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
"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?
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?
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?
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.
PressThink: An Introduction
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The People Formerly Known as the Audience:
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The Master Narrative in Journalism: "Were 'winning' to somehow be removed or retired as the operating system for news, campaign reporting would immediately become harder to do, not because there would be no news, but rather no common, repeatable instructions for deciding what is a key development in the story, a turning point, a surprise, a trend. Master narratives are thus harder to alter than they are to apprehend. For how do you keep the story running while a switch is made?" More...
He Said, She Said Journalism: Lame Formula in the Land of the Active User "Any good blogger, competing journalist or alert press critic can spot and publicize false balance and the lame acceptance of fact-free spin. Do users really want to be left helpless in sorting out who's faking it more? The he said, she said form says they do, but I say decline has set in." More...
Users-Know-More-than-We-Do Journalism: "It's a "put up or shut up" moment for open source methods in public interest reporting. Can we take good ideas like... distributed knowledge, social networks, collaborative editing, the wisdom of crowds, citizen journalism, pro-am reporting... and put them to work to break news?" More...
Introducing NewAssignment.Net: "Enterprise reporting goes pro-am. Assignments are open sourced. They begin online. Reporters working with smart users and blogging editors get the story the pack wouldn't, couldn't or didn't." More...
What I Learned from Assignment Zero "Here are my coordinates for the territory we need to be searching. I got them from doing a distributed trend story with Wired.com and thinking through the results." More...
If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue: "Those in journalism who want to bring ethics to blogging ought to start with why people trust (some) bloggers, not with an ethics template made for a prior platform operating as a closed system in a one-to-many world." More...
The View From Nowhere: "Occupy the reasonable middle between two markers for 'vocal critic,' and critics look ridiculous charging you with bias. Their symmetrical existence feels like proof of an underlying hysteria. Their mutually incompatible charges seem to cancel each other out. The minute evidence they marshall even shows a touch of fanaticism." More...
Rollback: "This White House doesn't settle for managing the news--what used to be called 'feeding the beast'--because there is a larger aim: to roll back the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country." More...
Retreat from Empiricism: On Ron Suskind's Scoop: ""Realist, a classic term in foreign policy debates, and reality-based, which is not a classic term but more of an instant classic, are different ideas. We shouldn't fuzz them up. The press is capable of doing that because it never came to terms with what Suskind reported in 2004." More...
Karl Rove and the Religion of the Washington Press: "Savviness--that quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, 'with it,' and unsentimental in all things political--is, in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Karl Rove understood and exploited for political gain." More...
Journalism Is Itself a Religion: "We're headed, I think, for schism, tumult and divide as the religion of the American press meets the upheavals in global politics and public media that are well underway. Changing around us are the terms on which authority can be established by journalists. The Net is opening things up, shifting the power to publish around. Consumers are becoming producers, readers can be writers." More...
News Turns from a Lecture to a Conversation: "Some of the pressure the blogs are putting on journalists shows up, then, in the demand for "news as conversation," more of a back-and-forth, less of a pronouncement. This is an idea with long roots in academic journalism that suddenly (as in this year) jumped the track to become part of the news industry's internal dialogue." More...
Two Washington Posts May Be Better Than One: "They're not equals, but Washington and Arlington have their own spheres. Over the newspaper and reporting beats Len Downie is king. Over the website Jim Brady is sovereign. Over the userï¿½s experience no one has total control. There's tension because there's supposed to be tension." More...
Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die: "An industry that won't move until it is certain of days as good as its golden past is effectively dead, from a strategic point of view. Besides, there is an alternative if you don't have the faith or will or courage needed to accept reality and deal. The alternative is to drive the property to a profitable demise." More...
Grokking Woodward: "Woodward and Bernstein of 1972-74 didn't have such access, and this probably influenced--for the better--their view of what Nixon and his men were capable of. Watergate wasn't broken by reporters who had entree to the inner corridors of power. It was two guys on the Metro Desk." More...
