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Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

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Read: Q & As

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Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

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Video: Have A Look

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Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

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If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

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Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

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Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

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 10, 2005

The Shimmer: Missing Data at the New York Times

"Whereas a week ago, I was calling it 'Judy Miller's New York Times' to emphasize how she seemed to be the actor-in-chief, I now think it's more than that: a bigger unknown is affecting things. Not only is the Times not operating properly, it's unable to say to readers: here's why we're not."

(New post alert, Oct. 14, The Hypothesis: Notes on the Judy Miller Situation; and Oct. 12: The Times at Bay: Armchair Critic Speculates)

When I talk about pictures in my mind I am talking, quite specifically, about images that shimmer around the edges. There used to be an illustration in every elementary psychology book showing a cat drawn by a patient in varying stages of schizophrenia. This cat had a shimmer around it. You could see the molecular structure breaking down at the very edges of the cat: the cat became the background and the background the cat, everything interacting, exchanging ions…. certain images shimmer for me. Look hard enough, and you can’t miss the shimmer. It’s there.
— Joan Didion

“The news comes in code, and mostly the silences speak.” Last week, that’s how I described what happens when the New York Times reports about Judith Miller and her time in jail. This is still the case, and people in journalism are noticing how weird it is. “I find the Times’ conduct at this point inexplicable,” said Michael Isikoff of Newsweek magazine on CNN’s Reliable Sources. (I was on the show with him; so was Glenn Reynolds. The transcript.)

The host, Howard Kurtz, pointed out that when Isikoff’s poorly sourced story on the desecration of the Koran ran in Newsweek, (see PressThink on it) the editors “did an investigation and set the record straight.” Has the New York Times “come close to doing that here?” he asked.

No, it hasn’t. And no one knows why. The official story seems to be: “Wait for the official story.” Until then, normal operations are suspended. We’re told that Miller is talking to the paper’s reporters, and a major article is on the way. We’re also told it’s been delayed. There is no date for it. The editors will barely talk about it. Meanwhile the story keeps heating up. As ABC’s The Note observed today (Oct. 10):

If you aren’t spending 90% of your waking time thinking about this, talking about this, and doodling on your jeans about this, then you aren’t a member of the Gang of 500, and you probably never will be.

The gang, of course, is the Washington press.

It was on Oct. 2, the Sunday after Judith Miller’s release from prison, that the lines went dead. Just when you thought its reporting might intensify—with Miller free, her testimony apparently completed— Times journalism fell away to almost nothing. Observing the absence of any coverage (or even horn-tooting commemoration) in the big Sunday paper, Arianna Huffington wrote, “Has the New York Times ceased journalistic operations?” A good question then, it’s become more apt since.

As I said on Reliable Sources, the paper “has lost the capacity to tell the truth about itself in this story.” (I also said it may yet recover.) What we don’t know is why the Times has gone into editorial default. Nor do we know when normal operations will be restored. The explanations given don’t make much sense. From what I have been able to learn, concerned journalists at the paper, former Times staffers, and peers in national journalism are as baffled, as alarmed as the bloggers and critics. And of course no Times person even thinks of going on-the-record with any doubts— a statement in itself.

But whereas a week ago, I was calling it “Judy Miller’s New York Times” to emphasize how she seemed to be the actor-in-chief, I now think it’s more than that: a bigger unknown is affecting things. There are missing data we don’t even sense yet. I wish I could say what “it” is, but I can’t because I don’t know enough.

What I know is in fragments.

Among them is the biggest new fact: The Times reported Oct. 7 that Judy Miller may have to talk to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald again. Not good for transparency.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said Ms. Miller had been cautioned by her lawyers not to discuss the substance of her grand jury testimony until Mr. Fitzgerald finished questioning her.

“We have launched a vigorous reporting effort that I hope will answer outstanding questions about Judy’s part in this drama,” Mr. Keller said. “This development may slow things down a little, but we owe our readers as full a story as we can tell, as soon as we can tell it.”

What combination of things prevents the New York Times from telling us more right now? Again we don’t know, and the Times isn’t telling. The only explanation we have is: “…the paper had been wary of revealing too much about the case for fear of compounding Ms. Miller’s legal problems.” It feels constrained because the Fitzgerald investigation goes on. Which works for why Miller is not divulging her testimony.

  • But would it explain why the columnists have been silent on the case since her release?
  • Would it tell us why the Times hasn’t covered the reaction and controversy in journalism circles over the terms of Miller’s release?
  • Does it make you curious that Keller has written no editor’s note about the glaring inability of the paper to tell us what it knows, or even do normal journalism?
  • Do you understand why none of the bosses in this photograph has gone on television to explain how the paper is handling the Miller case and what it sees as the lesson, the stakes? They know Charlie Rose’s table is waiting.
  • Now even if we could explain Keller’s reticence with “not making more trouble for Miller” (doesn’t make sense to me, but…); and even if we did understand why the columnists and media reporters and legal correspondents have fallen silent (doesn’t make sense to me, but…) we would still have to explain why the public editor, Byron Calame, whose whole job is to represent readers, sees no reason even to mention the matter in this Sunday’s column or at his web journal, which were invented for this very reason.

“I continue to watch developments in the Plame investigation with special interest,” Calame said in an e-mail to Salon. “If and when I have something to say, I will say it to the readers of the Times.” That makes no sense to me.

Even the fail safe mechanisms seem to have broken down. All the lessons in transparency that were learned after Jayson Blair have vanished from the building. Not only is the Times not operating properly, it’s unable to say to readers: here’s why we’re not operating properly. Meanwhile, Keller at a speech in Phoenix is dodging Miller questions, but dissing bloggers, the Wall Street Journal, Bill O’Reilly and the “journalism of assertion.” (And Arianna lets him have it.)

“They’re acting like the target of a scandal, ” said Glenn Reynolds in our Reliable Sources segment. “They’re not acting like the journalists who investigate a scandal.” True. The job of the editors is “to tell us what they know in the first instance, and they just haven’t been doing that.”

Like on Friday October 7, the day the Times told us Judy Miller was going back to talk with Fitzgerald again. It was the New York Observer that told us why. The Observer reported at its website that “lawyers for Miller have turned over an additional, previously unreported batch of notes on the New York Times reporter’s conversations with I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.”

These would be notes from a conversation she had about Joseph Wilson from before Wilson’s July 6, 2003 op-ed appeared. Why was she talking to Libby about Wilson before Wilson spoke out publicly in the Times? Perhaps because, as I noted in my July 16 post, Rollback, Wilson began his crusade by trying to leak his criticisms of the Bush White House— to Nick Kristof of the Times, among others. When that didn’t work he went public in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. Maybe Miller found out about Wilson from Kristof, or from the editorial pages as they negotiated for his article. Or maybe that’s crazy and would never happen.

The point is this is another area where the Times has left things opaque. It did report on the missing notes the next day, Oct. 8, and there too something strange happened. Follow this with me:

Let’s say the Times told readers about Miller returning to the grand jury so as to indicate why it could not yet reveal all in that “vigorous reporting effort” Keller has promised. And let’s say the Times withheld from readers the reason why she had to return (the discovery of the missing notes) so as not to run afoul of the prosecutor, who doesn’t want his possible targets learning what he’s learning. This make tactical sense, even though it puts the immediate interests of Judy Miller ahead of the immediate interests of Times readers— a problem throughout the case.

The New York Observer does not have such worries. It finds out about the notes and reveals their existence. The Times has to keeps its readers somewhat up to date, so the next day it reports on the notes in “me too” fashion. Under the principle of don’t anger the prosecutor by divulging future testimony it would report only what the Observer did, and no more. Is this what we find? No.

