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November 5, 2005

Why Oh Why Did the Society of Professional Journalists Give Judith Miller a First Amendment Award?

Guest writer, education blogger and ex-reporter Jenny DeMonte interviews outgoing SPJ President Irwin Gratz about it. Gratz: "We did not give Judy Miller an ethics award." JennyD: "I’m disappointed because when I went into journalism, I thought it was noble work."

Jay Rosen: The writer JennyD, a regular in PressThink comment threads, is a former reporter and editor now pursuing a PhD in education, and blogging about it. I asked her to find out from Irwin Gratz (a former student of mine at NYU) what’s up with this big splashy award to Judy Miller at the SPJ convention in Las Vegas. I found it staggering myself. Here is JennyD’s report. You can discuss it with her and others in comments.

On October 18, the Society of Professional Journalists gave Judith Miller of the New York Times its First Amendment Award. It’s a big deal. Of the 375 people who attended, almost all stood to applaud as she received the award. The first word she said after being handed the plaque was, ”Wow.” (Miller’s remarks can be heard on this Quicktime video.)

In his introduction and presentation of the award, SPJ president Irwin Gratz emphasized that Miller was honored for spending 85 days in jail rather than name a confidential source to a grand jury, and that act was clearly in support of a free press.

Except in the several weeks leading up the award presentation, the slowly emerging details of Miller’s story didn’t exactly support the case of her sacrifice for the Constitution.

She can’t remember how the name of the CIA agent ended up in her notebook, written in the mysterious misspelling “Valerie Flame.” So she can’t say for certain who told it to her. Maybe her lawyer believes that. Does anyone else?

This after she admits she completely screwed up in her reports about WMD in Iraq. They were based on confidential sources, the kind of people who tell secrets but don’t have to take responsibility for the telling. People who Miller says are invaluable to reporters, but who might be totally unreliable, as she discovered. It was just a big mistake, she told the gathering at SPJ. “Sometimes these [confidential] sources are wrong or mistaken. They were mistaken on WMD, Republicans and Democrats alike. As a result my reporting was wrong.” But she quickly noted that journalists need to protect their secret sources, regardless of whether the information is right or wrong.

To this her colleague Maureen Dowd later said: “But investigative reporting is not stenography.”

The source of the information about the CIA agent, Scooter Libby, turns out to be the kind of person with an axe to grind, being in the Vice President’s office, and seeing that Valerie Plame’s husband—Joseph Wilson IV who worked in the State Department—had been saying things that probably irritated people in the Administration. One would think that Miller might have made that intellectual leap, and turned away from this particular confidential source given the chance that he had an agenda.

And then, once talking to Libby, she cut him a deal not to name him as an official in the administration. Why? Because he didn’t want it.

My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a “senior administration official.” When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a “former Hill staffer.” I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don’t recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

Most of this came out in print on October 16, in the pages of the New York Times. Five days later, in a memo that obviously pained him to write, Miller’s editor, Bill Keller, suggested that the paper might have been taken for a ride in defending Miller without actually knowing what she had done. Clearly, that possibility had been floating around the Times and elsewhere (see PressThink’s many posts listed here.) It’s hard to imagine that anyone paying attention to the case was surprised by Keller’s words.

Was Miller really running the show at the Times? Jay Rosen said so here, and then on CNN. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Miller’s boss, said: “This car had her hand on the wheel because she was the one at risk.” And Miller repeated in a discussion at SPJ that she was the one who was in charge of her notes and situation, not the paper, and any publisher should do what Sulzberger did: “I was the one who had to go jail. I was the one taking the risk. It was basically my decision because it was my notes.”

Miller said at the SPJ event that she went to jail to protect a free press. By that she meant not just the right of a reporter to write and publish freely, but also the right of people to talk to reporters in confidence, and not be named: “It is the freedom of people to talk to the press without getting in trouble, and it is that right that is in trouble today. None of the best stories I’ve written in my thirty years at the Times could have been done without confidential sources.”

Well, if Lewis Libby wanted to attack Wilson’s credibility why didn’t he just write an op-ed piece about Wilson’s many errors, untruths and sly misstatements? Why did he need to go off the record? “Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson” is Miller’s answer.

Miller as expected called for a federal shield law in her SPJ speech, arguing it would protect the confidential sources on whom reporters rely for news. Except that many people, including Miller’s boss Bill Keller agree that a shield law wouldn’t apply in her case, largely because it involves issues of national security (i.e., outing a CIA agent).

Given the clamor over Miller’s professional behavior, and the lack of clarification about it, why did SPJ stand firm on its decision to reward her for her professionalism? (They weren’t the first to celebrate her jailing with an honor; earlier in the month, she was invited to present a First Amendment award to Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat at the California First Amendment Coalition meeting.)

PressThink asked Irwin Gratz, whose term as president ended the day Miller received the award, to explain the society’s stance. (Gratz is Morning Edition Producer for Maine Public Radio.) He was centrally involved. Here’s his initial response to Jay Rosen. We bring it to you in full:

Of course, as President, I sat on the seven-member executive committee that acts as the awards committee for our annual “Freedom of Information” award. Our initial decision was made in mid-July, a time when Judith Miller was in jail. But, even then I and the other members of our committee were fully aware of the totality of the situation: the questions raised (even by the Times) about Miller’s reporting on Iraq and doubts about the legal strategy pursued by the New York Times (it was our own counsel, Bruce Sanford, who argued in January that Miller and Cooper’s lawyers should have been trying to quash the subpoena based on the unlikelihood that the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 applied to this instance). Personally, I marveled at the irony that the person or persons Miller was in jail protecting were almost surely officials of the Bush Administration who have been no friend of the press.

But Miller’s defiance of the Special Prosecutor’s subpoena clearly pushed a major first amendment issue for us in a way that has proved effective. 34 Attorneys General wrote that amicus brief in June arguing to the Supreme Court for a qualified reporter’s privilege for the press and a shield law has garnered more than 60 co-sponsors in the house and is moving for the first time in 30 years. Those achievements, unchanged even by this weekend’s revelations by the Times, are what we made our First Amendment award for.

Of course, the professional behavior of Miller, and the Times, raise other issues. SPJ has long complained that the Washington Press Corps uses anonymous sourcing to cavalierly, to its detriment and the public’s (a stance we repeated in a resolution at the convention last week).

But what about the legitimate question that Miller’s work may have tainted her role as a proponent of our First Amendment argument for a reporter’s privilege. I believe the First Amendment requires us (via our proxies in Congress) to be tolerant in the extreme. As a result, mainstream rights often wind up being protected by very un-mainstream people. Think of the neo-Nazis who won the right to demonstrate in Skokie. Or Larry Flynt, who won affirmation of the right to print parody.

The case that won journalists the right to be largely free of libel suits filed by public officials was the result of a newspaper ad that was wrong (indeed, some might say another case of the lax New York Times oversight). SPJ’s largest legal defense fund award ever went to Vanessa Leggett, a prospective book author about whom our own former “Quill” editor wrote “I was wary to make a journalism martyr of a woman who has arguably never really done journalism….Leggett’s only two published works were FBI manuals.”

