerta had to do with principle -- and it won't be much. The actions of these sycophantic poltroons already tell us a great deal.

Time magazine did exactly the wrong thing when it sat on what Matt Cooper knew about Karl Rove's dishonesty -- knowledge that might well have tipped the balance -- prior to the 2004 election. But they did the right thing when they published Matt Cooper's "What I told the grand jury" after he finally testified.

Were dame Judith even remotely interested in serving the higher good by bringing truth to the public, as opposed to protecting her masters, she would do the same. Were the New York Times a bona fide newspaper, concerned with afflicting the comfortable, it would come clean about its own role in this sordid episode. Instead, we see precisely who, and what, they both are.

If Fitzgerald's inquiry were to take place in a just world, Judy and her nominal employer would be named as unindicted co-conspirators, at the very least.


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