“The notes,” said the Observer, “could significantly change the time frame of Miller’s involvement with Libby.” But the Observer’s account was vague about when they were written (“possibly in May 2003” it said.) For the possible targets of the investigation, the “when” is critical. But the Times does not show that kind of reticence. Instead, reporter David Johnston spills a few beans:

The meeting is expected to focus on newly discovered notes compiled by Ms. Miller that refer to a conversation she had with Mr. Libby on June 25, 2003, according to a lawyer in the case who did not want to be named because Mr. Fitzgerald has cautioned against discussing the case. Until now, the only conversations known to have occurred between Ms. Miller and Mr. Libby were on July 8 and 12, 2003.

Is fixing the date consistent with playing it safe for Judy, and not wanting to piss off the prosecutor? Clearly not. It’s consistent with basic Times journalism, but then leaving the discovered notes out of the Oct. 7 account isn’t basic journalism, so what gives? We don’t know.

The Observer hints at the storm brewing:

The presence of the undisclosed set of notes comes as the Times is seeking to quell internal and external criticism over a lack of transparency in the Miller case. In today’s Times, executive editor Bill Keller said Miller’s potential return trip to meet with Fitzgerald could further delay the Times’ plans to publish an account of the Miller saga.

At this rate it’s hard to see that big article Keller promised appearing before Oct. 28, when Fitzgerald is expected to wrap up his investigation. (UPDATE: Keller’s upbeat memo to staff, Oct. 11.) One of the trickier parts of the “vigorous reporting effort” is that Keller is a major participant in the story he has ordered, and (apparently) placed all his chips upon.

Which is why Steve Lovelady of CJR Daily said Keller should recuse himself from the editing of it. We don’t know if he has; we know that Jonathan (“We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times”) Landman was assigned to oversee the reporting of the big explanatory article. I was told so by Times people, and so was the Observer:

Deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman, who has been tapped to edit the report, declined to discuss the state of the paper’s Miller reporting. “I’m not going to talk about it,” he said.

That’s typical. As is the way the Times has become unreliable in reporting on itself. Said Editor & Publisher on Oct. 8: “N.Y. Times’ Scooped Again, This Time on Miller’s Notes.” And where were Miller’s notes hiding? The New York Times knows, but it’s Michael Isikoff of Newsweek who tells on Oct. 9:

A notebook was discovered in the paper’s Washington bureau, reflecting a late June 2003 conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, about Wilson and his trip to Africa, says one of the lawyers.

That’s the Washington bureau, where (from what I’ve heard) they’re none too thrilled with Judy Miller and getting beaten on their own news. We need to know a lot more about this “discovery.” (See David Corn and the indefatigable Tom Maguire on it.) Sounds to me like it came from the Landman team, which is digging into what Miller was doing in June and July of 2003.

Greg Mitchell’s column, “The Case of the Missing Notebook,” asks many good questions; and he picks up on a point I made in News Comes in Code (See also Jane Hamsher.)

Why have the Times’ seven hard-hitting weekday opinion columnists remained virtually silent, pro or con, on their colleague Judith Miller throughout this ordeal? Conflicted? Afraid to appear disloyal? Or discouraged from commenting?

We have no answer to that. Times columnist Frank Rich—who writes about Washington scandals and earlier wrote about this one, as Stephen Spruiell reminds us—was also on “Reliable Sources” Sunday. Kurtz could have asked him: “Frank, why haven’t you written a column on Miller’s release and the questions left hanging?” But he didn’t. For certain Kurtz asked Bill Keller to appear on Sunday’s program, or to send another top editor. No dice. Again, it’s unclear why, since this would only help the Times.

I said in the “After” section of my last post that to begin to unravel the mystery of what’s going on here this Douglas Jehl story from July 27 is the starting point. It has a bland title: “Case of C.I.A. Officer’s Leaked Identity Takes New Turn.” The article compared the accounts of several reporters who had been entangled in the leak investigation. It said that a third source must exist, beyond Lewis Libby and Karl Rove. And it began an inquiry into a major unknown: what story was Judy Miller working on that would later bring her into Fitzgerald’s sights? We get a little information about it:

During that period, Ms. Miller was working primarily from the Washington bureau of The Times, reporting to Jill Abramson, who was the Washington bureau chief at the time, and was assigned to report for an article published July 20, 2003, about Iraq and the hunt for unconventional weapons, according to Ms. Abramson, who is now managing editor of The Times.

And then the door is shut, in a manner I have not seen before in a Times article. This to me is one of those “pictures that shimmer,” in Joan Didion’s phrase. Douglas Jehl of the Washington bureau presses the executive editor of the Times (his boss) for answers:

In e-mail messages this week, Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, and George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of the newspaper, declined to address written questions about whether Ms. Miller was assigned to report about Mr. Wilson’s trip, whether she tried to write a story about it, or whether she ever told editors or colleagues at the newspaper that she had obtained information about the role played by Ms. Wilson.

If we knew more about that moment it might take us to the bigger unknowns. Maybe Keller and Freeman’s refusals can be explained by the ongoing investigation, but then how would we account for Jehl’s discomforting questions? Why was Keller’s Washington bureau asking Keller questions that Keller refused to answer, and why did Keller’s Times run a story with a stonewalling Bill Keller featured in it? We have just the shimmer, the point where the cat becomes the background and the background the cat.

The investigation Jehl was undertaking apparently got stopped in July; now it has to re-start itself. One assumes this is what Landman and his reporters are doing. One hopes they understand how much of the newspaper’s reputation is in their hands. Political philosopher Peter Levine explains why in his commentary on my last post:

The implicit deal that the Times offers is this: We will cozy up to the power-brokers, but we will do it in your interests, so that we can keep you informed about their wheeling and dealing. When the Times becomes a power-broker itself, the deal comes into question. At that moment, the editors should understand that their whole justification is at stake, and they should rush to serve the public’s “right to know.” Failure to do so raises fundamental questions about the value of the New York Times that go far beyond any cases of misreporting or run-of-the-mill bias.

Exactly. People beyond the Times are starting to worry. I was watching in the green room when Gloria Borger of US News, sitting in Washington, “turned” to New York where Frank Rich was in the CNN studio: “I want to say to Frank,” she began. And a rare intensity came into her eyes. “We journalists who have been covering this story, we are all awaiting Judy Miller’s piece in The New York Times. We would like to read it, too.”

She pronounced the words slowly and gave him a look I would call imploring.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

This also ran at the Huffington Post.

Keller: Everything’s Under Control. His memo to Times staff (Oct. 11) is at the Poynter site.

As we’ve told readers, once her obligations to the grand jury are fulfilled, we intend to write the most thorough story we can of her entanglement with the White House leak investigation. It’s a complicated story involving a large cast, and it has required a meticulous reporting effort — in part to chase down and debunk some of the myths kicked up by the rumor mill.

Judy has talked to our reporters already about her legal battle, but the story is incomplete until we know as much as we can about the substance of her evidence, and she is under legal advice not to discuss that until her testimony is completed. This may be frustrating to our armchair critics, and it is frustrating to all of us, but it is not unusual even for this investigation.

Read the rest of Keller’s note. The Times article about Miller’s second day of testimony is up. Nothing startling in it, but it corrects Michael Isikoff’s placement of Miller’s belatedly found notes. He reported them found in DC; they were in Manhattan.

Ms. Miller’s meeting with the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, focused on notes that she found in the Times newsroom in Manhattan after her appearance before the grand jury on Sept. 30. She took the notes during a conversation on June 23, 2003, with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, there are new details from Garbriel Sherman in the New York Observer, who is far ahead on this story.

Newsweek reported this week that the new material had been found at The Times’ Washington bureau. That struck many as odd, since Ms. Miller doesn’t really work out of the Washington bureau. Washington bureau staffers said that they were unaware of any notes turning up on their turf.

