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Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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October 2, 2005

Judith Miller and Her Times

"Notice how it affects what the New York Times, a great institution, can tell the public, and yet Judy's decision was hers: personal when she made it (her conditions weren't met), personal when she changed it (her conditions were met.) That's what I mean by Miller's Times."

When Jack Shafer calls it “the epic collision of first principles from which Judith Miller has just slunk away,” he gets Thursday’s news exactly right.

In the mystifying drama of Judith Miller and her Times, I am as clueless as the next person about what’s really going down. But it seems to me we’re watching just that— the actions of Judy Miller’s New York Times. It’s kind of staggering, the way she has hijacked the institution by staging an “epic collision” between herself and the state.

When Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered her to jail, he said Miller was wrong to think she was upholding some great principle of a free press. The source she “alleges she is protecting” had released her from her duty to confidentiality, Hogan said. He appears to have been right in that warning: your sacrifice doesn’t say what you think it says.

“Tim Russert of NBC, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post and Matthew Cooper of Time were all subpoenaed in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, wrote Howard Kurtz on July 13. “But only New York Times reporter Judith Miller is in jail today.”

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. “Has the New York Times ceased journalistic operations?” It’s a fair question.

The Nation’s David Corn, Farhad Manjoo of Salon, and Steve Lovelady of CJR Daily all noticed that the story in the Times about Miller’s release, which should benefit from having the most complete information, was exceedingly hard to understand. “If you want to avoid a headache, stick to the Post piece,” Corn wrote at his weblog. Over-edited, over-lawyered, said Lovelady, formerly Managing Editor of the Inquirer. I found the same thing; I had to read the Times story three times to “get” it.

Or take this example: Murray Waas of the American Prospect reported new information back on August 6th: “Scooter Libby and Judy Miller met on July 8, 2003, two days after Joe Wilson published his column. And Patrick Fitzgerald is very interested.” Waas asked the Times to comment:

In response to questions for this article, Catherine J. Mathis, a spokesperson for the Times, said, “We don’t have any comment regarding Ms. Miller’s whereabouts on July 8, 2003.”

After Miller’s release the Times got around to saying what it must have always known: “Ms. Miller met with Mr. Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week, [sources] said.” Notice how it affects what the New York Times, a great institution, can tell the public, and yet Judy’s decision was hers: personal when she made it (her conditions weren’t met), personal when she changed it (her conditions were met.) That’s what I mean by Miller’s Times.

I found revealing Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s statement about her release.

As we have throughout this ordeal, we continue to support Judy Miller in the decision she has made.

Stop. Did you hear that? “The decision she has made.” Okay, roll tape…

Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source. We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify.

You see Miller is the actor, and the results bring the Times along in her wake. By standing with Judy Miller the Times seeks to highlight for the nation the need to protect reporters from prosecutors. Sulzerberger’s statement:

We continue to believe that a strong Federal Shield Law must be passed by Congress, so that similar injustices, which the laws of both New York and Washington, D.C. already prevent, are not suffered by other journalists.

“Similar injustices?” That’s just more confusion. Because in an appearence on the PBS Newshour June 29, 2005, Sulzberger’s Executive Editor, Bill Keller, said that no national shield law would have protected Miller from testifying about her sources in this case. Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune was one of the first journalists to publicly contest Miller’s stand on principle, and he went on the air with Keller to talk about it:

STEVE CHAPMAN: I think there should be a federal shield law that would limit subpoenas to journalists to cases where the information being sought is critical to the investigation and there’s no other way to get it, and if we had a law like that, it would protect 98 percent of the confidential sources that journalists use, and it would not protect Judith Miller, I’m afraid.

TERENCE SMITH: Do you agree it would not protect Judith Miller in this case?

BILL KELLER: I think that’s correct. That’s why I said we’re talking about two separate things. One is the whole realm of what the law ought to provide in the way of protections or does provide, and the other is what happens when you run out of legal protection but you still feel like you have a moral obligation to stick by your promise?

Another reason a national shield law would not protect Miller is that any Federal bill imaginable would have national security exceptions, one of which is bound to be divulging the name of an intelligence agent. Since that is what happened in her case, her case would not be covered. A future Fitzgerald would have the right to compel her to testify.

“A law has even been written— a bipartisan bill languishing in Congress that would protect this vital tool of a free press,” said an Oct. 1 editorial in the Times. Sadly—and Judith Miller’s Times is a sad tale all around—the editorial failed to mention that, according to the Executive Editor of the Times, the law would not have protected her use of the vital tool. “We hope the sight of Judith Miller finally gaining her freedom will help spur Congressional leaders to take this one simple action to keep the First Amendment’s promise of a free press.”

When Judith Miller had gotten out she composed a statement the Times released. “I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source,” she explained. “I chose to take the consequences — 85 days in prison — rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom.”

The problem with Miller’s stand on principle is that other Washington journalists who deal in secrets found a way to maintain their principles, and their reputation for reliability, without taking that stand. So there must be something else to it beyond being: woman of her word, reporter to the core.

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post site put it well. “Note to reporters,” he wrote:

There is nothing intrinsically noble about keeping your sources’ secrets. Your job, in fact, is to expose them. And if a very senior government official, after telling you something in confidence, then tells you that you don’t have to keep it secret anymore, the proper response is “Hooray, now I can tell the world” — not “Sorry, that’s not good enough for me, I need that in triplicate.”

Froomkin advises: “if you’re going to go to jail invoking important, time-honored journalistic principles, make sure those principles really apply.” Exactly. “The law presented Judy with a choice, said Keller in July. “She could betray her source and go free or she could go to jail.” This is the epic collision Shafer spoke of.

But now we know she had a third choice: to seek a negotiated end to the stand off, which is what her new lawyer, Robert Bennett, eventually did, and also what Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, to name two, earlier did.

Keller continues: “I think the choice she made is an honorable, principled, brave choice, and one that has been honored down the centuries in America.” That was a reference to civil disobedience, which is how Miller and Keller saw her actions. “The right of civil disobedience is based on personal conscience,” she said in a statement before she was led to jail. “It is fundamental to our system and it is honoured throughout our history.”

Here, I believe, is the error the Times made. Civil disobedience succeeds when there is clarity in purpose, cogency in argument, and transparency in action. None of which has been apparent in Judy Miller’s epic. As Keller said in July about the prosecution: “This has been a kind of series of black holes, and I— I honestly don’t know what is at the heart of this case any more.”

I’m afraid the answer is: Judy Miller.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

This also ran at the Huffington Post, where Arianna has news of a possible book deal for Miller: $1.2 million, Simon & Schuster, Alice Mayhew. This would support some of the more cynical interpretations I have seen online— i.e. creating “drama” to cash in.