In matters regarding the First Amendment, we often don’t get to pick our protagonists, or the facts. But Miller’s case presented the courts with the classic request for a reporter’s privilege. The courts rejected it, thus illuminating, after two years of shifting decisions, the true state of federal law on this matter and causing the political powers that be to begin working on a possible correction. This is a benefit to all journalists, even if it comes from someone whose own newspaper career may be at an end.

My term as SPJ President ended October 18; there’s always a possibility, that my successor may re-visit the award. But I think it remote, in part, because of what our leaders saw transpire at our convention last week. Judy Miller received a near standing ovation at her appearance before our attendees Tuesday. And our voting delegates, in a spirited debate, removed paragraphs critical of Miller from the resolution that spoke to our more general criticism of anonymous sourcing.

Reasonable people (and I count you as a very reasonable person) can disagree about whether we should have conditioned our First Amendment award on a wider assessment of Judy Miller’s work. I, for one, don’t think so, and my best evidence indicates most of the people of my Society agree.

Fair enough, but we still have questions. Gratz says that SPJ knew Miller’s reporting practices were suspect, and that people were talking about it even back in July when the society made the decision to give her the award. But those problems were less important than what SPJ saw as the greater good: Miller’s time behind bars would highlight the need for a federal shield law for reporters. Although moves toward passage of the law were already underway when Miller went to jail (34 state attorneys general writing a brief to the Supreme Court in June), her defiance gave a narrative and a picture to the quest for the law. It was that public and publicized act of going to jail—-regardless of whether there was any need to do it, or whether the reporter doing it was really an ethical reporter—-that got Miller the award. Kind of “the ends justifies the means” analysis.

Others see Miller’s jailing and then her decision to testify and leave jail as something less than a win for the First Amendment. Mickey Kaus says her actions may have undermined the work of journalists and their commitment to a free press.

It’s now clear confinement wasn’t pointless. It worked for the prosecutor exactly as intended. After a couple of months of sleeping on “two thin mats on a concrete slab,” Miller decided, in her words, “I owed it to myself” to check and see if just maybe Libby really meant to release her from her promise of confidentiality. And sure enough— you know what?—it turns out he did! The message sent to every prosecutor in the country is “Don’t believe journalists who say they will never testify. A bit of hard time and they just might find a reason to change their minds. Judy Miller did.” This is the victory for the press the Times has achieved. More journalists will now go to jail, quite possibly, than if Miller had just cut a deal right away, before taking her stand on “principle.”

SPJ is a fine organization, dedicated to everything it says. The group has a code of ethics for journalists that Gratz characterized this way, in a follow-up email to me: “The SPJ Code is, we believe, the best model in existence today for a general code of ethics. Individual news organizations do craft codes that have more specific provisions that may be based either on their own history or expectations.” He’s right. It is a solid and fairly comprehensive list of principles journalists should follow.

Here are some key passages possibly bearing on the case of Judith Miller: (Read the whole thing.)

Seek Truth and Report It

Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
  • Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

Act Independently

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Be Accountable

Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

“Keep promises,” of course, works in Miller’s favor. But did she uphold the other sections? Not according to two local chapters of SPJ— Northern California and Mid-Florida. They have criticized the award to Miller in an open letter written by Peter Y. Sussman, a former president of the Northern California group, and Linda Jue, current vice president. As reported by Editor & Publisher, they said:

We hope to set the record straight on behalf of conscientious journalists around the country who support journalists’ First Amendment responsibilities but are deeply troubled by Miller’s earlier unprofessional conduct and SPJ’s failure to fully apply its own Code of Ethics to this case… The message has been sullied by the ethical misdeeds of the messenger…

We deplore the careless and deceptive use of confidential sources, as exemplified in Judith Miller’s reporting. We urge journalists to hold each other accountable before the government claims even more sweeping rights to interfere in the editorial process, eroding still further this country’s noble ideal of a free press.

Gratz told E & P that SPJ didn’t put its support for a shield law above its ethics code. Rather, it separated the two: ethics on one hand, courageous actions on the other. “I think all we were doing was not commenting on Judy Miller’s ethics, only her actions that amounted to extraordinary efforts in support of the First Amendment,” he said. Gratz told me:

I haven’t done any in-depth analysis of Miller’s work or how it relates to the code, but you identify areas where questions have fairly been raised. Our delegates, meeting at the convention last week, believed they’d heard enough to pass a resolution that reminds all reporters to exercise restraint in the granting of anonymity and be more careful in negotiating the terms of anonymity with a source.

Yeah, and you should see that resolution by scrolling down to After Matter, including the parts critical of Judy Miller that were voted down. I asked Gratz the following: Miller more or less admits violating (or at least treading on) several parts of the code. And she also admits misleading and outright disobeying the direction of the editors responsible for maintaining these principles for her newspaper writ large. What does that behavior say about her commitment to SPJ values, as in the society’s famous code of ethics? And what does your decision to give her the First Amendment award say about SPJ’s own commitment to this code?

Your question answers itself about Miller’s commitment to follow our code. But we did not give Judy Miller an ethics award and any given journalist’s ethics, however good or bad, doesn’t speak to their commitment to the First Amendment.

Okay, so it wasn’t an award for her professional behavior or ethics. It was an award for spending 85 days in jail. But what if she didn’t have to do that? No one else involved in the case did. That aside, wouldn’t a reporter have to be pretty well-regarded, with a high-level of ethical behavior, in order to be considered for any journalism award? I mean how much leeway is there? Gratz:

One of the things that strikes me about our Code of Ethics is that it contains very few absolute proscriptions about behavior. It does say “never plagiarize,” but it more often says things like “Avoid misleading re-enactments,” “Be judicious about naming criminal suspects,” “Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes,” “Be wary of sources offering information for money.”

The word choices are very deliberate because our first and highest goal is always to seek out information to help the public find truth. That often leads us to consider behaviors that many people would consider extreme or deal with people who are less than savory. That’s especially true when people, businesses, or government officials are un-cooperative with our attempts to get at information that we perceive it’s important for the public to know.

And here’s where Gratz and I talked about my perennial question: Why is journalism “special?” Why do journalists need special privileges and opportunities? Why should they get their own shield law? All of these come out of my desire to understand what non-negotiables there are in journalism, which rules and practices the public—-as well as sources and editors—-can rely on and trust. I mean aren’t they supposed to be a “special” case because in real journalism there are absolutes?

… I hope, and believe, that the members of my Society do honor the code always. But, as I explain to students, ethics is not the law. The law is usually clear: I may not walk up to you on the street and shoot you dead. But if you’re running for office and refusing to release your tax returns because they would show you listing your mentally retarded sister as a dependent (my wife faced just these facts during her reporting days), the proper course of action is much less clear.

Ethics, by its nature, cannot be set in stone. But, you ask, what is? I’m not sure how to answer that. But individuals and organizations, over time, earn the trust and respect of their audience by communicating truthfully and effectively. Such organizations come to be benchmarks against which other people, and journalists, judge other work.

I’m not sure I agree with Gratz here. Under his rationale, journalism becomes pretty loosey-goosey, with ethics as a kind of moving target depending on the context of the work. Well, maybe it’s okay to mislead readers about the identity of a confidential source, or maybe it’s fine to report whatever you get from sources, even if they’re all wrong, or only one person says it. Makes the job a lot easier. No wonder Miller’s colleagues are irritated. Here they are, trying to work under ethical codes that prevent running amok, and she’s running amok. Should the Times have gone to the mat for someone who engages in such questionable practices?

