Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pinched nerve

The New York Observer has the goods again on Pinch & Judy. The whole thing is worth a read for fellow rubberneckers, but here are a few highlights:

The end of The New York Times’ five-week standoff with reporter Judith Miller appears to be near. As of Nov. 8, the two sides were closing in on a severance agreement, according to sources familiar with the negotiation.

I think severance should, in this case, re-establish its etymological ties with large and fast-moving blades, but that's just me.

...The Times discovered that while it couldn’t bring her back, it wasn’t so easy to make her go away.

The unfinished business has bred an unsettled newsroom, one still mindful of the breakdown of leadership at the end of the Howell Raines era. Only this time, the disappointment was reaching all the way to the 14th floor.

“The new Howell is Arthur, not Bill,” another staffer said.
Whatever happens with Ms. Runamok, we know who Neville Chamberlain is here. Pinch will remain a complete laughingstock for the foreseeable future. His ineffective handling of the pre-indictment situation has tracked perfectly with his nutless play since.

“Every story I did was approved by an editor,” Ms. Miller said, over coffee on the terrace outside of Black Cat Books in Sag Harbor on Nov. 5. Her black cockapoo, Hamlet, scampered under the table, sunshine glinting on his rhinestone collar. An orange sweater was draped over her shoulders, and she wore her preferred oversize tortoiseshell sunglasses.
Sweet jeebus -- a cockapoo. It's like she was created by Joe Eszterhas, to be played by Sharon Stone in her year 2015 comeback.

And Ms. Miller’s endurance suggested that the paper may have underestimated how much leverage she would have in negotiations. The most firing-worthy allegations against Ms. Miller—such as insubordination and misleading editors—could all be disputed, depending on how one interprets the evidence.

OK, I think the NYO, like everyone else, has missed something important here. Dame Judith refused to give "her" notes to other Times reporters. But the notes aren't hers; they belong to her employer. That looks a lot like theft to me, which is an unambiguous firing offense.

But I love NYO's almost blog-like snarkiness:

Despite the publisher’s much-publicized massage-martini-and-meat celebration of Ms. Miller’s release, he did not agree with Ms. Miller’s choice, according to a person familiar with the case.

After the 15 editorials the paper had run—at Mr. Sulzberger’s urging—supporting Ms. Miller’s refusal to give up her source, the eventual revelations about her conversations with Mr. Libby rankled the newsroom. So did Mr. Sulzberger’s quote to the Times reporters covering the Miller case that Ms. Miller had “had her hand on the wheel” during the legal process—and his attempt to take it back a week later by telling Mr. Calame that his quotes had been taken out of context in his own newspaper.

And notably, it was Ms. Miller’s willingness to go to jail, not her willingness to get out, that the most recent supportive editorial endorsed.


Update: It's over, effective today. They'll print her "letter," which we will have the joy of unpacking tomorrow, and then she's history.
In that letter, to be published in Thursday's New York Times under the heading, "Judith Miller's Farewell," Ms. Miller said she was leaving partly because some of her colleagues disagreed with her decision to testify in the case.
Does reality ever intrude into her world?

And I'm thinking of starting a pool -- how long before she is sharing a news desk at Faux with Brit (ex)Hume(d)?


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