Steve Lovelady at CJR Daily:

This case has tied the New York Times in knots, entangling not just Miller but also Keller and Sulzberger, both of whom originally crawled out on that creaky limb of absolutism with her — and both of whom dutifully hopped off the limb as soon as she did.

Worse, it has also apparently gagged an entire staff of 1,200 reporters and editors — many of the best of them being Miller’s colleagues in the Washington bureau — from reporting or writing in-depth about the story behind the story. And that’s to no one’s credit. The Times should stop ignoring the elephant in the living room, roll up its sleeves, and produce something that goes beyond the rote stenography of carefully-scripted utterances from Miller, her lawyers and her employer.

We expect both spin and stonewalling from our government officials. We expect neither from the premier newspaper in the land.


Do read Howard Kurtz’s interview with Miller attorney Floyd Abrams on CNN“s “Reliable Sources,” (Oct. 2) and the roundtable discussion with journalists after. Much in there. Highlights:

JOHN HARWOOD, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Journalists have been saying for a while, the facts of this case aren’t great for a big principle test of First Amendment and the ability of reporters to protect their sources. But it may be even worse if you take bad facts, assert a principle and then reverse course and look like you’re undercutting the principle.


KURTZ: I was hoping I would wake up this morning and see in my “New York Times” and read a 5,000-word piece by Judith Miller telling us everything that was involved. She has no more legal liability here. Matt Cooper did it. No piece in the paper today.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC: Matt Cooper did that, and in fact I think that is something we do expect and would have wanted from Judy Miller. We want to hear her story. I’m not quite sure why we’re not hearing her story.

Because right now it’s Judith Miller’s New York Times, Andrea. (Nothing in Monday’s paper, either.)

The American Prospect’s Greg Sargent: “It’s hard not to conclude that right now, the paper is more interested in protecting Miller and its own ‘brand’ than it is in protecting the interests of its loyal readers.” (Actually, it’s hurting the brand.)

Atrios (Duncan Black) responds to this post:

Newspapers are a business and I would never expect 100% transparency on all internal operations. But this isn’t about internal business dealings, this is about news and journalism. There are different parts of the beast, but a big mistake was ever letting Bill Keller get involved in this in any way. That corrupted the integrity of the news pages. Let Pinch defend her, let the editorial page (ridiculously) rant in her defense, but with Keller putting himself out there to defend her the news page of the Times completely lost its claim to legitimate independence.

I agree. And this is the entry point for Public Editor Byron Calame.

William Jackson in Editor & Publisher, Sep. 26:

Has The Times opted out of covering all issues related to the role of Judith Miller in the Plame investigation, the most prominent case involving the press and national security to come along in years? And, if this is true, should not the newspaper explain that decision to its readers, or at least be put on the spot by its public editor?

Also see his, What Price Judith Miller to The New York Times? (Huffington Post, Aug. 25, 2005): “It is as if the top leaders have pulled up the gates and are separated by a moat from the outside world and any legal accountability for the actions of Miller, let alone any responsibility to readers on the story.”

Very strange. And because of the involvement of publisher Sulzberger and editor Keller, Judy Miller’s case has also silenced the editorial staff of the New York Times, who cannot express doubts or frustration without running afoul of the bosses.

Read Digby on Judith Miller’s brief press availability Friday, where she dodged all questions and would not even admit that Lewis Libby was her source, which everyone in the world now knows. This is journalism? See also Tim Grieve at Salon’s War Room blog: Judy Miller meets the press.

By contrast: Matt Cooper of Time magazine, “What I Told the Grand Jury” Get it, Lady Grey?

Fishbowl NY: Times spokesman reports that Miller is indeed working on a piece “about her recent experience” which will run in the Times… sometime soon. No date announced.

Check out Talk Left, Judith Miller and Fitzgerald’s Agreement, if you’re interested in a detailed view of what might have led to her release.

The Washington Post, which has far outdistanced the New York Times on the story of Miller’s jail break, reported as follows Saturday. (Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei, Oct. 1)

Libby’s conversations with reporters that July have consumed much of Fitzgerald’s time. The top Cheney aide spoke with at least five reporters in the days after Wilson’s public criticism, and several of them, including two at The Washington Post, have answered Fitzgerald’s questions after working out agreements with their sources that allowed them to testify….

Friends of Miller’s said Bennett, who joined her legal team earlier this year, urged giving up an absolutist position on whether to testify. Another lawyer, Floyd Abrams, had previously encouraged Miller’s objections to cooperating. Bennett warned that Fitzgerald was a dogged prosecutor who was not likely to give up on Miller, the friends said, and had a good chance of convincing a judge to jail Miller for at least six more months.

But Abrams said in an interview yesterday that Fitzgerald made a recent and important compromise. The prosecutor would narrow his questions to Libby, which he had not been willing to do when Abrams approached him about the idea last year. Sources close to Miller said she had numerous government sources she wanted to protect, but Libby was the only one relevant to the Plame investigation.

In June 2004, Glenn Kessler, a Washington Post reporter, reached a similar agreement with the prosecutor to provide limited testimony that kept the substance of his conversations with Libby confidential, The Post reported at the time.

Thus: other reporters with principles worked out waivers with Libby; and others with principles worked out an agreement with Fitzgerald to limit testimony. Miller says she didn’t get the waiver that she needed. Miller says she didn’t get the agreement to limit testimony that she needed.

So why does the New York Times editorial say: “Reporters are not given the luxury of choosing the circumstances under which they take a stand on their right to guarantee confidentiality to their sources?” The facts suggest that “choosing” is exactly what Miller did.

And… Are we to believe that future sources will not trust the Post’s Glenn Kessler, who testified under an agreement with the prosecutor, but they will trust Judith Miller, who after 85 days in jail also testified under an agreement with the prosecutor? And that some large principle of press liberty hangs on the difference?

I don’t think so.

PressThink back in May, 2004… From Wen Ho Lee to Judy Miller: The Transparency Era at the New York Times.

Go back four years to Wen Ho Lee. Same kind of editor’s note appears in the New York Times. It seemed inexplicable. No correction, no apology. Then, as now, the editors had seen a case collapse. Then, as now, critics had long called for an accounting. Howell Raines was editorial page editor. Bill Keller, managing editor. Clinton was President. And transparency did not exist.

If the Times is going back to transparency does not exist that would be a major error.

And speaking of transparency, who wants to see editors and reporters at the Washington Post argue with other editors and reporters at the Washington Post about what the Washington Post should, in this day and age, become? It’s in Howard Kurtz’s Media Notes column (Oct. 3): Post Bosses Get An Earful.

