Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Arianna nails it

Judy Miller's Reporting: A Cancer on the New York Times?

Yesterday Josh Marshall speculated about dark, unseen forces that could explain the otherwise inexplicable behavior of Judy's enablers at the Times. I don't want to rule out the possibility that there are even darker forces at work here, but I think the point Ariana makes can explain much of the absurdity: the Times has acquiesced in her malfeasance for so long that they are no longer victims, but co-conspirators.
We now know that Miller's bosses were being warned about serious credibility problems with her reporting as far back as 2000 -- a warning that came from a Pulitzer Prize-winning colleague of Miller who was so disturbed by her journalistic methods he took the extraordinary step of writing a warning memo to his editors and then asked that his byline not appear on an article they had both worked on.

In today's WaPo, Howard Kurtz quotes from a December 2000 memo sent by Craig Pyes, a two time Pulitzer winner who had worked with Miller on a series of Times stories on al-Qaeda.

"I'm not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller... I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her. . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies," and "tried to stampede it into the paper."
It's the journalistic equivalent of Dean telling Nixon that Watergate was "a cancer on the presidency." But while the Times corrected the specific stories Pyes was concerned about, the paper, like Nixon, ignored the long-term diagnosis.

If you blame Bush for the failings of Brownie, you have to blame Pinch and Keller for the failings of Miller. So that is at least part of the story; these asshats knew that Judy could bring them down with her, which is why they tried so hard to prop her up. But their efforts to hang together were for naught; in the end they will still hang separately.


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