“She’s not been here since her confinement,” a Washington bureau staffer said. “We’ve been left out of this story, and then suddenly it seemed like the bureau was involved, when in fact we weren’t.”

A lawyer familiar with the case said the new material came from Ms. Miller’s own notebook, turned over by her legal team.

Sounds to me like Miller’s lawyers misled Isikoff. Or he screwed up. But that’s speculation. Read the rest.

Howard Kurtz, saying he’s “a little more sympathetic than some of the critics,” joins the case of the missing Times journalism in his Media Notes column, Oct. 12:

The newsgathering mission of the Times—the responsibility to report aggressively on a story about the outing of a CIA operative that has reached the highest levels of the White House—has collided with the understandably human need to protect its reporter. In such a circumstance, the journalism must come first. Judy Miller is free to either talk to the Times or not talk to the Times about what she knows, but the paper’s editors should disclose what they know, and as soon as they possibly can.

Keller reminded Kurtz that the Times has a “good track record of reporting on itself,” as with the Jayson Blair trauma. So it deserves the benefit of the doubt.

“It’s time to come clean.” So says Rem Rieder, longtime editor of American Journalism Review, rising from his armchair to tell Keller he isn’t buying. (Oct. 12, Web-only special):

The New York Times has been extremely reticent on the subject. And each passing day it does more damage to its credibility.

It’s impossible to imagine the Times being so silent on any other story of this magnitude. Of course, the paper and its controversial reporter are at the heart of the story. That can make covering it embarrassing and painful.

It also makes it essential.

Rieder says the Times is “back in old-school mode, ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away. But that just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you’re not sure, ask Dan Rather.” Someone should.

It’s an armchair insurrection! EditorsWeblog (an internationl forum) sees danger: “The truth will eventually come out. If it is not read first from the pages of the New York Times, there will be grave consequences for the credibility of the Gray Lady.”

Steve Lovelady, now im his armchair days at CJR Daily, but previously in the hot seat as managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, says in comments (Oct. 11):

Keller, who is well aware of the discontent among his own staff at the Times’ silence on this case, sent [the] memo to all newsroom employees at 6:46 this evening. His wording makes it fairly clear that the Times is still dancing to the tune dictated by Bob Bennett, one of Miller’s lawyers. (Key distinction: Bennett is a criminal lawyer; Floyd Abrams, Miller’s earlier lawyer, is a First Amendment lawyer.)

Arianna Huffington gets calls:

There are three Times reporters working on the promised “thorough story”: Don Van Natta, who intimately knows Washington, on the investigative side, Adam Liptak on the legal side, and Janny Scott doing the actual writing. “This is Topic A on 43rd Street,” a Times source tells me. “It’s the only thing anyone is talking about. And everyone is waiting on pins and needles.” A sign of the growing nervousness is that, in private conversations, Jill Abramson, who was Miller’s editor on her WMD stories, is now “trying to distance herself from the whole thing”.

Editor & Publisher Allan Wolper: How Judith Miller Lost My Support. His perspective hasn’t been explored much. Admirers of her decision to go to jail are mystified that she ended her civil disobedience, turned over her notes and testified. See also Josh Marshall on it.

Someone with shall we say an interest in the case e-mailed me with this question: how can the Libby Waiver that Judy Miller won apply to the new notes discovered from June? Didn’t the aspens-are-turning letter only apply to the July conversations?

You have to read Chris Lydon of Open Source Radio in the comments. “For hungry hounds of news and for ‘the rising generation,’ in the late Times saint James Reston’s phrase, the Times will never again be ‘the paper of record,’ as we used to call it, or the first draft of history.”

Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, e-mails PressThink (Oct. 11): “I did indeed ask Keller if he or an editor of his choosing would come on the show, and he declined.” Mystifying decision (for now…)

And for the sluether in you: See Mark Kleiman channeling Jane Hamsher: Patrick Fitzgerald’s Mousetrap. Posits that Fitzgerald caught Miller committing perjury. But also see Talk Left’s Jeralyn Merrit, Judy Miller and Her June Notes.

That same Jeralyn Merrit comments on my last entry, where I said the Times had slipped behind the Washington Post:

I think when Fitzgerald’s investigation is over, and it becomes clear that Judith Miller didn’t go to jail because she is Saint Judy, protecting the First Amendment rights of journalists everywhere, but to protect her own career and sources, so no one would learn just how embedded she is with the Bush Admininstration, the Times will face a choice. It can continue to stand by Judy and settle for being Avis instead of Hertz. Or it can acknowledge the errors of its ways, promise to reform and try to work its way back to being number one.

Psst… Author and former FEED editor Steven Johnson is joining the NYU Journalism faculty. Very exciting news. Welcome SBJ. He wrote Everything Bad Is Good For You.

Mickey Kaus at Slate on the Times columnists remaining mute about Judy Miller:

Is this eerie collective silence the product of direct censorship or self-censorship? And if it’s self-censorship, as is likely, isn’t that worse? If you avoid saying things you think might annoy the boss, you may avoid saying more things than if the boss makes it clear, through direct communication, what actually annoys him and what doesn’t. That’s one reason there was more self-censorship when I worked at Newsweek under the benign, tolerant and non-interfering Katharine Graham than at the New Republic under the contentious and opinionated Martin Peretz. You never worried that Marty might be privately upset with you.

Jeff Jarvis in The Guardian (Oct. 10): “The internet is changing the nature of secrets.”

In a post called Dramatic Tension, Billmon speculates that before long Judy Miller and the New York Times will divorce. I agree with that. I think it is very likely she has written her last article for the Times, although the editors may allow her a first person thing about her ordeal. He also points to a passage that struck me, too. It’s from Sydney Schanberg’s piece in the Village Voice calling on Miller to “come clean.”

Even her supporters are asking for answers. On September 30, one of her most stalwart admirers, Lucy Dalglish, director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, was asked during an online chat hosted by The Washington Post: “So what are the three biggest mysteries/questions that YOU would like Judy Miller to explain?” At the top of her list, Dalglish put this question: “Was Scooter Libby your source for information about Valerie Plame, or were you HIS source?”

Some doodler at a conference drew this picture of me. Caught a break: I’m wearing pants.

Here’s how “emptywheel” at The Next Hurrah gets started in an Oct. 9 post, Jill Abramson, What Was Judy Working on in July 2003?

Those who have been following me following Judy Miller for a while will know that I am obsessed with learning about Judy’s status in July (and June, as it turns out) when the whole Plame thing was developing.

Study note to edu-bloggers, especially Will Richardson (and users at weblogg-ed) and Jenny D and her crowd. Look into emptywheel’s phrase, “obsessed with learning about…” and the proof of that: the post itself. I think it tells us something about blogging “into” public argument and The News. Blogging as stylized learning, done out of a personal obsession with public fact. In this case: Judy’s status in July (and June…) Read how “the NYT has backed themselves into a corner…” Fascinating, and funny. Highly recommended.

Earlier at PressThink (on the leak investigation and the press):

  • Time for Robert Novak to Feel Some Chill (July 7): “As the judge said Judy Miller can escape her jail cell by finally choosing to talk, so could Novak restore his column and TV appearances by finally talking about his part in the story. Novak is said to have lots of friends in the press. Friends would let him know the time is here.”
  • Rollback (July 16): “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.”
  • Why Robert Novak Stormed Off the Set. (Aug. 5): “Old Novak rules: sorry fellas, can’t talk. New rules: Novak chooses. This, I believe, is the cause of what happened on air. The legitimacy of Novak’s exemption from questioning had collapsed earlier in the week. Ed Henry was ready with that news. Novak was not ready to receive it.”
  • Judith Miller and Her Times (Oct. 2): “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.”
  • News Comes in Code: Judy Miller’s Return to the Times (Oct. 4): “Just one man’s opinion, but now is a good time to say it: The New York Times is not any longer—in my mind—the greatest newspaper in the land. Nor is it the base line for the public narrative that it once was. Some time in the last year or so I moved the Washington Post into that position…”
  • The Times at Bay: Armchair Critic Speculates (Oct. 12): “Everything has to wait until the moment when Judy ‘can be expected to tell what happened,’ as Landman so carefully put it. When it comes and she still refuses the hierarchy will turn a whiter shade of pale. Key people will then know their investment in Miller went terribly wrong.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 10, 2005 9:19 PM   Print



I really appreciate your continuing focus on this story.