Last I heard, the place was still standing, despite the earful.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 2, 2005 1:34 AM   Print


It’s kind of staggering, the way she has hijacked the institution with an “epic collision” between herself and the state.

Well put, Jay. "Hijacked" seems to be exactly the right word.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 2, 2005 12:48 PM | Permalink

Well, that was anticlimactic. Now that the key person involved in this reporter's conversation about Valerie Plame-Wilson appears to be Scooter Libby, and not Karl Rove, we will likely see some of the air let out of the Plame Leak political balloon. You see, perceived wrong-doing by Libby, a relatively obscure member of the Bush Administration, cannot be so easily used as a political club against the President. At least, certainly not with the same zeal and venom had Karl Rove been implicated here more directly, who’s name provokes such hatred among those afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at October 2, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink

Actually, for conspiracy theorists, it's all of a piece.
It makes entirely more sense that Libby (Cheney's sock puppet) -- not Rove -- was responsible for feeding Miller the Chalabi Fictions, which she happily delivered to her readers.
If you buy that, then it follows that, once Wilson exposed the fiction, it would be Libby/Cheney, not Rove, who turned to Miller in a failed attempt to discredit Wilson and to salvage Chalabi.
Maybe Rove really was a bystander.
But all this ignores the main point of this thread -- why did the Times let Miller drag the institution itself into this sordid game of I-didn't-do-it, he-did-it ??

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 2, 2005 1:28 PM | Permalink

Am I the only one here who has not yet recovered from the scandal fatigue of the Clinton Adminstration? When the POTUS is called to account, impeached, but not convicted, how are we supposed to get excited about Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby? Oh, sure, mindless partisans will salivate, but where's the beef for the rest of us?

In the grand scheme of things, aren't there more important things going on in our country? Nah!

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 2, 2005 3:18 PM | Permalink

It is beyond comprehension how The Times can be run like a common satrapy, under Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., when it comes to such an explosive political issue that crosses the boundaries and involves one of his favorites. It is as if the top leaders have pulled up the gates and are separated by a moat from the outside world and any legal accountability for the actions of Miller, let alone any responsibility to readers on the story. In a real sense, the top command at the paper could, unwittingly, be aiding and abetting an obstruction of justice.

It is one thing to establish a working separation between the news and editorial departments of a newspaper. It is quite another to insulate both from the private whims of the publisher who had been party--along with Howell Raines--to a license for her to operate without the normal editorial supervision, in the Washington bureau and in Iraq. She played by different rules than other reporters.

It is to turn the Plame case on its head to suggest that Miller, of all people, was gathering materials for a story that cast a critical light on the motives and actions of those officials who partook in a potential federal crime in leaking the identity of Plame. It is to make a mockery of the very idea of shielding whistleblowers from adverse consequences. Moreover, it is not possible to separate the extent to which Miller’s WMD reporting played a part in pushing the neo-con agenda in Iraq from the way in which her actions in the Plame affair are effectively protecting her neo-con sources. The Plame scandal is not a separate issue from her WMD reporting, but occurred as part of her WMD activism. Just whom, or what, is Miller protecting?

Do the top editors of The New York Times have enough detachment to have an idea of how the kid-gloves treatment of Miller’s role in the Plame affair affects the paper’s place as part of the greater Fourth Estate? That is, we have the leading newspaper in the world engaged in a kind of petty coverup to protect one of its employees-–without a scrap of public evidence that the reporter was reporting, let alone interested in exposing government skullduggery. It is hard not to conclude that either this relates back to the “warhawk” stance of columnist-cum-editor Bill Keller (and others) on the invasion of Iraq; or it devolves into personal relationships, a kind of nepotism. In any case, the newspaper of record has been severely compromised.

What price Judith Miller to The New York Times?

Posted by: William E. Jackson, Jr. at October 2, 2005 3:31 PM | Permalink

What are you talking about? This isn't a blog attempting to survey the important things going on in the country. It's about the important things going on in the press. If you would open your mind a bit, you would see that it's not about Plame Gate, Lewis Libby and Rove, it's about Judy Miller, Bill Keller, Arthur Sulzberger and their press think. Every journalist in America has followed her story. If I didn't write about it, I would be letting readers down.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 2, 2005 3:35 PM | Permalink

So true, Jay, and when I find myself in agreement with Duncan Black (and others I consider "fringe"), you know you are doing something right. This is why I love PressThink.

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 2, 2005 3:44 PM | Permalink

"This isn't a blog attempting to survey the important things going on in the country. It's about the important things going on in the press."

Point taken. Though for better or for worse, the two have become inexorably intertwined, and perhaps always have been. Trout's question could just have easily asked whether there are more important things going on concerning the press, and I'd have difficulty saying no there.

Posted by: Bezuhov at October 2, 2005 5:00 PM | Permalink

"If I didn't write about it, I would be letting readers down."

I came here today to check your site to see if you had written about this because the last entry I saw was about the important--but less current--matter of the meeting of bloggers with big media.

I've been writing about Miller at my blog and for Blog Critics. It seems like just as one question gets answered two more appear.

I quoted - and complimented - Lovelady for doing a great job trying to solve all these mysteries.

I'm still figuring out what I think of Miller. I've satirized her situation and questioned her abilities as a reporter (she seems to not be skeptical enough when being spoonfed info from White House sources about the war and info leading up to it.)

On the other hand, I don't know how long any of us would have lasted had we been the ones in prison.

But the current puzzlement, of course, is why was she even in prison if Libby was her source and he had given her a specific personal waiver a year ago? Was this all some drama play?

Or as I asked in one piece: Can a worse martyr possibly be found?

Posted by: Scott Butki at October 2, 2005 5:47 PM | Permalink

Mickey Kaus, along with others, has gotten hold of Scooter Libby's letter to Judy Miller.
Quoting Kaus:

"Because, as I am sure will not be news to you, the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me, or knew about her before our call."

(The suggestion, of course, would be that this is how Miller might also testify--e.g. no discussion of "Plame's name or identity"--unless she wants to stand out from the pack as someone who contradicts Libby's defense.)

Libby's letter ends, somewhat mysteriously, with this sentence:

"Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."

And you know what happens to the aspens that sever their deep connections and fail to turn with all the others, don't you, my little pretty? ...

I vote for Anthony Hopkins, in his best Hannibal Lector mode, to play Libby in the movie.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 2, 2005 9:50 PM | Permalink

I'm going with drama.