No, it shouldn’t, according to Richard Stevenson, one of the paper’s White House correspondents. In Keller’s October 21 memo about the Miller affair he says:

Dick Stevenson has expressed the larger lesson here in an e-mail that strikes me as just right: “I think there is, or should be, a contract between the paper and its reporters. The contract holds that the paper will go to the mat to back them up institutionally — but only to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the bargain, specifically to have conducted him or herself in a way consistent with our legal, ethical and journalistic standards, to have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like, and generally to deserve having the reputations of all of us put behind him or her. In that way, everybody knows going into a battle exactly what the situation is, what we’re fighting for, the degree to which the facts might counsel compromise or not, and the degree to which our collective credibility should be put on the line.”
I’ve heard similar sentiments from a number of reporters in the aftermath of this case.

I was a journalist for fifteen years, and loved it. I was a member of SPJ too. But my love affair with journalism might be ending here, as the folks who make up the membership of one of the most important organizations in the profession decide to look the other way when their hero violates basic principles. I fear they believed that Miller’s chosen imprisonment overshadowed any shoddiness in her work.

This is another part of the slow rot that’s eating at the work of newsgathering and reporting and writing and producing. Journalism has, as its core, the trust between reporters and editors, and reporters and the public. As that erodes, the whole enterprise starts to crumble. People turn away from news and reporting. Other forms can rise and steal the hearts and minds of citizens.

I am quite disappointed that a professional organization, representing work I love, would have celebrated someone who appears to have stomped all over the highest values of the practice. If Stevenson and Keller are right about the “contract between the paper and its reporters,” where’s the contract between journalists and the public? That’s what the rules and codes are supposed to be. They tell us what journalists do to retain our trust without us having to witness every act of newsgathering.

I’m disappointed because when I went into journalism, I thought it was noble work. My colleagues and bosses were dedicated to the highest standards of finding out everything, and then making sure that everyone had access to that information. I thought we had rules that everyone followed, and that editors strictly enforced. I looked at my job with almost the same view as maybe a court judge: the rules of evidence mattered because without them, stories could be slanted, shoddy work passed off as professional, and people could be misled and worse. This is the latest event that reminds those things I believed are not always true in journalism today, and I fear they may never have been.

Update: On Tuesday, November 15, the New York Chapter of SPJ sent a letter to the organization’s executive committee expressing its unhappiness with the decision to grant the award to Miller. E&P has the story here, and here’s where you can read the entire letter. Here’s some of what it said:

Ms. Miller has yet to adequately explain the contradictions, inconsistencies and missing pieces to her story. Indeed, The Times reporters who contributed to an Oct. 16 investigation into Ms. Miller’s role in the case have described her as uncooperative and evasive – which is her right, considering the likelihood that she will be called to testify in the case against Mr. Libby, if the lying and obstruction charges against him reach trial. We respect her decision to protect herself from legal troubles by limiting the likelihood that her public statements might contradict any testimony she has given or might give in the future.

And then in conclusion:

In light of the above concerns, we want to be on record that we do not stand with the executive committee of SPJ on this year’s First Amendment Award. The committee clearly saw an opportunity to share in the limelight with Ms. Miller to promote SPJ’s activities and draw attention to its national convention. But to us, this was the wrong cause to attach the Society’s name to.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

JennyD’s bio:

Jenny DeMonte worked for 15 years as a reporter and editor at Esquire and New York Woman magazines, the Hartford Courant and Bergen Record newspapers, and was named editor of New Jersey Monthly in 1993. The following year, she created a biannual ranking of the state’s high schools that became one of the best-selling features published by NJM. She left journalism in 2000 and entered a doctoral program in education at the University of Michigan. She started her weblog as a way to make the work of scholars and academics in education more transparent and available to all.

Here is a copy of the resolution on the use of anonymous sources passed by delegates to the 2005 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Las Vegas, Oct 17-18. Before approving the text, the delegates removed two paragraphs critical of Judith Miller (keep reading for those.)

Whereas, the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists calls upon journalists to “be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power acountable” and to “keep promises;” and

Whereas, the Code says “The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability” and urges journalists to “Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity” and to “Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information;” and

Whereas, the Code urges journalists to “Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct;”

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists urges journalists and their news organizations to grant anonymity with reluctance and caution, and to keep in mind their primary purpose of giving readers, viewers and listeners as much information as possible to reasonably assess the motives and reliability of those whose words and influence they are conveying with the protection of anonymity; and

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society believes that the absolute right to confidential sources is concomitant with a professional obligation to use such sources responsibly; and

Be it finally resolved that the Society, in convention assembled, emphasizes the responsibility of journalists and their news organizations to abide by the same high standards to which they hold others, and to clarify and explain their news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.

The following two clauses were proposed and deleted by the delegates before final passage of the resolution:

Whereas, coverage by Judity Miller and other journalists of supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, using anonymous sources that proved to be wrong, is part of a continuing debate over a major question of public policy; and

Whereas, Miller’s case underscores the danger of excessive willingness to grant confidentiality and to mischaracterize the nature of confidential sources, thus allowing such sources to hide possible motive and manipulate public opinion.

Meanwhile, my former employer in northern New Jersey, The Record, ran a pretty damning editorial about the Miller affair, entitled “Heroine No More.”

Journalism has had a lot of bad press lately. Ms. Miller’s going to jail was supposed to be a shining moment for the First Amendment. Now The Times’ top editor has said he made mistakes in dealing with her. There’s a chance she may be fired.

All journalists have been tarnished to some degree by this tangled, confusing case.

Jeff Jarvis adds more insight to how journalism writ large may suffer from its embrace of Miller’s professionalism. Awards, speeches, adulation…all of that indicates that her behavior as a journalist is not only acceptable, but laudable according to her colleagues. It’s not about who exactly she was protecting, or which political group makes out best here. This is about journalism, about the pact that the profession has made with the public. That’s what’s at risk here. Jarvis gets it right.

Like it or not, we in journalism are judged by our worst work and what we do about it. When we circle the wagons to defend fellow journalists instead of defending the truth, we lose trust. I tell editorial organizations trying to improve quality that it’s more important to raise the bar at the low end than the high end because of this….

My issues with Miller are not political. They are journalistic. She is no longer credible. So why is she selected as a standard bearer for the First Amendment, shield laws, journalism, or any newspaper?

To those of us outside looking in, it seems that journalists have made promises to sources and maybe to themselves, but there’s been some kind of breakdown in its promise to the public. If so, that’s a big problem, because without the public to read and watch journalism, there is no business to work in. (Speaking of the public, here’s the latest report on dropping newspaper circulation numbers. Maybe more trust would reverse the trend? Couldn’t hurt.)

SPJ takes some more heat in Romenesko’s letters— the news industry’s bulletin board. Holden Lewis writes about a recent email from the new president of SPJ that he has problems with. His last lines are rather pointed.