Maybe Media Bias Has Become a Dumb Debate: "This here is a post for practically everyone in the game of seizing on media bias and denouncing it, which is part of our popular culture, and of course a loud part of our politics. And this is especially for the 'we're fair and balanced, you're not' crowd, wherever I may have located you." More...
Bill O'Reilly and the Paranoid Style in News: "O'Reilly feeds off his own resentments--the establishment sneering at Inside Edition--and like Howard Beale, the 'mad prophet of the airwaves,' his resentments are enlarged by the medium into public grievances among a mass of Americans unfairly denied voice." More...
Thoughts on the Killing of a Young Correspondent: "Among foreign correspondents, there is a phrase: 'parachuting in.' That's when a reporter drops into foreign territory during an emergency, without much preparation, staying only as long as the story remains big. The high profile people who might parachute in are called Bigfoots in the jargon of network news. The problem with being a Bigfoot, of course, is that it's hard to walk in other people's shoes." More...
The News From Iraq is Not Too Negative. But it is Too Narrow: "The bias charges are getting more serious lately as the stakes rise in Iraq and the election. But there is something lacking in press coverage, and it may be time for wise journalists to assess it. The re-building story has gone missing. And without it, how can we judge the job Bush is doing?." More...
The Abyss of Observation Alone. "There are hidden moral hazards in the ethic of neutral observation and the belief in a professional 'role' that transcends other loyalties. I think there is an abyss to observation alone. And I feel it has something to do with why more people don't trust journalists. They don't trust that abyss." More...
"Find Some New Information and Put it Into Your Post." Standards for Pro-Am Journalism at OffTheBus: "Opinion based on information 'everyone' has is less valuable than opinion journalism based on information that you dug up, originated, or pieced together. So it’s not important to us that contributors keep opinion out. What’s important is that they put new information in. More...
Out in the Great Wide Open: Maybe you heard about the implosion of Wide Open, a political blog started by the Cleveland Plain Dealer with four "outside" voices brought in from the ranks of Ohio bloggers: two left, two right. Twelve points you may not have seen elsewhere." More...
Some Bloggers Meet the Bosses From Big Media: "What capacity for product development do news organizations show? Zip. How are they on nurturing innovation? Terrible. Is there an entreprenurial spirit in newsrooms? No. Do smart young people ever come in and overturn everything? Never." More...
Notes and Comment on BlogHer 2005 "I think the happiest conference goers at BlogHer were probably the newbies, people who want to start blogging or just did. They got a lot of good information and advice. Some of the best information was actually dispensed in response to the fears provoked by blogging, which shouldnï¿½t be avoided, the sages said, but examined, turned around, defused, and creatively shrunk.." More...
Top Ten List: What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism? "The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas most of today's journalism comes out of the market economy." More...
A Second Top Ten List: What's Conservative About the Weblog Form in Journalism? "The quality of any weblog in journalism depends greatly on its fidelity to age old newsroom commandments like check facts, check links, spell things correctly, be accurate, be timely, quote fairly." More...
Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds: "Sure, weblogs are good for making statements, big and small. But they also force re-statement. Yes, they're opinion forming. But they are equally good at unforming opinion, breaking it down, stretching it out." More...
The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism "It's pirate radio, legalized; it's public access coming closer to life. Inside the borders of Blogistan (a real place with all the problems of a real place) we're closer to a vision of 'producer democracy' than we are to any of the consumerist views that long ago took hold in the mass media, including much of the journalism presented on that platform." More...
No One Owns Journalism: "And Big Media doesn't entirely own the press, because if it did then the First Amendment, which mentions the press, would belong to Big Media. And it doesn't. These things were always true. The weblog doesn't change them. It just opens up an outlet to the sea. Which in turn extends 'the press' to the desk in the bedroom of the suburban mom, where she blogs at night." More...
Brain Food for BloggerCon: Journalism and Weblogging in Their Corrected Fullness "Blogging is one universe. Its standard unit is the post, its strengths are the link and the low costs of entry, which means lots of voices. Jounalism is another universe. Its standard unit is "the story." Its strengths are in reporting, verification and access-- as in getting your calls returned." More...