St. Judy, with Ms. Miller in the lead. Intrepid reporter who fearlessly reports The Truth. Not only is she a sharp interviewer, she's wired to power. Can talk with the big boys. And, Lord, can she write. Then, the forces of darkness want to know her double secret sources. But St. Judy won't talk. Never. Well, almost never.

Judy's making movies. And we all get to suffer for her art.

Jay is right. She hijacked the Times management. And she's dropped a bomb on journalism. I truly believe Ms. Miller's shot at martyrdom has done more harm to journalism than five Jayson Blairs.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at October 2, 2005 9:53 PM | Permalink

But what is her motive?

Posted by: Scott Butki at October 2, 2005 10:29 PM | Permalink

They do grow in large clumps. Aspens that is.

Posted by: EH at October 2, 2005 10:29 PM | Permalink

Her motive is just the journalist's credo. That will be hard for most of this crowd to grasp.

Posted by: EH at October 2, 2005 10:31 PM | Permalink

Judy's aiming for another book opportunity, plus some sort of screenplay. She makes Jayson Blair look like a principled journalist.

Posted by: dave in boca at October 2, 2005 10:55 PM | Permalink

Steve: Those letters were released by the Times on their website. (Itself an intriguing subplot.) Kaus didn't dig them up.

I don't agree with those who, speculating about her motive, think Miller was trying to recover her reputation after the debacle of her WMD reporting. From what I can tell, she sees no problem with her WMD reporting, although she's sorry her sources were wrong. In her mind there was no debacle. She thinks her reputation remains quite high with the people who count, and that's sources and Washington friends. She's certain she did nothing wrong, and wouldn't do anything differently. The fact that she is hated so thoroughly on the Left for her part in the run up to the War reinforces these beliefs.

The journalists's creed, the principles she speaks of in her statements, are a major factor in her stand, but I would not call them the motive. They are the means. That's how she trapped Sulzberger and Keller into backing her personal decisions, her personal act of conscience, her personal feeling that the waivers weren't enough: she's sacrificing for principles they believe in. They don't know how to go against her and keep those beliefs.

If I had to go with one explanation--not sure it's counts as a "motive"--I would go with Miller's towering vanity, aided by the strange insulation from criticism that comes from getting so much criticism, by her knowledge that she's protected at the top, and by a personality trait that makes her incapable of using her intellect in the service of self-doubt.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 2, 2005 11:07 PM | Permalink

What's her motive, Scott? Why, she's Judy freakin' Miller. I'm not sure she needs much more than that.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at October 2, 2005 11:49 PM | Permalink

You seem to be arguing that Sulzberger and Keller's PressThink IS Judy Miller's towering vanity.

In other words, one possibility is that they share a commonly towering vanity that was waiting for a Judy Miller to expose it to the world.

There are other equally plausible motives (that don't require Sulzberger and Keller to appear quite so ignorant), that there are other things they share with Judy Miller that are more important--the Aspen roots: attitudes about the war, a public duty to express obeisance to lying state officials, a public duty to spread their lies, etc.

If Judy Miller thinks hatred for her mistakes is confirmation of her integrity, doesn't that argue for the latter scenario? Isn't she wrapping HERSELF in the flag of culture war by standing up to defend the righteousness of official neo-con disinformation? Aren't Sulzberger and Keller diving in with her?

Perhaps the paradox is that we are seeing Neo-conThink at the so-called liberal paper of record and it emerges where we've come to expect PressThink to be? Isn't the problem with the Times precisely the blackhole where PressThink of any variety or integrity ought to be?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at October 3, 2005 12:20 AM | Permalink

Please explain: "In her mind, there was no debacle."

What could this possibly mean?

I've heard her quoted as screaming,"I was proved fucking right." But I can't make the vaguest whiff of sense out of that either, other than to wonder if she is psychotic (she can no longer distinguish fantasy from reality).

How does she avoid either, A) I was wrong, or B) My source was wrong and I was mistaken to trust them? Where does C) come in? I was right that there were WMD? I was right to trust the people that lied to me? Blame the CIA like Bush does, even though her own claims were the ones they disputed? Journalistic principles don't allow facts to get in the way of a good story? I work for the Office of Special Plans and passed on all the information John Bolton gave me no questions asked so the subversion of the CIA went just like we planned? What happens to the debacle the rest of the earth is so viscerally aware of?

Can you please translate for the non-New York Times' speaking layperson? My train of thought absolutely breaks down at the "she thinks there was no debacle" point. How can we even move on to discuss a larger scenario until we can wrap our minds around her Salvador Daliesque world view? Let alone, how do two other competent adults come to think her world view is even comprehensible, let alone a point of honor the Times should go down in flames to defend...

Posted by: Mark Anderson at October 3, 2005 6:20 AM | Permalink

Mark: "In her mind there was no debacle" means, simply, I did nothing wrong, reporters occasionally get duped by their sources, you can't expect it never to happen, over the years I have been right most of the time, nobody's perfect, etc., etc. No, she wasn't wrong to rely on them because they've been reliable before.

Here is William Jackson on what Miller said during a roundtable at Berkeley, where she was asked about her WMD reporting. Jackson's Title, "Judith Miller goes with what she's got."

She repeated several times at Berkeley (I have watched the video) her excuse that "you go with what you've got," when referring both to her WMD sources and the unidentified leakers she is now protecting in the Plame case. Miller carries on with her now-tired argument that if she was duped by her unnamed sources on WMD, well, so was the Bush Administration.

Miller indicated she's not apologizing for believing there were WMDs in Iraq until the president does. "I think I was given information by people who believed the information they were giving the president," she told Bergman. Ultimately, Miller said, she "wrote the best assessment that I could based on the information that I had."

She attempted to tie the controversy over her WMD reporting to her current court struggles, and she partly blamed others when arguing that she had heard only after the fact that there had been people who had reservations about the WMD intelligence she was receiving. "I wish they had come forward at the time to express those reservations," she said.

So that's what I mean by "incapable of using her intellect in the service of self-doubt." Of course she has been assisted by Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who said in a talk before college students:

"Were her sources wrong? Absolutely. Her sources were wrong. And you know something? The administration was wrong. And when you're covering it from the inside like that you're going to get things wrong sometimes. So I don't blame Judy Miller for the lack of finding weapons of mass destruction."

Which is what I mean by "her knowledge that she's protected at the top."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 3, 2005 10:38 AM | Permalink

The letters referred to earlier were posted on the Power Line site first. When I saw them there, I checked the NYT site immediately. Nothing. I do believe the NYT wouldn't have posted them if they hadn't already been posted elsewhere. So much for transparency.