I used to feel proud about my SPJ public service medal. Now it has been debased. I’ll have to check the medallion when I go home. It was bronze. Now it’s probably been transmuted into lead.

The WSJ, in a story about the road to Scooter Libby’s trial, says that reporters Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, and Tim Russert could all be questioned.

The reporters are expected to face a barrage of questions from defense lawyers. Instead of protecting sources, they could end up defending their own credibility, reputations and reporting techniques….

The legal spotlight comes at a bad time for the media. The public has become increasingly critical of mainstream news organizations amid admissions in recent years that reporters at high-profile newspapers including the New York Times and USA Today fabricated parts of stories. A trial raising questions about well-known reporters could do further damage.

The New York Observer reports on Miller’s continuing negotiations with the Times over her potential return to the paper, and whether she can write a rebuttal on the paper’s Op-Ed pages. It seems that the Times’ bosses think maybe the best thing to do with a difficult reporter is make her an editor.

Jay Rosen continues to press the Times to explain exactly what Judith Miller was up to in Iraq and afterward. Specifically, he’s waiting for Times executives to clarify competing explanations from Miller about security clearances she had while covering the war. Did she have a DoD clearance that prevented her from fully reporting what she knew? Jay’s letter to Romenesko emphasizes that that the confusion remains, and no one knows for sure what kind of clearance Judy Miller had.

Latest Miller severance update from the New York Observer: As of November 8, the Times and Miller are close to reaching agreement over her separation from the paper. She won’t be an editor…or a reporter, according to the story. She still wants to write an op-ed, but there’s nothing definitive about that in her either. But some Times’ staffers say publish her argument.

Meanwhile, Times bosses are surprised by her tenaciousness over the negotiations and her demands.

With Ms. Miller so insistent on getting a chance to publish her argument, some at the paper are wondering what the Times brass stood to gain by not going along. “It’s hard for me to argue against letting her have her say, to rebut the charges against her,” one Times staffer said. “Aren’t we in the business of letting it all hang out?”

And Ms. Miller’s endurance suggested that the paper may have underestimated how much leverage she would have in negotiations. The most firing-worthy allegations against Ms. Miller—such as insubordination and misleading editors—could all be disputed, depending on how one interprets the evidence.

Going, going, gone. Judith Miller has officially “retired” from the New York Times. Here’s the link to the Romenesko item.

Bill Keller’s memo to the staff includes a little clarification over the his use of the word “entanglement” in a previous memo about Miller that he sent to the staff on October 21. Her concern of that word was in today’s New York Observer story too.

First, you are upset with me that I used the words “entanglement” and “engagement” in reference to your relationship with Scooter Libby. Those words were not intended to suggest an improper relationship. I was referring only to the series of interviews through which you — and the paper — became caught up in an epic legal controversy.

Tomorrow’s Times will carry a letter from Miller about her reasons for her departure. The paper’s story announcing her retirement is here.

Judith Miller published her own letter on her own website, The letter itself is unrepentant, and appears to confuse the reason that her newsroom colleagues were upset by her actions and opposed her return.

Though some colleagues disagreed with my decision to testify, for me to have stayed in jail after achieving my conditions would have seemed self-aggrandizing martyrdom or worse, a deliberate effort to obstruct the prosecutor’s inquiry into serious crimes.

Weren’t her colleagues upset because of her reportorial practices, rather than her decision to testify? In the October 16 article, Jill Abramson said that Miller had never approached her suggesting an article about Wilson, et. al, while Miller says she did. Elsewhere in the same article, one reporter—Todd Purdum—questioned Miller’s ability to operate outside the rules and bounds set for other reporters. Diana Henriques said: “[S]he and others at the paper took “great pride and comfort” in how The Times stood by Ms. Miller. But she said the episode and speculation surrounding it “left a lot of people feeling confused and anxious” about Ms. Miller’s role in the investigation. And in Bill Keller’s October 21 memo he quotes Dick Stevenson, who suggests that the paper’s support of Miller didn’t match her commitment to conducting herself in way that was consistent with the highest practice of journalism.

The other interesting tidbit is that she says she went to jail in part to dramatize the need for a federal shield law, which gives the reader the sense that this might have been more of a grandstanding stunt rather than necessary suffering to protect a promise to a source.

Will Judith Miller turn her website in a blog? That would be an interesting twist.

[Note: Earlier in the day, Henriques quote from the Times story was inadvertently linked Purdum’s. That has been corrected here.]

The November 10 story in the New York Times her retirement included this:

She said that in the few hours since her departure had been made public, she had received several offers “of all kinds” for future employment, which she declined to specify. But her immediate plans are to take some time off. She said that after her stint in jail, she was “hit with a 40-day tsunami” of criticism and needed a break, though she has scheduled several public appearances, including one last night.

She spoke last night in Midtown Manhattan on a panel before media lawyers and journalists sponsored by the Media Law Resource Center.

So, what orgnization will hire her, and for what position?

The most revealing story in this whole saga may be the November 10 Washington Post piece. Reporter Lynne Duke paints a rich picture of Judith Miller, who she says she is, and who others think she is. It’s a fascinating picture in light of all that’s gone on.

So here we are last week in a SoHo brasserie called Balthazar, where a parade of Judys appears. Outraged Judy. Saddened Judy. Charming Judy. Wise Judy. Conspiratorial Judy. Judy, the star New York Times reporter turned beleaguered victim of the gossipmongers and some journalists who have made her “sick to death of the regurgitation of lies and easily checkable falsehoods.” That’s why she’s agreed to talk.

But her Treo’s vibrating on her hip. It’s a friend calling. “My fan club from Paris,” she chirps into the phone, in English, before switching to a mix of French and Arabic.

It goes on like this for three hours. She answers questions — or refuses. She turns the tables, asking about her interviewer’s life. She takes calls. She grabs the tape recorder. She waxes eloquent, even in anger. At times, tears well up. There’s something frantic about her — not vulnerable, mind you, for that’s the last thing she is.

Posted by JennyD at November 5, 2005 12:42 PM   Print


The reasoning of SPJ and Gratz is as twisted and as devious as are Miller's rationales for her own behavior.
First, Miller assures Libby she will mischaracterize his identity ... then in her response to the critique of Times public editor Barney Calame, excerpts of which are posted on his website, she assures Calame that she would never actually do such a thing, that, in short, she was lying to Libby when she agreed to lie to her readers. A peek inside this woman's mind is a like a stroll through a hall of mirrors.
Fortunately, even in this whole sordid affair, there are moments of comic relief. The one that sent coffee down my windpipe and produced a coughing fit  was when Judy, in her response to Calame, proudly asserted that her suspect security arrangement "led to the publication of my exclusive story that debunked some of my own earlier exclusives ..."
Think about that for a moment. Basically, she's saying:
"This is a great development; it gave me an exclusive that utterly discredited my earlier exclusives, thus preserving my string of exclusives." I have never in 40 years seen a rationale more weird and twisted  than that one.
"If it weren't for my good work, diligence and persistence, I would never have exposed myself as a gullible and sloppy reporter who can be led around by a nose ring."
Narcissitic personality disorder, anyone ?
As for SPJ -- for shame.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 4, 2005 2:22 PM | Permalink

Strictly speaking, she went to jail because she didn't believe Libby's first waiver. That he meant it the first time was proven by his emphatic second, specific, waiver.

