Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ms. Kool-Aid of The Jonestown Times

Remember the Reverend Jim Jones? The charismatic preacher set up a community in Guyana that included 900 people in 1978 -- at least it did until a Democratic Congressman showed up and started asking awkward questions about how Jones ran the thing. Jones responded by destroying it all in a bizarre and tragic murder-suicide.

Think about that as you read the latest on the Pinch and Judy saga in the New York Observer.

Reporter Judith Miller may be returning to the New York Times newsroom this month. According to sources familiar with Ms. Miller’s negotiations, she has signaled that her potential homecoming could happen as early as next week.
Ms. Miller is still involved in talks with the paper—whose executive editor, Bill Keller, publicly lamented her “entanglement” with now-indicted Vice Presidential aide I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case.

But even as The Times has sought to isolate Ms. Miller, she has gathered powerful friends to her side. And those talks appear to be turning from severance toward reconciliation, according to Times sources.
“Her return would disappoint most of my colleagues at The Times,” a staffer said. “What I find remarkable is that this is a situation where our editors have described a reporter having openly misled them, and there’s no disciplinary consequences to that.”

Hints of a potential change of heart were on display on Oct. 29, as Ms. Miller and her husband, book editor Jason Epstein, dined at the Southampton estate of Felix Rohatyn, just a few gilded doors down Gin Lane from the manse of retired Times publisher Arthur (Punch) Sulzberger.

“She seemed very upbeat and cheerful,” said a fellow dinner guest. “She certainly conveyed the impression that she’s assuming that she was going to go back. I think it was something like ‘When I go back’ or ‘Assuming I go back’—that kind of a word. It certainly wasn’t ‘I’m not going back.’”

For Mr. Sulzberger’s son, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Ms. Miller is a relentless source of tsuris—the most visible example of his inability as an executive to make a problem go away. On Friday, Mr. Keller is due to visit the paper’s Washington bureau, where hostility to Ms. Miller runs deepest, for a brown-bag lunch with the staff. Reporters plan to bring up the subject of Ms. Miller, according to one bureau source.

But while the younger Mr. Sulzberger and company suffer, on West 43rd Street and in Washington, Ms. Miller has found solace in the Hamptons, in the forgiving arms of a high-powered social set.

(A)t the moment, across the Manhhamptons, the political affiliation that matters is friendship with Judy.

Ms. Miller’s social network includes the novelist E.L. Doctorow and the real-estate baron turned media mogul Mort Zuckerman, who several years ago hosted Ms. Miller and Mr. Epstein on his yacht. In July, on Ms. Miller’s last night in New York before reporting to the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, she dined at an Italian restaurant on East 85th Street, hosted by a group of women that included novelist Shirley Lord, Vanity Fair scribe Marie Brenner, Ms. Rohatyn, Peggy Noonan, Ms. Chesler and New York magazine writer Meryl Gordon.

How clueless is the Reverend Jim Sulzberger? It appears he may be willing to risk destroying the legacy he inherited because firing Ms. Fucking Miller might make for some awkward moments as he shuttles from soiree to soiree in the rarified air of the "Manhamptons" set.

How utterly pathetic. Judy is the journalistic equivalent of cyanide-laced kool-aid, and Pinch seems hell-bent on pouring her down the gullet of his uneasy minions.

So go ahead and pour, Pinch. The real reporters will leave, and you will be left with the simulacrum of a newspaper, but your lubricious passage through the snootysphere will continue unimpeded.


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