I forget who it was -- it was a member of Congress, I believe -- who said about Vietnam that we should just declare victory and go home. That is what Judith Miller did. The problem is, no one is swallowing her story that it's a victory.

About the NYT's failure to publish anything -- it's long been the NYT's belief that, well, if it isn't in our paper, it isn't news. It isn't news until we say it is. It's arrogant, of course, and it also justifies journalistic laziness -- I'm Judy Miller, I need at least four or five days to write a story, and I have to sell my book outline first. This kind of sloth is one weakness that Howell Raines tried to address as the NYT editor, and it was one of the big reasons he got run out of town. Jayson Blair was just the peg upon which a lot of grievances were hung.

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at October 3, 2005 12:53 PM | Permalink

Well, she certainly succeeded in selling her book outline.

On the point about her reporting on WMD. It strikes me as disingenuous for her to believe that reporters sometimes get let down by their sources. It happens. Move on. Miller wasn't just a reporter on this story. She was supposed to be the great expert on WMD. She had an authority beyond that granted by her NYT byline.

She may have been duped, but her years of banging the drum about the danger of WMD made her a more-than-willing dupe.

Posted by: Lance Knobel at October 3, 2005 4:56 PM | Permalink

"Miller said she's not apologiizing for believing there were WMD until the President does."

Very interesting passage from the Berkeley conference, thanks. Isn't she telling us that she refuses to hold ideologues accountable for their willful ignorance? She refuses to hold the Vice President's office responsible for its willfull ignorance. She certainly refuses to hold herself responsible for her own willfull ignorance. She even refuses to hold the President responsible for his willful ignorance. In fact, she identifies with the administration so strongly that the Bush administration would have to admit responsibility before she could even entertain the possibility of fault on her part.

That certainly doesn't allow much room for investigative journalism does it?

The refusal to hold anyone accountable for willful ignorance sounds a lot like what you describe happening with the Times on the Judy Miller beat: a refusal to hold ideologues accountable for willful ignorance as the mark of principle. Since when is the sincerity of one's willful ignorance a journalistic standard?

And she adopts an explicitly political rather than journalistic standard of judgment:
"As soon as the state admits fault, the journalist leaking the official state position will consider admitting fault."

How much clearer can she be that she refuses to distinguish between reasons of state (that invariably include propaganda and political party agendas) and journalistic ethics? She explicitly refuses the distinction. Doesn't that put her outside PressThink altogether?

Isn't this a journalistic ethic that agreement with the government in power equals journalistic infallibility? How would that work in journalism school as a standard of practice?

Judith Miller, the Queen of All Iraq, who effectively hijacked an entire army batallion searching for WMDs by throwing her political weight around, is a passive victim of circumstance. Something is wrong with this picture.

What does this tell us about her personal theory that she is "defending" First Amendment "rights"?

Journalistic refusal to judge the government is the vanguard of freedom and First Amendment rights!

Doesn't she know exactly what she's doing? What is Sulzberger and Keller's excuse?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at October 3, 2005 6:36 PM | Permalink

Jay, do you agree with me herethat she is a very weird martyr for the journalist community considering her sloppy reporting on the war?

Posted by: Scott Butki at October 3, 2005 6:56 PM | Permalink

Mark, I love it when you refer to someone as an "ideologue"--then proceed to recite (without a hint of invention) your Party dogma with all the usual preening rhetorical excesses flapping off it. Talk about wilful ignorance.

Posted by: Brian at October 3, 2005 7:19 PM | Permalink

So if I read this right, nobody has a clue.

And if Fitzgerald closes the investigation with little or no information from Miller, nobody is likely to have a clue.

And if she writes a book, we still won't be sure we have a clue.

A mystery with no obvious solution. Might as well be UFOs.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 3, 2005 8:51 PM | Permalink

Jay --
The book deal ($1.2 million) for sure explains why Judy doesn't want to write about herself for her own employer.
But it still doesn't explain how she dragged Keller and Sulzberger along with her. And it doesn't explain why the NYT high command apparently doesn't want ANYONE on the payroll to write about it in the newspaper itself.
Meantime, I learn from Romenesko that Time Inc.'s editor-in-chief Norm Pearlstine has also cut a book deal to defend his own decision to turn over Matt Cooper's notes and e-mails to Fitzgerald.
What we are witnessing here, my friends, is a parade of greed. To hell with the readers of your own publication -- go for the book contract.
It's enough to make a man turn to blogs. (Although not necessarily the blogs that many of your contributors have in mind.)

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 3, 2005 10:07 PM | Permalink

Tonight, readers, I come to you in a state of suspense and confusion.

Although it is operating as normal in other areas, the New York Times has--temporarily I'm sure--ceased to function journalistically on the story of Judy Miller's release, the many questions that arise from it, the consequences for the Fitzgerald inquiry hanging over the White House, as well as its implications for press law, as well as the reactions in the profession to Judy Miller's actions, the lawyers letters, the book deal (news not broken by the Times) and on and on.

By any measure it is a big story, although let's keep in mind there's a new Supreme Court nominee, and a new indictment of Tom Delay, as well as other stories of major import crowding in. Still, news coverage of Miller's tale (the lead story on the front page Saturday) has ceased. The opinion pages have fallen silent. The reporter on the media beat would normally come out with a piece on reactions and implications for journalism. It would have appeared Saturday or Sunday. Monday media business section at the latest. But no such story. That's only one of many that are unwritten. Maureen Dowd wouldn't want to have her say about this? That's hard to believe. Keller should have written a column by now.

With many unanswered questions, some of which only the Times can answer, being itself a huge actor in the drama, the newspaper has gone into editorial default, as if a plea of nolo contendere had been entered in Supreme News Court in the matter of Judy Miller, secrecy and the New York Times. Why this happened I cannot say. It's not that I don't have explanations that make sense. I just don't know if they're right.

Now with her apparent book deal (which may fall apart in the furor to come) and most of her colleagues in journalism unable to understand what her 85 days in jail were about, Judith Miller cannot manage to: 1.) compose a statement for the Times that reveals anything once free from jail, 2.) answer a single question from the press that reveals anything, 3.) say a thing about her grand jury testimony that reveals anything, although it is legal to do so and Matt Cooper did, or 4.) admit that Lewis Libby is her source, even though letters from her lawyer to his lawyer are posted for all to see by the New York Times!

Steve, David, Daniel and others can testify about this, but... From what I know of the code that binds reporters, if you have big news because you are a participant in big news you phone the desk because you think of your colleagues and they deserve the scoop. You answer questions from the press because you're a source and they can't write their stories without you. You behave with an awareness that you're usually in their position, trying to squeeze information out of harried people. You remain a journalist, even though you have to operate as a source, and defend your interests, and write your own piece some day.