Dispatches From the Un-Journalists: "Journalists think good information leads to opinion and argument. It's a logical sequence. Bloggers think that good argument and strong opinion cause people to seek information, an equally logical sequence. What do the bloggers bring to this? My short answer to the press is: everything you have removed."More...
Political Jihad and the American Blog: Chris Satullo Raises the Stakes "Journalists, you can stop worrying about bloggers 'replacing' the traditional news media. We're grist for their mill, says Satullo, a mill that doesn't run without us. Bloggers consume and extend the shelf life of our reporting, and they scrutinize it at a new level of intensity.."More...
Raze Spin Alley, That Strange Creation of the Press: "Spin Alley, an invention of the American press and politicos, shows that the system we have is in certain ways a partnership between the press and insiders in politics. They come together to mount the ritual. An intelligent nation is entitled to ask if the partners are engaged in public service when they bring to life their invention... Alternative thesis: they are in a pact of mutual convenience that serves no intelligible public good." More...
Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!: "How is it you know you're the press? Because you have a pass that says PRESS, and people open the gate. The locker room doors admit you. The story must be inside that gate; that's why they give us credentials. We get closer. We tell the fans what's going on. And if this was your logic, Bill James tried to bust it. Fellahs, said he to the baseball press, you have to realize that you are the gate." More...
Psst.... The Press is a Player: "The answer, I think, involves an open secret in political journalism that has been recognized for at least 20 years. But it is never dealt with, probably because the costs of facing it head on seem larger than the light tax on honesty any open secret demands. The secret is this: pssst... the press is a player in the campaign. And even though it knows this, as everyone knows it, the professional code of the journalist contains no instructions in what the press could or should be playing for?" More...
Die, Strategy News: "I think it's a bankrupt form. It serves no clear purpose, has no sensible rationale. The journalists who offer us strategy news do not know what public service they are providing, why they are providing it, for whom it is intended, or how we are supposed to use this strange variety of news."More...
He Said, She Said, We Said: "When journalists avoid drawing open conclusions, they are more vulnerable to charges of covert bias, of having a concealed agenda, of not being up front about their perspective, of unfairly building a case (for, against) while pretending only to report 'what happened.'" More...
If Religion Writers Rode the Campaign Bus: "Maybe irony, backstage peaking and "de-mystify the process" only get you so far, and past that point they explain nothing. Puzzling through the convention story, because I'm heading right into it myself, made me to realize that journalism's contempt for ritual was deeply involved here. Ritual is newsless; therefore it must be meaningless. But is that really true?."More...
Convention Coverage is a Failed Regime and Bloggers Have Their Credentials: "No one knows what a political convention actually is, anymore, or why it takes 15,000 people to report on it. Two successive regimes for making sense of the event have collapsed; a third has not emerged. That's a good starting point for the webloggers credentialed in Boston. No investment in the old regime and its ironizing." More...
Philip Gourevitch: Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat: "'A presidential election is a like a gigantic moving television show,' he said. It is the extreme opposite of an overlooked event. The show takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen by the Secret Service. If you go outside the bubble for any reason, you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand."More...
What Time is it in Political Journalism? "Adam Gopnik argued ten years ago that the press did not know who it was within politics, or what it stood for. There was a vacuum in journalism where political argument and imagination should be. Now there are signs that this absence of thought is ending." More...
Off the Grid Journalism: “The assignment was straightforward enough,” writes Marjie Lundstrom of the Sacramento Bee, “talk to people.” When a writer dissents from it or departs from it, the master narrative is a very real thing. Here are two examples: one from politics, one from music. More...
Questions and Answers About PressThink "The Web is good for many opposite things. For quick hitting information. For clicking across a field. For talk and interaction. It's also a depth finder, a memory device, a library, an editor. Not to use a weblog for extended analysis (because most users won't pick that option) is Web dumb but media smart. What's strange is that I try to write short, snappy things, but they turn into long ones." More...