I'd prefer to see somebody go to jail--if they have to go to jail--to protect somebody who desperately wants to be protected.

In the second case, though, there is no fallback position of being able to say, okay, now I know he really means it. I'll talk. Let me out.

She was pretty slick in the case she picked.

And, as many have noted, she can be a loose cannon, but she was hired and lauded by the NYT.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 4, 2005 2:54 PM | Permalink

So, in essence, SPJ is using Judy Miller to make points on a journalistic sheild law - which wouldn't have helped Judy Miller's case.

And Judy Miller used the New York Times, the US Army and the good will of newspaper readers to further her career and burnish her ego to ever lusterous glow.

SPJ didn't mean it as an ethics award. No shit.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 4, 2005 3:31 PM | Permalink

"Ethics are the esthetics of the future."

-- V.I. Lenin

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at November 4, 2005 4:03 PM | Permalink

Next up for the Times-Democrat (and AP, LAT & CNN) Wen Ho Lee. Lee is a more sympathetic figure than anyone in the Plame business---CIA (Wilson & "Flame") Bushies, Big Media (Time, NYTimes, Russert, etc.) and the ruling in the Federal Court (evenly split) gives hope to big media in an appeal to the Supreme Court. I hope they lose. MSM is not about "afflicting the powerful" anymore, it's about having the power the powerful have. Now that Fitzgerald has criminalized leaking classified information to the press, I hope the Bush Administration pursues all the leaks given to undermine them. Hey, it's what the NYTimes editorial board wanted----bring it on!

Here's the Wen Ho Lee info:

Posted by: kilgore trout at November 4, 2005 4:05 PM | Permalink

For Irwin Gratz's argument to hold water, Judy Miller would have had to stick to her principle by staying in jail and refusing to see any waiver as uncoerced. Instead, faced with the prospect of longer jail time, she completely caved in because, as she put it, she owed it to herself, and had her attorneys reach out to Scooter. With the help of the prosecutor, they twisted his arm enough to secure an "uncoerced" waiver. Read the Kaus excerpt above. It illustrates clearly why her actions only endangered press freedoms and in no way helped them. And anyone who believes her advocacy has moved us any closer to a federal shield law is delusional. Where's the evidence? State AGs don't pass federal legislation. SPJ has made itself into a laughingstock with this indefensible decision. What are their award criteria again? Pay lip service to a principle and spend how many days in jail before betraying it? Is there a set number? If she'd caved after two weeks instead of 85 days would she still have qualified? I think the organization at least owes us an explanation on that score. How many days do you have to spend in jail before selling out to still walk away with an award? Irwin? Anyone?

Posted by: Frank Sennett at November 4, 2005 4:10 PM | Permalink

Small correction -- Jenny says that Wilson's story was irritating the administration. What she should have said was Wilson's story was total and complete falsehood and slander. That would have been better journalism.

Posted by: stan at November 4, 2005 5:09 PM | Permalink

But what about the legitimate question that Miller’s work may have tainted her role as a proponent of our First Amendment argument for a reporter’s privilege. I believe the First Amendment requires us ... to be tolerant in the extreme. As a result, mainstream rights often wind up being protected by very un-mainstream people. Think of ... Larry Flynt, who won affirmation of the right to print parody.

Would SPJ give an award to Flynt?

An award is given to a person, not an event, and so who the person is must play some role in a decision of conferral. Ethics and ethos cannot be separated from deed unless we're also willing to award the Flynts of the world for protecting their own economic interests because doing so also happens to protect First Amendment rights.

By Gratz's own reasoning, SPJ should award Flynt. I look forward to that.

SPJ is all about its Code of Ethics. And here they've tossed it aside--specifically!--to award an event in the guise of a person who flouts the code.


Posted by: A. Cline at November 4, 2005 7:07 PM | Permalink

It’s too bad the SPJ’s standards have declined to include honoring hacks who engage in propaganda. At last year’s SPJ convention, Bill Moyers gave an address entitled Journalism Under Fire, in which he made some interesting and relevant points:

“…the greater offense was the seduction of mainstream media into helping the government dupe the public to support a war to disarm a dictator who was already disarmed.”

Moyers doesn’t mention Miller by name, but could he have possibly given a better description of her work? What a difference a year makes.

The First Amendment committee of The American Society of Journalists and Authors, voted to honor Miller with its annual Conscience in Media award, but that decision was later reversed by the full board. That was an act of conscience.

Posted by: Mark at November 4, 2005 8:46 PM | Permalink

I have to agree with Frank that Miller's claim to be engaged in principled action, where consistency is the whole point, collapsed under the circumstances in which she left jail. As he says, "Judy Miller would have had to stick to her principle by staying in jail" and (I think) outlasting the prosecutor for her action to be successful.

I agree, too, with Andrew Cline: it's mind boggling what the SPJ's ethical statement end up being with the Miller award, and bloggling to think that it could think it made no statement whatsoever by giving such a high honor, and a standing ovation, which is an emotional honor, to "a person who flouts the code."

What in the world possessed them?

On the other hand, if it was a question of paying her defense bills, I would think SPJ might do that in good conscience. Everyone is entitled to a first class defense, even norm flouters. But not to an award.

Off topic. This will be quite interesting to some of you. Ann Althouse, Name the rational, intelligent liberal blogs. Her readers, conservatives mostly, do that.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 5, 2005 12:03 AM | Permalink

As an associate member of SPJ, in consideration of whether to continue as a member, I thought I'd weigh the case being built here against Judith Miller (and thus by extension, the SPJ, for giving her an award):

A) Inability to reveal the source for "Valerie Flame"
B) She used the wrong sources on WMD-- and owned up to it not after Massing's critique in Feb 2004, but in October 2005
C) Agreeing to mischaracterize anonymous sources

Nicholas Lemman has provided a very plausible explanation of (A) in his 4,500-word article in this week's New Yorker: "But, by Miller’s own account, another important reason for her testimony was that Fitzgerald had agreed to ask her only about Libby, and no other source, when she appeared before the grand jury. The agreement left Miller an opening to say that she couldn’t remember who had first mentioned Valerie Plame’s name to her." Verdict: ok by journalism standards, but the Public Journalist (PressThink beat in the pre-blog era) would damn their sources and respect the justice system.

Skipping ahead to (C), we can cut her a little slack. She agreed in the hypothetical. She never did write a story, and the phrase "former Hill staffer" does not appear in the NYT archive. My verdict: I don't have a problem with it.