Judy Miller has behaved like she understood not one word of this-- except the "write your own" part.

Miller is a friend of the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. They socialize. It's not a scandal, but it is a fact. Sulzberger has stood behind her in a show of support that anyone watching sees as personal, strongly-felt. She has the full support of Executive Editor Bill Keller, who has said (more or less) she's a First Amendment hero-- not a martyr, Keller would say, but a hero in the sense of acting with exemplary courage and personal conviction in civil disobedience to the law.

Colliding ominously with these two facts are several bigger ones. The weight of professional opinion--once solidly behind Judy Miller, for a long time split 60/40 for her--is now decisively against. I would think reader opinion is similarly thumbs down. Most journalists seem baffled by her explanations, and dubious about the waiver that wasn't, then was. They do not now see her cause as necessarily just.

Within the Times, I don't know what the feelings are, but it is certain that a sizable faction is angry, baffled, and possibly disillusioned with their bosses-- but scared to say so for obvious reasons. The Washington Bureau, in my opinion, has been humiliated. I doubt that I am the only one who sees it that way.

I don't expect the news default to last. I do think we will one day soon know the reasons for it. It's hard for me to believe this will all blow over, though. It's possible once the news coverage, columnizing and self-examination starts to flow that the Times will recover its journalistic senses and some of the reputation points that are expiring now.

In 24 hours the picture may look quite different.

I have heard rumblings that a big take out--newsroom-speak for long investigation taking up several pages--is coming, possibly next weekend. But it's not just what they put in the paper. It's also what to do about Judy Miller and what has to be major bitterness in the ranks. Howell Raines lost his job when he lost the confidence of the staff. I am not saying that's about to happen. I don't think it will happen. But something has to give. As I wrote here, it's temporarily become Judy Miller's Times. I cannot imagine there are many at the Times who are happy with that.

I would not be surprised if they have to call a public meeting of the staff in an auditorium, which happened during the furor over a story about William Kennedy Smith and the alleged victim of a sexual assault who, the paper said, "had a little wild streak." The staff went nuts. I'm not saying it's likely, just don't be shocked if it does happen.

Wild card: Byron Calame, Public Editor. If I were him, I'd pull and all-nighter and publish something at his web journal tomorrow. To me a state of editorial default is a serious matter, especially when the Times was prevented from saying what it knows for so long because of the Miller dispute, court case, and jailing.

We'll see what the morning papers bring. For now, that's my analysis. Thoughts?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2005 12:10 AM | Permalink

Okay, the morning papers... just put up is an Oct. 4 story about Miller's return to the newsroom, Freed Reporter Says She Upheld Principles by media beat reporter Katharine Seelye. Here are the most newsworthy parts:

"I am very, very proud to be able to say that I got things that no other journalist has ever gotten out of a process like this," Ms. Miller told the newsroom. She said she believed that the blanket waiver Mr. Libby had offered other journalists was "a thing of the past."

Ms. Miller was introduced by Bill Keller, the executive editor, who said the newspaper planned to publish a full account of Ms. Miller's case. He said the article could appear as soon as this weekend.

"I know that you and our readers still have a lot of questions about how this drama unfolded," he told the staff members. He said the paper had been wary of revealing too much about the case for fear of compounding Ms. Miller's legal problems, but added, "Now that she's free, we intend to answer those questions to the best of our ability in a thoroughly reported piece in the pages of The New York Times, and soon. We owe it to our readers, and we owe it to you, our staff."

In an interview after her appearance, Ms. Miller said she would cooperate with the newspaper's reporters. She said she was uncertain whether she would write her own account, either in the newspaper or in a book. She also said she was exploring all the options, but she planned to first take some time off to urge Congress to pass a federal shield law to protect reporters with confidential sources.

Considering that her case would not have been covered by a shield law, I doubt she will make a very good messenger for it. But who knows? According to what the article says and says by omission, Miller faced no criticism during her meeting with staff in the newsroom. No one had a single question about her book deal. She was welcomed back with open arms. No one had any doubts that her stay in jail was worth it. Miller speaks, and Keller speaks. No one else is quoted.

But at least radio silence has been broken. Maybe the tower will start transmitting again.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2005 1:35 AM | Permalink

It's probably worth mentioning that it's no secret Judy Miller has been roundly despised in the Times' newsroom for similarly self-centered, autocratic behavior for quite some years now. She has been elevated above mere mortal employees for a very long time. Being a sociopath, she has not responded to the situation well, shall we say?

In that sense, her holdout (apparently to protect her WMD disinformers, though we may never know) has simply been the occasion for the Times' to share with the public its long-standing autocracy and refusal to enforce discipline or professionalism in the newsroom. The longstanding corruption and favoritism inside the newsroom is now displayed for all to see in the utter breakdown of news coverage in its printed pages (My impression is that this is pro-administration favoritism and corruption, but that is a different and potentially interesting debate I'm sure you'd prefer we have somewhere else.).

It's hard to avoid the conclusion you seem to be suggesting that Judy Miller's Times IS Arthur Sulzberger's Times. She wouldn't be the Queen of the newsroom, let alone of all Iraq, if Sulzberger didn't let her ride roughshod over any and everyone over whom he has authority. They're a team.

Hasn't Sulzberger effectively authorized Miller's multi-year campaign to embarrass and destroy the paper? This wasn't a one woman take-over, or a corporate buyout, Sulzberger gave her the go-ahead to trample whomever she wanted to trample, damn the consequences.

As your post suggests, he created this mess every bit as much as she did. It seems to me that it's ultimately a question of if and when anyone will bother to save Sulzberger from himself. You seem to be suggesting that a real institutional breakdown is already upon us, and that if he fails to take some serious kind of action very shortly, the situation could move from the professional and public humiliation we are currently witnessing to outright mutiny.

On the one hand, it is shocking that an institution like the Times could be cracking up like this before our very eyes. On the other hand, Sulzberger and Miller are just two deeply misguided individuals who happen to be in charge and these are the predictable consequences of institutionalizing their blind spots, their prejudices, of their own actions. Boo f-ing hoo.

As for the possibility of mutiny, I can only wonder what took so long. At a certain point we are rapidly approaching, there will be no prestige left at the Times to ease the pain of embarrassment after embarrassment where ownership simply overrides professional or conventional standards of behavior. Wouldn't a return to PressThink herd professionalism be a step up for this fawning, elitist crew? Can anything seriously change absent someone buying-out Sulzberger? Isn't that what it's really come down to?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at October 4, 2005 2:04 AM | Permalink

One point that needs to be emphasized....