That said, there is another media blackout story right now I think deserves your attention as well. An Oklahoma University student blew himself up outside of a huge football game with a suicide bomb. Why he did this, what his goal was, who his accomplices if any were, etc, would appear to be issues of import to everyone in this country. It is known that he tried to buy a large quantity of explosive fertilizer but was rebuffed.

This story has not been covered as far as I can tell in national mainstream media. Conservative weblogs, who are covering it, are therefore engaging in self-congratulations.

Posted by: Marc Siegel at October 10, 2005 11:59 PM | Permalink

For those who would like to ask the executive editor of Jay's new favorite paper how he might handle similar events differently, he'll be available for questioning this Wednesday. Still waiting for the online chat with Bill Keller...

Posted by: erik at October 11, 2005 12:10 AM | Permalink

... although, to be fair, he doesn't seem to be interested in commenting either, according to E&P.

Still, if he gets enough submissions, maybe he'll take a whack at it. It certainly seems more likely that we'll hear something from him before we do from the Times, eh?

Posted by: erik at October 11, 2005 12:14 AM | Permalink

I'll offer some SPECULATION about the reason for the Times silence (although it does not explain the columnists).

Go back to the court process - Judy Miller, Matt Cooper and TIME Inc. were subpoenaed separately; the theory was that TIME had electronic possession of some relevant e-mails.

However, the NY Times Co. was not a fourth respondent - they had persuaded Fitzgerald, or a judge, that they had nothing to subpoena, and that all relevant notes were Judy's responsibility.

Fine. But now, immediately after she testifies, new notes emerge in the Washington Bureau.

Did she find them herself, or had they been in the Times possession? And if so, does that mean the Times had misled the court when it wiggled out of the subpoena? Had the Times been keeping this a dirty little secret until her release, figuring they would set it right then?

I'm just guessing, of course - quite possibly Judy was still legal custodian of the notes even though they may have been physically in the Times Washington Bureau (per Isikoff).

However - if the Times has been sitting on this to avoid a subpoena (and other penalties?), there silence becomes a bit more understandable - maybe almost any internal reporting they would have done would have led straight to that point.

I am very weak on the legal status of Judy Miller's notes, although I have seen stuff written about it (private contractor versus employee, IIRC). The WSJ had this:

Time Inc. technically owned an electronic file that contained Mr. Cooper's notes, he says. As a result, the parent company could potentially be held in contempt of court and forced to pay large fines if its magazine and reporter didn't cooperate.

Ms. Miller, by contrast, apparently kept personal possession of her notes, and the Times's view is that it never had them.

"Personal possession"?

Posted by: Tom Maguire at October 11, 2005 12:24 AM | Permalink

Things that may be in play: Bill Keller is a lousy executive editor, witnessed by, among many things, his reluctance to look back at the paper's (Miller's) historically bad reporting on and editorial treatment of Iraq prior to his ascension; the paper's two biggest investigative stars, Jeff Gerth and Judy Miller, have between them churned out a decade's worth of stories that were either bent or broken and in some instances, as with Gerth's persecution of Wen Ho Lee and Miller's Iraq stenography, had horrific consequences; Miller may be a subject of the Fitzgerald investigation as much as she is a witness for it, and she may have sucked Keller or other editors into it; Gail Collins backed the paper into a corner with her incessant whining about Miller, and if Miller's involvement in the case is proving to be more substantial than simply covering for a source, the paper faces a multi-dimensional nightmare; Bill Keller is a lousy executive editor.

It's also worth noting, I think, that the attorney who got Miller into jail, Floyd Abrams, is a constitutional law legend who often represents the paper, while the attorney who got her out of jail, Bob Bennett, is a criminal law legend who has previously defended clients targeted by special prosecutors (Caspar Weinberger and Bill Clinton among them) and has, so far as I can learn, never represented the paper.

Jay, you called it right in your previous column: it has become Judy's paper. I think Keller and others may just very recently have realized that Miller's interests and the paper's diverged some time ago, and they're trying to figure out how to get out from under her, as it were.

Here's a prediction: before this is over, Bill Keller and Gail Collins will both be out of a job, and Byron Calame will be wondering why he still has one.

Posted by: weldon berger at October 11, 2005 1:08 AM | Permalink

My guess? It went off in their hands.

The concerted attempt to Get Bush has turned into a frenzy of ill-considered actions, and this one is a beaut. We all know that some secrets are kept for unethical reasons, but there are real secrets, too, and how do you tell the difference before they're loose?

If a Government employee is lured into espionage, delivering secrets to a third party, that party is a spy. The law they think Fitzgerald is working from makes an exception -- it only allows prosecution of the Government employee; the civilian who receives the information is held blameless. But what if he's working from other statutes as well? If he is, and those are older... they may well not distinguish between "journalists" and other receivers of illicit information.

And if that's the case -- anything that will discomfit Libby or Rove will put the entire Times Washington Bureau in Leavenworth, and do a pretty fair sweep of the home office, don't you think? Espionage is a fairly serious deal, as the Left has been shouting for months about this case. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Circumstantial corroboration: have you noticed that "press shield" laws are being mentioned again? Not for the scabby old bloggers, of course, but for the "real" journalists. Such as Times reporters, just coincidentally.

They spun Sandy Berger into a half-hero. They may not be able to spin this, but they have to try. Thus the silence.

We'll see.


Posted by: Ric Locke at October 11, 2005 1:09 AM | Permalink

Jay, what would happen if you contacted Byron Calame and asked him directly, why he wasn't addressing the Miller case? Is the answer likely to be interesting?

It's standard behavior for columnist A to speculate publicly *about* columnist B's motivations and actions, but wouldn't the readers be better served if A asked B directly, and incorporated B's response (or stonewalling) into the column?

What cultural taboos keep columnist A from doing this? Should they be respected, or resisted?

Posted by: Anna Haynes at October 11, 2005 1:28 AM | Permalink

Filed under "How Is That Working Out" is this anecdote from Wilson's "Politics of Truth", p. 355:

En route, down a long windowless corridor [inside the Times building] with offices on either side, doors sporting the names of Times writers, we ran into veteran Timesman Robert Semple. David [Shipley] explained that I was "the one who wrote the article on what he didn't find in Africa," and Semple, turning to me, said, "So, you're the one who turned our paper around." The Times had been mired in the scandal surrounding Jayson Blair, the fraudulent journalist whose reporting had been questioned by a number of colleagues.

Turned it around.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at October 11, 2005 1:29 AM | Permalink

Ric, you may have missed this, but the New York Times has been out of favor with liberals for about a decade and a half now, and liberals have been extremely critical of Miller and the Times with respect to the Fitzgerald investigation. And even though it seems unlikely that the paper's Washington bureau has much of anything to do with the investigation beyond having to have suffered Miller's presence, you won't find anyone on the left weeping if anyone at the paper is found to have colluded with the White House on the leak or any of the possible ancillary crimes and is punished for doing so, and that applies particularly to the editorial management.