As for (B), screwing up and not owning up to it earlier, she and her editors are guilty there. Michael Massing lays out the case in the 7,900-word NYRB article. Miller's reaction is effectively "no contest." Massing's response (same link): "In any case, it's revealing that Miller challenges nothing else in my article, which is filled with examples of what I argued were serious shortcomings in her reporting." Jack Shafer gave Massing his due. The Times, to my best search of their online archives, has not to this day acknowledged the Massing critique.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at November 5, 2005 12:39 AM | Permalink

In preparation for the BlogNashville conference in May, I put together some questions that might stir some additional thoughts on journalism ethics and the Miller situation. I will quote Doc Searls briefly from his blog:

Early in my own career I did an investigative report on rural poverty that led me to the same conclusion: that we sometimes employ dishonest or morally compromising means to serve what we believe to be honest and morally justifiable ends. However we put it, rationalization is involved. Such is also often the case with the Gotcha! game. Yeah, we win, but what, besides the exposed butts of those whose pants we pull down? In some cases, big things, sure. In others, not much.
I also found this very interesting and wonder if JennyD thought about the connection between the two:

In speaking about Miller/Libby:

"... [Libby] turns out to be the kind of person with an axe to grind ... One would think that Miller might have made that intellectual leap, and turned away from this particular confidential source given the chance that he had an agenda."
Later she notes that, "... [Miller] was invited to present a First Amendment award to Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat at the California First Amendment Coalition meeting."

In a comparison of Woodward/Felt to Miller/[and mistakenly as it turns out, Rove], Kurtz wrote:

Cooper and others have argued that they can't make a distinction between "good guy" and "bad guy" sources -- a promise is a promise -- but helping White House officials finger a covert operative is not exactly the kind of work that builds public support for the Fourth Estate.

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 5, 2005 12:43 PM | Permalink

Great article...even though I don't completely agree with it.

I still admire Miller's going to jail and...even in this case...still don't think journalists should be compelled to give up their sources (but she's a horrible, horrible cause bearer and deserves to be fired for her stenography - on a side note, drudge reports that she's returning to the times on Monday.). I wouldn't give her an award, though.

And...pulling out the speculative sure seems to me that Floyd Abram's and Patrick Fitzgerald's letters are more to the truth than anything else...that it does seem that Libby didn't really want anyone to that he can hide behind his cover story: journalists told him about Plame.

It's really disturbing to hear about those deleted clauses (and I wonder what the vote results by the delegates were...hope it was close).

Finally...I don't think it's fair to criticize someone for only being able to last 85 days in jail. Even if you strenuously disagree on why she went...I don't see how anyone can say her making a bargain affects her principles (when it was the punishment that did it). How long would or could any of us last?

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 5, 2005 1:55 PM | Permalink

I have several big problems with this (as you can see from above!) but I want to add a couple of things.

I think so much has changed since Watergate that you can't even compare the two situations. Reporters have become minor celebrities. They go to their annual dinners with movie stars, and then listen to the president make fun of himself. They have famous friends, and go to fancy dinner parties. At least, these are the Washington/NYC/LA journalists.

The reporters in Toledo who worked on the story about Vietnam atrocities, and the latest story about missing coins and state funds--those guys probably haven't been invited to any dinner parties with the rich and famous. But the journalism they do is wonderful, and perhaps more ethically sound, and more steeped in good reportorial practice than what's coming out of some reporters at the NY Times.

Why? I'm not sure. But the notion of the poorly-paid reporter, doing honest work to afflict the comfortable sort out melts away you read about the lives of the celebrity reporters like Miller. The Observer article here clued me into the idea that she's not your basic, shoe-leather journalist.

So, in terms of what Kurtz said and Sisyphus quotes, I think that if reporters can't see the difference between good guy and bad guy sources, it might be because they are way too close to the people in power. They've lost perspective, and their compact is no longer with the reader, but with the source.

Ron, I also want to agree that you can't criticize someone for not wanting to stay in jail. But nor should you laud them necessarily for going in the first place.

Sure, Miller isn't a great poster child for journalistic ethics and values. So don't give her an award. Don't hold her up as a role model. I'm trying to think of other professions that would give an award to such a visibly shoddy practitioner. Jay doesn't like my medical analogies, but I want to use one here: would the AMA give an award to a doctor who came up with a cool new heart surgery technique, but always left sponges in patients and killed a few, and came close to killing others? How about an architect who drew a beautiful building, although the last few he designed fell down? Or a lawyer who did a lot of pro bono work, but was known for stealing from the escrow accounts of clients?

I don't think the ends justifies the means.

Posted by: JennyD at November 5, 2005 2:47 PM | Permalink

FYI ... blogspot is down for maintenance.

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 5, 2005 4:05 PM | Permalink

Great piece, Jenny D. I just linked to the posts by you and Ron for a new Blogcritics media piece I did which is available here.

Ron, I have to disagree with this:
"Finally...I don't think it's fair to criticize someone for only being able to last 85 days in jail. Even if you strenuously disagree on why she went...I don't see how anyone can say her making a bargain affects her principles (when it was the punishment that did it)."

It's not a matter of her only being in for 85 days - it's that when push came to shove and she felt she made her statement she left jail and then turned over exactly the details she could have provided before (assuming she could remember her sources, which turned out to be asking too much.)

The message sent is send the reporter to the pokey and eventually you'll get cooperation. This shot holes in her own stand.

Posted by: Scott Butki at November 5, 2005 5:36 PM | Permalink


Did you ever think that Judy might have been able to pretend she forgot because the agreement reached - finally - limited her testimony to the Libby talks.

Yes. Judy probably could've gotten that deal last year...something similiar to what Pincus got. But though this became Judy's Times...she wasn't entirely alone in wanting to go to jail. The Times wanted that...and they even wanted her to stay longer in hopes the grand jury would be dissolved without her having to testify. That's partly why Keller regrets that they didn't seek an earlier compromise.

While she got little more than she would have gotten in the first place...the fact is she did get something...which allows her to claim something...and evidently there are still some journalists that believe that she did the right thing.

oh...and thanks for the links at blogcritics...

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 5, 2005 6:12 PM | Permalink

Not sure if I am repeating something someone else intended to convey but my feelings -- as a layman, nonprofessional -- tend toward Judy being a shill for those who would use the media to further their own ends, either in the "Hearstian" "give me the pictures, I'll give you the war" sense or in the overall effort of some governmental entities to diminish the role of the media -- even at the "paper of record" -- as the public's watchdog.

If, after 85 layzy dayze in the hoosegow, Judy had decided to write something along the lines of exposing the lies and the misstatements and the various other deceptions, this might have qualified her -- sources intact -- for something pertaining to "1st Amendment" integrity. Using the ability to develop sources to ferret out those who would perpetuate a grand scheme of deception and dishonour to the United States, the 1st Amendment being a big part of the nation and its ideals, Judy might have done a greater service, thereby extricating herself from her predicament and using her influence to stem the flow of misinformation and institutional misconduct. Put off the scent before, she might have wanted to demonstrate that she's got her nose back. Tail wagging eagerness just ain't good enough to catch the crooks whose integrity is on the lam.

But, as the aspens all turn colour at the same time simply because their roots are all intertwined and -related, it appears everyone involved was merely trying to cut the best deal they could at the time, given the circumstances. It was not soon after Judy's release from the clink and her gag agreement (not that there was much funny -- outside of her clique -- about the whole situation), not soon after that the indictment came down for ILL. It is therefore better for her to be on the loose to further her masters' unabated ill will than to be secluded and otherwise unable to act on their behalf.

The SPJ award may have been an effort to redeem her credibility and put her in a position whereby she was shielded from further antagonistic scrutiny. This seems to not be the case, considering developing her sources includes various people who are outlaws -- in the case of Ahmed -- or indictees, potentially inductees into the Republicans' Hall of Infamy (Iran-Contra, Watergate, Silverado, and on and on). She has not been forgiven her trespasses and those who seek to put he in some born'd agin category are not considering the incidence of recidivism among the incarcerated to perfect their "arts."