The reported dissatisfaction in the Times newsroom has to be exacerbated by the recently announced cuts in editorial staff at the Times. A "mutiny" based on journalistic principles may be far easier (or harder) to accomplish when the rank and file are worried about their economic futures at the Times.

Posted by: ami at October 4, 2005 9:51 AM | Permalink

After watching the short video of Miller speaking in the newsroom, and reading the coverage again, it's clear what her story coming out is: she won significant victories for all journalists with her decision to go to jail for her principles. Therefore she made the right decision, and so did Sulzberger and Keller by backing her.

The first victory she claims is, "the blanket waiver is dead," meaning no one in the press will believe it any more and testify when a source gives a blanket waiver to all journalists because Miller showed what a sham that was, forcing Libby to give her a personal waiver and demonstrate that he really meant it.

The second victory is that, though she was forced to submit her notes, she and the Times got to redact the notes to remove all references to other cases, other sources, rather than have a third party--neither the prosecutor nor the journalist--do the redacting. That will somehow become a precedent, she suggests.

She is very proud of these victories. "I got things that no other journalist has ever gotten out of a process like this."

She claims that Fitzgerald was not willing to limit her testimony to one source and one story, as he did for others, and Libby did not give her a personal waiver, as he did for others, so she could not negotiate a way out, as did others. But then the pressure of her stand forced Fitzgerald to relent and Libby to relent (via negotiations) and so, victories won, she ended her jail stay and testified.

To her critics she does make one concession. She is certain, she said, that her actions "were not completely perfect" in the eyes of the "First Amendment absolutists" out there, or those who claimed she was covering up for Libby, Rove and the White House.

So I was wrong: her intellect is capable of self-doubt. Miller now admits to being "not completely perfect" by the standards of absolutists and Bush-hating cranks. Beyond that she is proud, firm, and in her mind completely victorious.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2005 10:20 AM | Permalink

Megalomaniac. That was the word I was looking for.

Judy's still making movies, I see.

Jay's comments on the reporter as news subject is directly on point. One of the things a reporters learns early on is that the story is not about you. You are not the news. The last place you want to be is at the center of a news event. As Jay said, when that happens, you want to get the facts out via your own publication as soon as possible.

Yet Ms. Miller has done everything possible to ensure she remains at the center of the storm. Now, we find, she did it for journalistic standards and all the little people.

What I find fascinating, in that 10-car-pile-up-on-the-interstate way, is how NYTimes' management has let itself become part of Judith's parade. She's walking off the edge of the pier and the Times is following right behind.

No wonder the other Times reporters are pissed.

Posted by: David McLemore at October 4, 2005 11:26 AM | Permalink

The way it looks now, Mark--could change of course--there will be no institutional breakdown, which I said last night was unlikely but not impossible. Looks extremely unlikely now.

My guess is: People in the newsroom who have doubts will swallow their doubts, go back to work, and hope that the long investigation and explanation that Keller promised will make things better. The official story at the Times will resemble Miller's story above. A certain number of editors and reporters will believe it, and the fact that she is so widely disliked will make them feel good about supporting her.

Miller will after a while resume reporting for the Washington bureau. The most we'll see is a handful of anonymous Times people grumbling about Judy and the way things were handled in a Howard Kurtz column. I don't think she will get $1.2 million for a book about her ordeal.

It's certainly a step backward for transparency and public honesty at the New York Times, but right now I don't see any dynamic that would change it. It's still Judy Miller's New York Times. The word that keeps occuring to me in summary of the episode is not David's "megalomaniac," but just: decline.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2005 11:34 AM | Permalink

As this develops, I've been thinking about the emanations from its penumbra. As ususal, Jay swithced on the light when he spoke of the N.Y Times' seeming silence given its, and other journalists', participation in this news (which means making the news, at least in part):

"...the Times...being itself a huge actor in the drama..." and " have big news because you are a participant in big news..." - Jay, above.

Do you suppose this occurs more often than we're generally aware - - our lack of awareness a consequence of this kind of code of silence when certain journalists and their editors find (or make) themselves players in the news? I think it's possible...

Posted by: Trained Auditor at October 4, 2005 12:12 PM | Permalink

So today, the NYT has a story about Judith Miller's triumphant return to the newsroom, in which she declares she has been oh-so-noble in upholding journalistic principles. And, of course, there's an editorial critical of the Bush administration for disseminating fake news.

You can't make this stuff up. This is more illustrative of the Times culture than even the Jayson Blair incident was.

Maybe it's time for journalists to consider buying a "Not In Our Name" ad.

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at October 4, 2005 12:14 PM | Permalink

"A certain number of editors and reporters will believe it, and the fact that she is so widely disliked will make them feel good about supporting her."

I think this is a fascinating dynamic--you've mentioned it in a couple of comments now. What's your take on this attitude? Why exactly is the contempt of coworkers and colleagues reassuring to Times' management? Why would loss of respect be taken as a sign of virtue? Do they imagine the anti-Judy contingent is less ethically evolved? What higher cosmic realm does Times' management imagine it lives in?

What is most confounding to me is the appearance that they actually seem to believe the nonsense they spout. Authority and self-satisfied cluelessness are indeed an unhealthy mixture. It's like watching a smoker outside in the winter swelled up with pride over the depth of character that allows them to tolerate the cold so well.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at October 4, 2005 1:33 PM | Permalink

I'm going to tape an interview with Brooke Gladstone for "On the Media." The answer, Mark, has to do with an experience journalists have a lot: when you tell the truth, people squeal. They don't like it. Negative feedback is more like confirmation in certain cirsumstances. It's hard to keep that perception from getting out of control.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2005 1:53 PM | Permalink

There are at least two problems with that theory: 1) Judy agrees with her sources, she goes to jail for them. Why would a Judy Miller "target" get mad? Bolton didn't scream, he went to visit her in jail. 2) It's the co-workers who are pissed, not a target of investigation. Does that mean the real target of Judy Miller style journalism is her own newsroom? Why are co-workers and embarrassed objects of reporting be thrown into the same category?

I know you are saying this way of thinking--that people scream when you tell the truth--is an understandable journalistic habit regarding those who appear in the news. But why would management think it applies to co-workers, fellow news producers? How does that link get established? She does consistently put her coworkers in the news by embarrassing the paper, but I doubt that's why management is so proud of the internal hatred she generates. What am I missing?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at October 4, 2005 2:22 PM | Permalink

I don't want to trivialize matters here, but as I've said before, in my view, John Burns is the only worthy at the NYTimes. The Times-Democrat could fall off the face of the earth tomorrow (as have many other notable newspapers) and it would not bother me (Burns could get work anywhere!).