You should probably also take note of the fact that supporters of a federal shield law include Republicans Dick Lugar, Arlen Specter and Lindsey Graham, among others, in the Senate, and the extremely conservative Mike Pence in the House.

Posted by: weldon berger at October 11, 2005 1:46 AM | Permalink

Here is this interesting link about the NYT

Posted by: Censor Furtado at October 11, 2005 1:59 AM | Permalink

Here is this interesting link Here">">Here is this interesting link

Posted by: Censor Furtado at October 11, 2005 2:02 AM | Permalink

The Times 'out of favor with liberals'? Its a laughing stock to conservatives. By your accounts nobody is reading it... oh wait circulation down 30 percent.

Posted by: red at October 11, 2005 8:03 AM | Permalink

Mr. Berger,

Oh, I've sort of come arouund to your way of thinking in the last few weeks; Jay and the commenters here have helped. The Times's attitude derives much less from "liberalism" than from cultural chauvinism, the sloppiness inherent in having been the Big Dog for too long, and jealousy -- Those People In Washington have a President's head on their wall, and the Times doesn't and desperately wants one (or the equivalent). The political orientation of the staffers just picks the target, is all.


Posted by: Ric Locke at October 11, 2005 8:20 AM | Permalink

Peter Levine:

The implicit deal that the Times offers is this: We will cozy up to the power-brokers, but we will do it in your interests, so that we can keep you informed about their wheeling and dealing. When the Times becomes a power-broker itself, the deal comes into question. At that moment, the editors should understand that their whole justification is at stake, and they should rush to serve the public’s “right to know.” Failure to do so raises fundamental questions about the value of the New York Times that go far beyond any cases of misreporting or run-of-the-mill bias.

Jay Rosen: This is exactly right.

Hm. Jay Rosen is coming to realize that the implications of major media outlets presenting the news with an eye to what political party will benefit (aka 'being a power-broker') is cause for serious concern... and furthermore, that such a thing is not just a strictly theoretical possibility that only right-wing cranks take seriously.

Congratulations, Jay. For what it's worth, you have gone up in my estimation.

Now, please consider the possibility that this is not a recent development.

Posted by: rosignol at October 11, 2005 8:26 AM | Permalink

so no one would learn just how embedded she is with the Bush Admininstration (sic.)

Please. Does anyone truly believe that if the NYT had any info in it's procession that was damaging to BushCo it would not be page 1 above the fold?

The possibility that anyone at the Times is 'embedded' with the administration is laughable.

The fact that you are not seeing it on page 1 is the clearest indication that whatever they have is more damaging to Wilson etc. than Bush or anyone close to him.

Posted by: OCSteve at October 11, 2005 8:28 AM | Permalink

Tom Maguire et al:
There is nothing "technical" about the ownership of a reporter's notes. Notes -- and, for that matter, the Rolodex or Outlook contacts file that helped produce them -- are part of a reporter's work product. The reporter's employer owns that work product.

Only unsophisticated news managers leave disputed notes in a reporter's hands. Unless, as many of you have been speculating, something bigger is in play.

It's interesting speculation, but -- given all the fumbles in recent NYT experience -- my money is on simple, old-fashioned, unsophistication.

Posted by: Mike Phillips at October 11, 2005 9:24 AM | Permalink

To move ahead a bit:

Remember Ray Donovan's question?

"Where do I go to get my reputation back?"

How does the NYT recover? What, in practical terms, can they do?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 11, 2005 9:28 AM | Permalink

Calame's silence on this issue is indicative of the extent of the corruption of the Times. Its one thing for TImes columnists to decide not to write about Plame and the Times --- its their perogative to make that decision.

But its Calame's job to address these issues, and his silence on them is telling. Calame's obsession over whether Krugman accurately described the results of the media recounts of the Florida ballots suggests that he is not there to function as an ombudsman, but merely as a sop to the right-wing critics of the times. (Given that Krugman is a columnist and his statement is factually defensible even if right-wingers disagree with it, there is simply no reason for Calame to be raking Krugman over the coals on the issue.)

Calame is making Okrent, who was more an apologist for the Times than an ombudsman, look like the soul of independence, and turning the experiment in transparency that the ombudsman's office represented into a dismal failure. The jury is still out to some extent on Keller, and whether there is some justification for his actions, but given Calame's failure to do his job in this instance, he should be the first person at the Times to lose his job.

Posted by: ami at October 11, 2005 9:39 AM | Permalink

I think this has little to do with Rove Libby Plame, and much to do with her attempt to keep clear of an indictment for tipping off the Islamic charity that they would be raided by the FBI the next day.

Posted by: Simon Kenton at October 11, 2005 9:46 AM | Permalink

I agree with Rick.

It looks like a work accident.

My guess is that when it all comes out in the wash the Times will have done serious damage, perhaps unrepairable, to their reputation.

Suppose they tried to throw the election?

Their behavior looks guilty. Of what? I have stated my suspicions. Now all I can do is wait.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 11, 2005 10:13 AM | Permalink

Sorry Ric,

Spelling was never my strong point.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 11, 2005 10:33 AM | Permalink

The other Simon has a good point too.

Suppose the Times has been covering for a breach of national security. Uh, oh.

BTW Deborah Roe on WLS has taken on the OK suicide story and it is getting buzz.

My first mate who is an avid MSM fan was surprised that this story isn't getting national coverage. She first heard of it last night on the radio. With a son away at college it has her worried.

As an avid blog fan of course it is old news to me.

Another embarassment for old media? Odds are.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 11, 2005 10:39 AM | Permalink

“We journalists who have been covering this story, we are all awaiting Judy Miller’s piece in The New York Times. We would like to read it, too.”

Jay, why doesn't the media apply the same intense scrutiny to the NYTs that they would to business/government? If a politician or company was hiding from public scrutiny, the cascade of media coverage would force them out into the open. You teach journalistic ethics(?) - is there some unwritten code that prevents other outlets from turning the screws to a major newspaper?

Posted by: Fen at October 11, 2005 10:42 AM | Permalink

The Miller news is giving all of them fits to print.

Posted by: Bob Holmgren at October 11, 2005 11:10 AM | Permalink

For those in search of the news that the NYT declines to cover (obviously on the advice of its many lawyers) go directly to Jane Hamsher as she and her staff of legal professionals have many of the answers and ALL of the questions re: Judy.

The NYT is not a newspaper. It's a propaganda device, with a few decent writers (Paul Krugman, Frank Rich Dave Kehr, Manola Dargis, Tony Scott) as fig-leaves.

Weldon, be prepared for Jeff Gerth to call you up and scream at you over the phone at the crack of dawn as he did to me last year when I wrote my critique of unnamed sourcing that, in passing, found his Wen Ho Lee tales, uh. . .wanting

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at October 11, 2005 11:12 AM | Permalink

I am probably not the first one to mention this, but what the heck.
The NYT's enthusiasm for this escapade waned precipitously once they discovered the law in question is not the Philip Agee law, but a broader one.
Now, instead of being on the way to getting Bush via Rove and/or Libby, the basilisk gaze is looking AT THEM!

"Work accident." Terrific phrasing.

Posted by: RichardAubrey at October 11, 2005 11:15 AM | Permalink

If a Government employee is lured into espionage, delivering secrets to a third party, that party is a spy.

If this is the administration's new talking point, I predict it will go over like a lead ballon in the greater Washington community. A significant number of the labor force has a security clearence; they keept their secrets and they expect the White House staff to do likewise.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at October 11, 2005 11:15 AM | Permalink

Alice, as a one-time holder of a Secret clearance, I agree with you that those worker bees who have clearances could be outraged.
Their outrage in past cases has led to...what, exactly?

Posted by: RichardAubrey at October 11, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink

There has never been a case like this.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at October 11, 2005 1:49 PM | Permalink

I think there are many things to critique about the Times and certainly this case is among them--but is it *the* thing that trumps all other things? Or is it more important as an NYT bellweather?