Only she can redeem herself by writing an expose of those who were "wrong" and of those who led her barefoot down the aspen rooted path on a clear Rocky Mountain Fall might, tripping and freezing in that rarefied air-headedness. But, we might not be able to understand the sense of devotion she has for those who would cause her skinned shins and frost-bitten toesies. She may be a martyr to some other cause and for some other group, other than those who share her journalist craft.

Posted by: Alamaine at November 5, 2005 8:05 PM | Permalink

"I'm trying to think of other professions that would give an award to such a visibly shoddy practitioner." --Jenny D
Well, there's Frank Lloyd Wright, who never built a house that didn't leak rain, or Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes no one has ever figured out how to heat.
But Jenny's point stands. It is now clear that SPJ gave its award to a showboating prima donna, not to a reporter with the actual chops to expose the lies that prop up the governing classes.
Just as it's clear that Judy went to jail to enhance her status as a celebrity, not for any higher principal. The only good thing about all of this is that when she finally caved to get out of jail, on the false premise that her source had finally relented on his insistence to remain protected, her own newspaper -- God bless its soul -- revealed the lie.
And, as Jenny says, the reporters in Toledo who worked on the story about Vietnam atrocities, and the latest story about missing coins and state funds have indeed not been invited to any dinner parties with the rich and famous. But the journalism they do is rugged, made up of dogged shoe leather reporting and many hours spent in dusty archives in the basements of govermental buildings.
Judy Miller couldn't even begin to touch it.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 5, 2005 9:02 PM | Permalink

Mr. Fitzgerald pointed out the one fact that made this argument moot. This is a rare case. He didn't feel that forcing the press to reveal sources should be done. That said, the act that WAS THE CRIME is what this is really all about. When Ms. Millers source talked to her, that was the crime. By her actions, rather than acknowledging the unique situation she was in, she could very well promt a legal situation that will be used to attack the press when they use confidential sources for important, legitimate reasons.

Posted by: mjvpi at November 5, 2005 11:27 PM | Permalink

If you were on the award board of an organization that only its members had ever heard of, you might be tempted to pick a high-profile person rather than a high-quality person to receive it. After all, the non-members can be counted upon not to know what really happened, or should happen, or what the criteria are.

It ought to be recalled that Libby is being indicted for fibbing. Not for outing. Most people know this, but if you think by repetition you can convince people of the opposite, and that Plame was "covert", you ought to get a job at the NYT.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 6, 2005 9:28 AM | Permalink

Ron, you wrote:
"Yes. Judy probably could've gotten that deal last year...something similiar to what Pincus got. But though this became Judy's Times...she wasn't entirely alone in wanting to go to jail. The Times wanted that...and they even wanted her to stay longer in hopes the grand jury would be dissolved without her having to testify. That's partly why Keller regrets that they didn't seek an earlier compromise."

But you are omitting the fact that Keller also said that Miller misled him and others.

So while they supported her term in jail it was under false pretenses.

Posted by: Scott Butki at November 6, 2005 10:06 AM | Permalink

Although its understandable that SPJ would want to give a "First Amendment Award" out pursuant to the Miller/NYTimes piece, given Miller's actions she was the wrong recipient.

Better to give it to Floyd Abrams, who was the Times attorney who went to bat for the First Amendment, or to Keller who supported Miller's claim to First Amendment protections without question.

But not Miller.

Posted by: ami at November 6, 2005 10:47 AM | Permalink

Ami is right on. Floyd Abrams would have been a more worthy choice.

Scott, Keller wished for an earlier compromise not complete capitulation. I'm not sure why you think I left something out about why he changed his mind when that's the reason why he did so.

I despise Miller for just about everything that she did but I DO think that it's far more complicated than the left makes it out to be...and that there could be deep ramifications from all of this. There's no such thing as a "rare case"...only precedents...and this could be one that hurts all of us in the long run.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 6, 2005 11:04 AM | Permalink

I meant "Judy's lies" which are self-evident are the reason why Keller had some regrets.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 6, 2005 11:06 AM | Permalink

It ought to be recalled that Libby is being indicted for fibbing. Not for outing. Most people know this, but if you think by repetition you can convince people of the opposite, and that Plame was "covert", you ought to get a job at the NYT.
--Richard Aubrey.

Here's William F. Buckley, former CIA agent himself, commenting on those who would minimize the outing of Valerie Plame:

"We have noticed that Valerie Plame Wilson has lived in Washington since 1997. Where she was before that is not disclosed by research facilities at my disposal.
"But even if she was safe in Washington when the identity of her employer was given out, it does not mean that her outing was without consequence. We do not know what dealings she might have been engaging in which are now interrupted or even made impossible. We do not know whether the countries in which she worked before 1997 could accost her, if she were to visit any of them, confronting her with signed papers that gave untruthful reasons for her previous stay -- that she was there only as tourist, or working for a fictitious U.S. company."

If I were Valerie, I'd be careful about where I traveled. Very careful.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 6, 2005 10:43 PM | Permalink

I wonder how they pick these "facts to undo" lists.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 6, 2005 11:10 PM | Permalink

Ron, thanks for the clarification.

Jay, how's the book work coming?

Posted by: Scott Butki at November 6, 2005 11:32 PM | Permalink

Scott: It's turning into a book on trust, and changes in its establishment.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 7, 2005 12:20 AM | Permalink

Steve. Presumably Fitzgerald knew this, or something pretty much like this, when he put his indictment together.

Now, if you think by repetition you can convince people he did something different than he really did, you ought to get a job with the NYT.

Buckley may know whereof he speaks, although, as has been remarked, a great many people are suddenly giving a lot of weight to the CIA's pronouncements--and to ex-agent's words, too.

If a country needs this kind of confusion to figure out that a open CIA employee is an open CIA employee, then their intelligence service is pretty poor, and probably not up to sharing its new-found knowledge with its airport customs and immigration guys.

Nevertheless, it's probably useful that the US is such a nice place. Less claustrophobia for those who feel required to stay.

During the Cold War, there were a lot of guys--mostly--some women--who were also well-advised to be careful in travel. Low-level military intel guys--when again civilians, and special ops veterans. I used to carry some military stuff in my wallet as a souvenir, but I was careful to take it out when traveling, just in case. And I was just a grunt.

Anyway, my point about the subject matter of the indictment stands.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 7, 2005 6:24 AM | Permalink

Anyway, my point about the subject matter of the indictment stands.

richard, would it really kill you to stay on-topic in one discussion here?

Posted by: ami at November 7, 2005 9:30 AM | Permalink

I should have been clearer.
Miller is in a position to know, better than most, that there was never any agent-outing. She knew the law, she knew the players.
This makes her behavior even stranger.

She went to jail to protect a guy--Libby--from prosecution for a crime he hadn't committed? Obviously, what she had to tell Fitzgerald post-jail was no more help than he had before in bringing charges of agent-outing.
And then, at some time, she 'fessed up to some facts that got Libby indicted. Or maybe what she had to tell didn't have any effect on his indictment which could have been supported by other information.

