Well folks, today’s episode of As the Judy Turns finds that as bad things looked for the NYT over what must surely rank as the most tumultuous weekend in its entire history, they look even worse in the cold light of the Monday morning after.
As the lovely and talented Matt Welch notes of Little Miss Curveball —
“But even now, she remains both defiant and utterly unreflective about how her own attitudes and work habits contributed to the Times’ journalistic black eye. “W.M.D.—I got it totally wrong,” she told her colleagues. “The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them—we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did the best job that I could.”
This quote should be a firing offense, but short of that it will serve as an illustration of how Miller-style journalism is destined to fail. If your sources are wrong, you should find that out before you print their accusations as fact; and if you discover they were wrong on purpose, you should burn them with extreme prejudice. Especially if they work in the White House.”
Ah but when it comes to working “in the White House,” who are we talking about exactly?
Greg Mitchell, for example, continues to take umbrage at Judy on “professional” grounds.
“It’s an incredible, you know, lack of journalistic ethics, and someone who would agree to that, to – and basically goes along with the shielding and working hand in glove with the administration on these stories, reveals as much as anything how Judith Miller was – her prime concern was not journalism, was not The New York Times, was not the public’s right to know, or the readers, but in furthering the case and protecting the case of the administration to – and basically the significance of it is that she was trying to get the information out, but without linking it back to the administration or the Vice President’s office. So, if you want to use a confidential source – and here she is the First Amendment martyr.”
No she wasn’t concerned with journalism. No more so than Andrea Mitchll or or Pete Williams, both of whom are NBC employees. Oh they file reports and get plenty of cathod-ray “face time.” But that’s because their Beltway “insiders” — handmaidens to seats of power at the Federal Reserve (Mitchell being Mrs. Alan Greenspan) and the state department (for which Williams worked under current vice president Dick Cheney.) As to whom Judy bears fealty — well that’s an open question.
Normon Solomon starts with the basics:
“Judith Miller is a reporter for the New York Times. After the invasion, on assignment to cover a U.S. military unit as it searches for WMDs in Iraq, she’s given “clearance” by the Pentagon “to see secret information” — which she “was not permitted to discuss” with Times editors.
There’s nothing wrong with this picture if Judith Miller is an intelligence operative for the U.S. government. But if she’s supposed to be a journalist, this is a preposterous situation — and the fact that the New York Times has tolerated it tells us a lot about that newspaper.”
And it tells us even more about a government intent on destroying even the slightest pretext of a notion of “the free press” — even as it insists its minions declare otherwise.
But The Big Lie has a short shelf life — as Bill Keller has, uh. . .discovered.
I wanted to add a personal postscript to the fine, rigorous piece of journalism we published Sunday.
Actually,”postscript” implies an end, and I suppose it’s too early to hope for that just yet.
Actually there’s no hope for that Bill. Ever.
But in the world beyond the media water coolers, the focus will shift back to more momentous stories — possibly including the leak investigation in which, for all we know, this paper’s ordeal may have been more a digression than a climax.
As these stories are — thanks to Judy — hopelessly intertwind, the question of “focus”is entirely moot.
With any luck all of you can resume your undistracted, full-throttle pursuit of putting out the best news report in the world. This is not to say that you should withhold your questions. You are welcome to e-mail your immediate concerns to Jill or John, and we will get you answers to you as best we can.
This week and next I’m visiting our correspondents in Asia.
Really? Give my love to Wong Kar Wai
By telephone and e-mail, I intend to remain, along with the publisher, very much a part of our decision making. When I get back I’ll still have some important loose ends to tie up from this episode.
All those “loose ends” are in special prosecutor Fitzgerald’s hands now, Bill.
In the meantime, my thanks to all of you who have suffered patiently (and impatiently) the inherent frustration of trying to cover a story in which we became a subject, my thanks to Jon Landman and the reporters who did us proud on Sunday, and my warmest thanks to the many of you who have expressed solidarity in a time of anxiety.
If I had it to do over, there is probably much I’d do differently, and we can chew on the lessons learned when I return, but I hope my first instinct — and the paper’s — would still be to defend a reporter in the line of duty, even if the circumstances lack the comfort of moral clarity.
Not to mention proper mastication.