Finally, all the attention on Miller distracts somewhat from Fitzgerald. When he finally does come out with his indictments (if there are any)--I hope the blog-world doesn't allow its various prejudices and disdains for the NYT, Miller, the Bush crowd, etc. (depending on one's favorite end of the political spectrum) to blind it to prosecutorial over-reaching if there is any. In the end, we should really fear prosecutions of people in government for telling journalists about what is going on in government--whether that is Bush admin officials ratting out Wilson or Wilson ratting out Bush admin officials.

Papers come and go, but a chill can last a long, long time.

Posted by: Lee Kane at October 11, 2005 2:22 PM | Permalink

M Simon" Suppose they tried to throw the election?"

what do you mean suppose? I thought it was pretty clear that they made their best attempts to put their guy into the White House. Al Qaqa ring a bell?

The "paper of record" has a pretty long history of ignoring stories that don't jive with the talking points they are disseminating. Many times I find myself reading through a story that for all purposes could have been written by the DNC as a talking point memo. How short our memories are that the Times refused for well over 3 weeks to report on the Gloria Wise-Air America money scam even though it happened right in its backyard. And when it did manage to put its might pen to paper, it was buried with a misleading headline in the local section.

While the Times may have a juggernaut of weight in its past reputation and its ability to marshal tremendous resources (when it wants to), its internal biases have betrayed the entire concept of what journalism was, to report Who, Why, How, What, and When.

Posted by: Gabriel Chapman at October 11, 2005 2:42 PM | Permalink

Alice. Strictly speaking, you're right. The folks involved weren't named Plame and Wilson.
But, as a former holder of a secret clearance--comes with the Infantry commission--I will say there were.
Perhaps I'm glad nobody got too upset about it because, it is barely possible, the lack of fuss kept the bad guys from picking up on it.
A lot of stuff came out of the arms control negotiations during the Cold War. Perhaps it would have been declassified shortly after whichever treaty was signed took effect. I didn't like it, but finding out what, say, Carter was trying to give away was interesting.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 11, 2005 3:16 PM | Permalink

Hi, Jay.
I'm glad you are continuing to ask questions.
I wrote up this piece where I tried to sort out what is what and expressed my disappointment with the Times.
I wrote it hoping to agree with Derek and disagree with you about the Times but ended up frustrated and disappointed in the Times.

Anyway one person there asked me to write more on this but it seems like the more I, you and others write the more we don't know and the more the public is confused.
Frustrating, no?

I'd be curious what you think of this British piece on the issue? To me it seems more spot on than many other accounts I've read.

I still wish Robert Novak would be held to the fire since his actions seem more out of line and questionable than Miller's but the refusal of both to answer key questions is very frustrating.

Posted by: Scott Butki at October 11, 2005 4:11 PM | Permalink

P.S. This is off-topic but I'd be curious what you think of David Frost joining Al-Jazeera?

As Control Room shows the network is much better than it was portrayed as by the Bush administration and now I wonder if it'll get more U.S. acceptance

Posted by: Scott Butki at October 11, 2005 4:27 PM | Permalink

The ONLY explanation for NYT's behaviour is that they fear to be indicted as a company and some editors in person.

They propaganded an agression war, hey yes, that is a crime under Nuremberg rules, and they did know they propaganded it.

To shut up a paper like this you nead lawyers to tell them to shut up like this. These lawyers may even know a bit about what might be coming to the NYT.

Posted by: B at October 11, 2005 4:53 PM | Permalink

Oh I don't buy that they are worried about legal problems.
I think they just know how bad this makes them look and are freaking out about it and running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

The sad part is the credibility of the other good journalists is going to go down the toilet as long as the Times doesn't know what to do with Miller.

Speaking of which what beat are they going to put Miller on?

Considering she was getting visits in jail from John Roberts and others it hardly seems appropriate to keep her on a government beat.

Posted by: Scott Butki at October 11, 2005 5:22 PM | Permalink

Where is Daniel Okrent now that we REALLY need him?

Posted by: Stu Bloom at October 11, 2005 5:57 PM | Permalink

Last I heard, Matt Cooper was still on the WH beat. There appears to be no such thing as "conflict of interest" at the elite level of journalism.

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 11, 2005 6:02 PM | Permalink

"Not only is the Times not operating properly, it’s unable to say to readers: here’s why we’re not operating properly. "

Even that I can forgive. Sometimes it's just impossible to talk about something without risking giving something away.

What I find creepily Orwellian, and is most damaging in my eyes (but also most typical) is that they won't even *admit* that they're not operating normally.

"We can't talk about it, and we can't even talk about why we can't talk about it. Sorry," would be frustrating but honest. Just pretending it's not even happening is dysfunctional crazy.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at October 11, 2005 6:31 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen:

If Novak says he can’t talk until the case is over, then he shouldn’t be allowed to publish or opine on the air until the case is over. He should know the rage some of his colleagues feel. Claiming to be “baffled” by Novak’s behavior may have been plausible for a while. With reporter Judith Miller now sitting in jail, and possibly facing criminal charges later, “baffled” is sounding lame.
We do not know enough to say of Novak, “he should be the one in jail.” But we do know enough to keep him off the air and the op ed pages until he makes a fuller statement. (Times editorial: “Like almost everyone, we are baffled by his public posture.”) It may be that he betrayed the principles for which his colleague Judy Miller is in jail. The editor who decides to drop Novak’s column until such time as he explains himself would be listening to the voice of professional conscience, in my view.
Any second thoughts on Novak's reticence given the reticence of the entire NYT?

When should we demand that the NYT stop publishing until they explain themselves?

Posted by: Sisyphus at October 11, 2005 6:57 PM | Permalink

Hi Jay. I get it. And here's a thought: if the unwashed can speak as well, as carefully, with as much obsession as any journalist or other elite, then does that elevate the masses or lower the elite? Or increase the number of elites?

Does it mean I'll get to spend a weekend at the St. Regis?

Posted by: JennyD at October 11, 2005 7:32 PM | Permalink

Keller, who is well aware of the discontent among his own staff at the Times' silence on this case, sent the following memo to all newsroom employees at 6:46 this evening.
His wording makes it fairly clear that the Times is still dancing to the tune dictated by Bob Bennett, one of Miller's lawyers. (Key distinction: Bennett is a criminal lawyer; Floyd Abrams, Miller's earlier lawyer, is a First Amendment lawyer.)

To: [New York Times newsroom]
From: Bill Keller
Subject: Judy Miller Update

To the Staff:

Judy met this afternoon with the special counsel to hand over additional notes and answer questions. She is to return to the grand jury Wednesday to supplement her earlier testimony. We'll be reporting this in the paper, of course. It means that for a couple more days she remains under a contempt-of-court order, and is not yet clear of legal jeopardy.

As we've told readers, once her obligations to the grand jury are fulfilled, we intend to write the most thorough story we can of her entanglement with the White House leak investigation. It's a complicated story involving a large cast, and it has required a meticulous reporting effort -- in part to chase down and debunk some of the myths kicked up by the rumor mill.

Judy has talked to our reporters already about her legal battle, but the story is incomplete until we know as much as we can about the substance of her evidence, and she is under legal advice not to discuss that until her testimony is completed. This may be frustrating to our armchair critics, and it is frustrating to all of us, but it is not unusual even for this investigation. Matt Cooper of Time wrote about his conversation with his source, Karl Rove, only after his cooperation with the special counsel was completed and the contempt citation had been vacated. Other reporters who have testified -- Walter Pincus, Glenn Kessler and, of course, Robert Novak -- have not disclosed the details of their grand jury testimony to this day.