But it's obvious from reading the comments here that many would be bothered. So my question to you is this: what if Miller doesn't provide the level of truth/information you require? Will you stop reading the Times? My guess is that you will not. Isn't that what Keller and Pinch are counting on?

I agree with Jay that "decline" is the operative word here, but how many will hold on to the sinking Good Ship NYTimes,no matter what?

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 4, 2005 3:43 PM | Permalink

As usual, someone else has made my point better. In this case, it's Greg Sargent in American Prospect who says: "Keller and Sulzberger face a stark choice of whether they owe their primary loyalty to their employees and shareholders or to their readers." http://www.prospect.or g/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleld=10378

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 4, 2005 4:21 PM | Permalink

Nothing is sinking. Miller's crime is to accept what the administration chronies fed her. She lost her skepticism and that's fatal for a reporter. She may pull out of the tailspin and be more critical as required by the story. That's a good thing.

Posted by: EH at October 4, 2005 4:57 PM | Permalink

Jay, Steve Lovelady, etc:
Do you believe that Judy Miller is in some collusion with government forces?

Do you believe...
1. That Mark and EH are correct in their repeated assertions that Judy is a shill for the Bush administration, who had their protection among her reasons for entering into this crazy prison drama?

2. That the Times leadership support her in this, even to the detriment of the paper?

I empathized with you when you vanquished the repeating bias-warriors from your comments sections. However, there are millions of internet news readers who will only assume that it is a joke to presume that a NY Times reporter went to prison to _protect_ the Bush administration or a non-hostile source from within it.

As long as Judy Miller's motives are going to be analyzed, you might as well take a yay-or-nay stand on the 'collusion' question.

Posted by: Marc Siegel at October 4, 2005 7:55 PM | Permalink

No, I don't think there is any colusion between she and the government. She just naively bought into the weapons line. This is different and just on gerneral principles alone, as she just told Lou Dobbs.

Posted by: EH at October 4, 2005 7:57 PM | Permalink

How will this affect the general credibility of the NYT?
Strictly speaking, nobody told a lie in the pages of the paper about it, that we know about.
To rail about selective, missing, or late coverage may tell something valid, but it's a complicated issue and can be obfuscated.

Still, it's hard to shake the feeling, given what little we actually know, that the inmates are running the asylum. While we don't know that this means they are more prone to lying than before, it does indicate in an undifferentiated way that the professionals have left.

I don't read the NYT, being on a low-salt diet. As several folks have said here and there, they read the Times to see what they should be researching to see if it's true.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 4, 2005 8:57 PM | Permalink

"But Abrams said in an interview yesterday that Fitzgerald made a recent and important compromise. The prosecutor would narrow his questions to Libby, which he had not been willing to do when Abrams approached him about the idea last year. Sources close to Miller said she had numerous government sources she wanted to protect, but Libby was the only one relevant to the Plame investigation."

There is a lot of smoke around the story, and a lot of it is being blown. I think the truth is that the story being told isn't the real story. I don't think this was ever about Libby and whether the waivers were sufficiently personal. This was about to what extent the prosecutor was willing to limit his questioning. Judy, Saint or not, was always willing to 'give up' Libby. The real question is what is it she was willing to go to jail to not talk about. And the real question isn't what changed from Miller's perspective to get to leave jail now, but what changed in Fitzgerald's mind that he struck a deal to very narrowly limit the questioning now, when he wouldn't before. There was something else he wanted to question her about...and he is now willing to not question her about.


I see several possibilities. One is that Miller had other conversations with other people relevant to Plame. Keep in mind Miller was the recipient of a lot of leaks about WMD from the CIA in the run up to the war. Miller had a confidential source, that leaked other classified information who more than likely worked with pretty closely with Plame in WMDs. There is a strong possibility that Miller was either the one who linked Joe Wilson to Plame, or at least the conduit of that information onto the DC party circuit/journalist gossip network. The conversation with Libby isn't the interesting conversation to focus on from a getting to the bottom of the Plame situation.

Second, Fizgerald has a history with Miller. She twiced tipped off Terrorist Front Organizations/Islamic Charities that Fitzgerald was investigating that he had been issued a warrant before the warrants could be served. (Interestingly enough, this is also an illegal leak of secret Grand Jury testimony). Those 'charities' had the opportunity to sanitize anything that needed sanitizing before Fitzgerald could execute the warrant. I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on a blog, and I don't pretend to fully understand the limitations of a grand jury empanelled for one purpose to consider another case. Suffice it to say, I don't think Fitzgerald would be unhappy to see Miller sitting in prison for her actions in those situations. She blew an investigation with national security implications, twice, to get a comment on the warrant that was about to be served on them.

Posted by: blanknoone at October 4, 2005 10:13 PM | Permalink

"The longstanding corruption and favoritism inside the newsroom is now displayed for all to see ..."
Wasn't that also a major factor in the Jayson Blair mess?
It looks like there's a structural/corporate culture problem that isn't being addressed.

Posted by: ralph phelan at October 5, 2005 1:07 PM | Permalink

It is as if the top leaders have pulled up the gates and are separated by a moat from the outside world and any legal accountability for the actions of Miller, let alone any responsibility to readers on the story. In a real sense, the top command at the paper could, unwittingly, be aiding and abetting an obstruction of justice.

Which are exactly the arguments Wan Ho Lee's lawyers will make to compel testimony from Jeff Gerth; for there is another shoe to drop. The Miller case set a very dangerous precedent, if not legally than socially and politically. It showed a judged could put a journalist in jail and ordinary people would stand up and cheer. It is not just the NYT who has missed the significance of that.

The NYT is roughly in the same position as Arthur Anderson after the Waste Management scandal. Plenty of time to turn their situation around, but if there is another scandal it will be their Enron. Journalism is a lot like accounting. All you have is your credibility.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at October 5, 2005 10:53 PM | Permalink

The Miller case set a very dangerous precedent, if not legally than socially and politically. It showed a judged could put a journalist in jail and ordinary people would stand up and cheer. It is not just the NYT who has missed the significance of that.
Worth repeating...

Posted by: Sisyphus at October 6, 2005 11:01 AM | Permalink


Excellent post on Miller and the Times. I linked to it, and showcased it as a contrast to some thoughts on New Journalism at Dadmanly.

Incidentally, over at Debate Space, we kick around the "Liberal Bias" argument. Your readers may find that of interest as well. (If not completely sick of the conversation altogether.)

Posted by: Dadmanly at October 8, 2005 5:27 PM | Permalink

From the Intro