To be continued...


Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 11, 2005 7:47 PM | Permalink

if the unwashed can speak as well, as carefully, with as much obsession as any journalist or other elite, then does that elevate the masses or lower the elite? Or increase the number of elites?

No. It means the talent for obsession is evenly spread across the population.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 11, 2005 7:48 PM | Permalink

This storyline is only surprising to those who didn't follow the Hutton Inquiry. The pattern of corporate -- make that guild -- behavior, BBC and NYT, border on the identical.

Posted by: DR Peck at October 11, 2005 7:57 PM | Permalink

Good to see Novak make a cameo appearance in this thread. The other journalist who has testified but hasn't deigned to perform his professional responsibilities as a reporter is Tim Russert.

Sulzberger is another Times figure who needs to step out from the shadows. It would seem to be the publisher's call for the Times to align itself so closely with Miller's interests. Does Keller know anything Sulzberger doesn't? Why would Sulzberger tolerate that? Editors come and go, but the Sulzberger clan is seemingly forever.

The list of questions continues to outstrip our knowledge.

Posted by: Mark Paul at October 11, 2005 8:42 PM | Permalink

I saw both Sysiphus's comment and Steve Lovelady's and looked forward for your reply. I saw you made a small rhetorical reply to JennyD. That was a while ago. I am quite surprised you don't have any comments on the more meaningful commentor posts.

What do you make of Keller's memo? What is the distinction between you calling for Novak to be silenced for not talking, and your not calling on the Times to be silenced for not talking?

Posted by: blanknoone at October 11, 2005 9:43 PM | Permalink

I have to admit, this is strange:

"...the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them." Scooter Libby's letter to Judy Miller (emphasis added).
If I were a liberal upset with what I believed to be Judy Miller's "shilling" of WMDs as provocation for the Iraq War, I would think this awfully suspicious. What connects Judy Miller and Scooter Libby? Ideology? Other "roots"?

There's tons to be investigated. I still half-hope Plame's own conduct, as the kind of CIA analyst who pushes a shill of her own (her husband Wilson) for the Niger trip, will get some of the spotlight. But who can trust the NY Times to investigate itself, or matters which might reflect poorly on Bush's detractors, absent another Miller-like seeming "mole" at the NY Times (how many of those can there be at the Times)?

I just think a lot more of this dominant-media-as-political-player goes on than we generally know.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at October 11, 2005 11:36 PM | Permalink

From Deference to Outrage: Katrina and the Press

What appears to be a struggle between the White House and the press is always a triangular relationship among journalists, the Administration and the public. Each leg—the President and the American people, the White House and the press, the press and the public—counts. If we look at two sides without reckoning with the third we’ll always go wrong.

Posted by: Sisyphus at October 11, 2005 11:36 PM | Permalink

Tom, if you were a liberal you'd know that Miller coauthored a book with Laurie Mylroie, who believes Saddam was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing; was once on the roster of Eleana Benador's speakers bureau, sharing the limelight with Mylroie, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Michael Ledeen and Frank Gaffney; and that she has been active with Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum.

Which is to say there isn't any mystery about where her political sympathies lie, and hasn't been for many years. It just didn't matter until she abandoned reporting in favor of chaneling Ahmad Chalabi, Libby, Doug Feith and other Iraq fantasists.

As for Scooter's mash note, if you were a liberal, or a lawyer, you might find that particular passage to be among the least interesting aspects of it.

Posted by: weldon berger at October 12, 2005 5:16 AM | Permalink

What is the distinction between you calling for Novak to be silenced for not talking, and your not calling on the Times to be silenced for not talking?

Jay did not call for the silencing of the Chicago Sun-Times (for whom Novak is a columnist), so to suggest that there is any hypocrisy in Jay not calling for the silencing of the New York Times is beyond silly....its abjectly stupid.

Posted by: ami at October 12, 2005 7:11 AM | Permalink

The NYT Oct 12, A16
Oct 11., ...
Ms. Miller's meeting with the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, focused on notes that she found in the Times newsroom in Manhattan after her appearance before the grand jury on Sept. 30. She took the notes during a conversation on June 23, 2003, with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

Manhattan? But Newsweek said DC. Which is it? Why do I care?

Posted by: Cnonymous at October 12, 2005 12:00 PM | Permalink

Jay: You da man! And your tracking of this story is virtuosic and indispensable. May I note here that I anticipated a lot of this in a post on the defenestration of Howell Raines, two years ago and then some:

The Howell Raines downfall turns on a mix-up (inside and out) of molehill and mountain.

The media crisis in the country (and in its greatest print-era newspaper) has next-to-nothing to do with the sins of a pathetic little conman, Jayson Blair.

It doesn't have much to do, either, with Raines' management style. He's a month in the country compared to that volcanic player of favorites, Abe Rosenthal.

The crisis has everything to do with the evidence that more than half of the citizenry came to believe that Saddam Hussein was the author of the World Trade Center attack.

If half of New York believed that that Martha Stewart was the Mets' shortstop, The Times would not only set us straight, it would inquire how the misconception arose--even ask if their pages had contributed to it.

The crisis in the democratic information business is all about the big media (including the New York Times) staying "on message" with the reckless Bush administration in the long duplicitous runup to war with Iraq. "Inevitable" was the Times' favorite word about the war, trivializing the largely unreported questions and reservations about the Bush war planning.

The nastier inside crisis at the Times is the unprecedented and truly lethal civil war among the Op-Ed stars: Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman against Tom Friedman and William Safire. Friedman says that bait-and-switch war propaganda from the White House is, in effect, good enough for government work. Paul Krugman says it is "arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra." Dowd names Safire among the neo-con war groupies. Safire says there was no intelligence failure on the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. These are not reasoned differences; this is editorial and moral chaos.

The style-book crisis at the Times is that the paper hasn't the vocabulary to tell the people what Colin Powell told his staff ("This is bullshit!") about the cooked-up panic alarms he was supposed to sell at the United Nations.

The real nightmare for the Times is the plain fact that one-way print-based corporate journalism cannot prevail in a rough-and-ready information game against the interactive, almost-free, global, democratic and instant Internet. For hungry hounds of news and for "the rising generation," in the late Times saint James Reston's phrase, the Times will never again be "the paper of record," as we used to call it, or the first draft of history.

Around the Iraq war and the many dismayed post-mortems--in the dazed, double-speaking minds of Paul Wolfowitz & Co and in the stinking slums of Baghdad today--the New York Times has to confront its rather amazing timidity, shallowness of reporting, thinness of political judgment as the war machinery geared up.

If Howell Raines is to be held responsible for serious lapses, let it be for the Times' pusillanamity around the unnecessary war that the Bush team slipped past the Congress and the sleeping watchmen in the serious press.

Abe Rosenthal defined his time at the Times helm by publishing the Pentagon Papers, the Kennedy-Johnson secret history of the Vietnam War. Max Frankel's Times chose deliberately to bury the Genifer Flowers story about Bill Clinton, the candidate. But Joe Lelyveld (and Howell Raines, then on the editorial page) went full bore at same story when Clinton and Monica Lewinsky reenacted it at the White House.

The crucible of leadership at the Times, it seems, requires that readiness "without fear or favor" to tell the folks that their government is lying to them--again. Howell Raines will be remembered for missing his opportunity to ferret out more of what we should have known and argued about Bush's war in Iraq.

Family note: One of my daughters read the Times' first self-exposing story on Jayson Blair and said: "Amazing! That's the guy who sub-let my apartment when he was interning at the (Boston) Globe He left me a mess, and an $800 phone bill." Blair ducked her, of course, but she hounded his parents. "This isn't fair," she had told them. "I'm a student, too, trying to making it on my own as much as he is." They paid her in full, and that was the end of it. It wasn't about affirmative action, or public moral posturing. It was petty fraud, addressed head on. Our kid puts the Times to shame.

# Posted by Christopher Lydon on 6/6/03; 3:32:53 PM -

Posted by: Christopher Lydon at October 12, 2005 12:14 PM | Permalink

I read something today that surprised me: in NYC, NYTimes is in third place for newspaper readership below NYPost and NYDN.

The Times isn't even the "paper of record" in it's own home town. For some reason, I find this astonishing.

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 12, 2005 1:14 PM | Permalink

Kilgore, I don't think the Times cares about most of NYC. It's messy, dirty, full of poor and powerless people. I think they're more concerned with increasing readership among the unversity profs where I am than in getting more people in Brooklyn to subscribe.

After all, I get a much home delivery deal as a grad student than I would as a regular person in NYC.

Posted by: JennyD at October 12, 2005 1:55 PM | Permalink

Higher circulation doesn't necessarily equate to 'paper of record,' kilgore. Otherwise we'd rely on the National Enquirer (2.7 million) for setting the record straight. Or maybe the Weekly World News, which tells nearly 3 million readers about the Moon men among us.

I'm not sure that 'newspaper of record' is meaningful anymore, given the great variety of news sources, the conglomeration of the news and the deadline-every-minute news cycle. It appears to have gone the way of non-steroid induced homeruns and guilt-free food.

That said, not exactly sure where you read the Post and Daily News have jumped ahead. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, as of March 31, USA Today lead the nation's newspapers with 2.28 million, followed by the WSJ with 2.0 million. The NYTimes comes in 3rd at 1.1 million. The Daily News (735,000) and Post (678,000)rank 6th and 7th respectively.

I don't believe the Enquirer and the WWN subscribe to the ABC service. So their subscription numbers could be taken with a grain of salt. Of course, given the circulation scandals floating around the country, so could any of them.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at October 12, 2005 2:39 PM | Permalink

McLemore - I first read that NYTimes was third in newspaper readership in NYC at some righty blog (forgot which one now) and as such took it with a grain of salt. But today I saw the same claim at (not exactly right-wing shills) and the claim gained credibility. I don't know anything about the business side of the newspaper industry, but I assume these figures were compiled from subscriptions in NYC, plus newsstand sales.

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 12, 2005 2:49 PM | Permalink

After a second reading, it appears that McLemore is citing national figures and not NYC figures.

But no matter, JennyD is correct---NYTimes doesn't care about people in the Bronx, just people in Central Park West, and their wannabes.

Posted by: kilgore trout at October 12, 2005 3:00 PM | Permalink

I would amend that, with all respect to kilgore and jennyd, that the one audience the Time's management are most concerned about is themselves. There's likely a few folks on Central Park West who would like to know why the hell Judy Miller did what she did.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at October 12, 2005 3:23 PM | Permalink

Doesn't surprise me at all that the Daily News and Post outsell the NYTimes within the boundaries of New York City.
True, the NYTimes sells 1.1 million papers daily and 1.7 million Sunday, whereas the Daily News is at 735,000 and the Post at 600,000 +. But the Times sells the vast majority of those papers in the suburbs and out in the nation, whereas the Daily News and the Post sell basically zip in the burbs.
That's the market it aims for, and that's the market it's gotten.
The paper has always had lousy local penetration. I mean , look 1.1 million circ in a metro area of 20 million ?? This is an organization that has consciously made a decision to seek class, not mass.
That's why it can charge its advertisers a small fortune; it can promise them the top 5% demographic.
Complaining that the Times doesn't reach a much vaster audience is like complaining that Tiffany's isn't selling diamonds to poor people.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 12, 2005 5:52 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady: Exactly. (BTW, I have ALWAYS loved your surname, even when I interviewed at the Inquirer and they told me they weren't hiring white people.)

And that surely makes the Times inaccessible to anyone but the elite. Which is also fine.

But then doesn't the paper have to lose this patina of serving all of us? They don't. Which is fine. I don't read GQ, and it doesn't pretend to serve me. But the Times hides behind this crap of being in service to the "public" when it is doing anything but. It's in service to...well, the elite I guess. Or who?

But if you consider the Times this way, it's news for the same people who read Town and Country, or some other upscale magazine.

So don't give me this baloney that a Times reporter (say Judy Miller) went to jail for some poor grad student like me. She went to jail for some reason that escapes us unwashed, outer borough types.

Posted by: JennyD at October 12, 2005 6:42 PM | Permalink

New post: The Times at Bay: Armchair Critic Speculates.

"Everything has to wait until the moment when Judy 'can be expected to tell what happened,' as Landman so carefully put it. When it comes and she still refuses the hierarchy will turn a whiter shade of pale. Key people will know their investment in Miller went terribly wrong

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 12, 2005 8:15 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady: Exactly. (BTW, I have ALWAYS loved your surname, even when I interviewed at the Inquirer and they told me they weren't hiring white people.) --Jenny D

Aw, thanks, Jenny.
The Inquirer was a while ago, but, whenever you interviewed, I can assure you that I was not the idiot editor who told you that we "weren't hiring white people."
And I'm not defending the Times' decision to target solely the top 5% demographic. I'm just reporting it. To report is not to endorse -- a distinction that continues to escape legions of Press Think commentators.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at October 12, 2005 8:16 PM | Permalink

Steve, the good news for me was that the editor (it was in the 1980s sometime) told me that they would be hiring white women before they started hiring white men.

And I really do love your name.

Posted by: JennyD at October 13, 2005 9:37 AM | Permalink

Oh and Steve, I didn't mean you giving me baloney. You're actually all over this and pushing for better answers. It's sort of the general "you" of all those people who might say such baloney.

Posted by: JennyD at October 13, 2005 9:39 AM | Permalink

Lovelady, I think what irks legions of PressThink commentators (about our dominant media, not about you) is not reporting, but slanting and spinning disguised as reporting. I acknowledge, of course, that understanding and agreement about what news is slanted, and in which direction, is hard to come by - - but I don't think that is forever impossible, among good faith observers.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at October 13, 2005 3:59 PM | Permalink

Re Bill Keller quote (10/7) in your, The Shimmer (10/10), et. seq.--

"Among them is the biggest new fact: The Times reported Oct. 7 that Judy Miller may have to talk to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald again. Not good for transparency. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said Ms. Miller had been cautioned by her lawyers not to discuss the substance of her grand jury testimony until Mr. Fitzgerald finished questioning her.

[Here's the quote.]

" 'We have launched a vigorous reporting effort that I hope will answer outstanding questions about Judy’s part in this drama,' Mr. Keller said. 'This development may slow things down a little, but we owe our readers as full a story as we can tell, as soon as we can tell it.' ”

I'm wondering whether anyone else was struck by Keller's phrasing and what they made of it.

"...but we owe our readers as full a story as we can tell, as soon as we can tell it."

Why "as full a story as," and not simply "our full reporting of this story?" Why "as we can tell" which implies an exception for "what we can't report?" Although the last "as" may be just another reference to Miller's still pending testimony, Keller could have said "after..." or, otherwise, when.

His sculpted language following "as" projects a curious, bifurcated image, including some deep shadows cast by the very daylight he promises.

[Keller and others speaking for the NYT repeated the identical statement several times during the week as events continued to unfold.]

So, what do you make of this, if anything?

Posted by: J Lawrence at October 14, 2005 5:37 PM | Permalink

pages and pages of back-slapping comments; and not a single word about the ten-ton elephant at the party. guess you're all too busy playing along with the charade in the corner. and won't judy be thrilled when she shows up and hears you all calling it miller's paper. please...

Posted by: chinese sneakers at October 15, 2005 12:03 PM | Permalink

From the Intro