WTF? as some folks say.

I don't want to comment on the award, save to observe that awards tell more about the awarder than about the awardee.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 7, 2005 10:59 AM | Permalink

I dunno, but if Yassir Arafat could win the Nobel Peace Prize, why can't Judy Miller win this SPJ Award thingy? Is the SPJ award really more important (I mean to anyone other than the press)?

Posted by: kilgore trout at November 7, 2005 1:22 PM | Permalink

The vote to remove Miller's name and the other language from the resolution was 53-51, very close indeed. It is also noteworthy that the Ethics Committee voted its support for the resolution with the Miller language included.

Posted by: Gary Hill at November 7, 2005 2:16 PM | Permalink


Fitzgerald addressed this at his press conference and made clear that he regarded Valerie Plame as having covert status before she was outed.
He didn't charge someone with the outing because he felt he didn't have enough evidence, or because it's hard to win a conviction under the relevant law unless you can prove that a Libby (or anyone else) knew of her covert status and intentionally tried to blow her cover. Sort of a "malice aforethought" test, only this time applied to government leakers, not to journalists.
Thus, we get indictments for lying to prosecutors and grand jurors, which, while criminal, is a long way from treason.
Not much bang for the taxpayers' buck ?
That's a legitimate observation, but one better reserved for a blog devoted to discussing the insanity of unbridled special prosecutors.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 7, 2005 3:20 PM | Permalink

Because, kilgore, however tenuous and tentative, there was a momentary peace in the Mideast. But Judy Miller did nothing to protect the 1st Amendment.

But then, I recall more than a little umbrage taken over Arafat's award.

It's doubtful that anyone outside journalism understands how galling the Miller award issue is. But this, after all, is a discussion on journalism, which makes it a fitting place to discuss SPJ's actions, no?

For Richard Aubrey, two points concerning your interesting take on L'Affaire Plame: 1.) Because you believe it is a big deal over nothing doesn't make it so. 2.)Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 7, 2005 3:26 PM | Permalink

It seems that everyone's favorite investigative journalist may not be returning as soon as rumored.

Miller's Times Return Delayed

Posted by: Effwit at November 7, 2005 4:01 PM | Permalink

"The Ethics Committee voted its support for the resolution with the Miller language included." Thanks, Gary.

Trout: I don't think people outside the press would necessarily be interested, or need to be. People interested in the press or involved in it should be.

Troll's rule of thumb: the more disputed the facts are--was she really under cover?--the more you adopt a tone of total certainty, as if any fool with eyes to see knows she wasn't. "Most people know this" was Richard's way of injecting that tone of phony troll certitude. The more ambiguous the evidence, the clearer the troll's "conclusions." The method is guaranteed to get reactions, and thus troll posts another W.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 7, 2005 4:08 PM | Permalink

It's interesting that the SPJ has couched this award in terms of protecting the First Amendment and specifically not ethics.

As I understand this (which may be poorly), Miller went to jail to keep a promise; a promise of confidentiality. Promise-keeping is usually understood based on ethics.

I would like more of a discussion on the ethics of making a promise, promise-keeping, or the ethical dilemma when keeping one's promise conflicts with other ethical obligations.

I would like to understand better how maintaining the "free" flow of information based on confidentiality ... something found in the penumbra of the First Amendment, I guess ... is separable from the ethic of making a promise and keeping it.

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 7, 2005 4:23 PM | Permalink

I also wanted to offer these links for the After section:

First Amendment Award
The Case for a Federal Shield Law
Journalist Shield Law: Point/Counterpoint

From the last link, I found this noteworthy:

... The clergyman “shall claim the privilege on behalf of the person unless the privilege is waived.”

That’s the privilege we want for reporters, the one SPJ should be advocating. ...
Who "owns" the privilege? The journalist or the source?

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 7, 2005 4:43 PM | Permalink

Sisyphus, the way I see it journalists make promises in order. The first promise should be to the readers/public/citizens. It should be to provide as much information, with as much transparency, in as much completeness as possible.

The second promise is to the newspaper, to uphold the promise to the reader in the form of practice and work habits and behavior.

The last promise is to the source. The way I see it, you can't promise something to a source if it compromises your ability to uphold the previous and more important promises you make as a journalist.

Posted by: JennyD at November 7, 2005 4:57 PM | Permalink

What I believe counts for less than what Fitzgerald believes.
And he said Plame was "classified" according to the last report I read. Since the Philip Agee law requres "covert", I guess there isn't a fit.
I don't know whether Fitzgerald has changed his wording, or what he thinks "classified" means in this case.
Since he didn't charge Libby with outing an agent, Libby isn't in the dock for outing an agent.
If Fitzgerald doesn't think he can prove a violation of the law, it's nice of him not to prosecute for it.
As I say, this leaves Miller having protected Libby against what, exactly?
If Fitzgerald thought he could get Libby for outing Plame, why did he need Miller? Did Miller in some way ruin his case?
And Miller didn't protect him--if anything she had to say on the subject even bore on the fibbing--against the fibbing charge.
What the hell was Miller doing?

Speaking of Agee, I'm trying to remember if certain sides of the political divide were as upset about him as about the Plame issue.
It's difficult.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 7, 2005 4:59 PM | Permalink

JennyD: I'll bet if you work on the wording above, we could call it DeMonte's Three Laws of Journalism.

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 7, 2005 5:04 PM | Permalink

Just to riff a bit on JennyD's points:

The promise of confidentiality should carry the weight of it being factual and, at some level, verifiable. It's an offer of information, usually inside stuff, that you can't get otherwise.

Think Pentagon Papers. Think the insider view of the tobacco industry on its product's cancer-causing properties.

Sadly, it too often become a way for those inside to float an agenda. And the reporter's willingness to accept that agenda - either through naivete or a cynical willingness - in order to get a Page 1A byline.

I've always felt confidential sources should be used both judiciously and rarely. Most things can go on the record or can be acquired through other sources. It just isn't that necessary to go off the record very often.

Generally, the privelege goes to the source. But it takes two to tango. If a source burns the reporter with false or intentionally misleading information, there should be a serious talk between source and reporter whether that voids the warranty. Were I Judy Miller, all bets with Chalabi, Scooter, et al would have been off a long time ago.

As for the ethics of a promise: If I break a promise to help you break the law, have I acted unethically? If I break a promise to help you provide false information to readers, have I acted unethically?

I don't think so. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 7, 2005 5:25 PM | Permalink

Dave: If I break a promise to help you break the law, have I acted unethically? ... I don't think so. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

It does, and so does yours: Fickle media begins to criticize and question Judith Miller's choice of jail over outing her source. Why Miller is right and her critics wrong.

Argument 2: The right to protect a confidential source ends if the source, in leaking information to a reporter, violates the law. The appeal of this argument for Miller's liberal critics is that Karl Rove, her presumed source (and an acknowledged source for Time magazine's Matthew Cooper) may have violated a federal criminal statute--and/or may have perjured himself before the grand jury.

Answer: Reporters often don't know---and can't know for sure--that a given leak is illegal. ...

Besides, any leak can be plausibly characterized as illegal. In the national security area, for example, virtually all information is classified, and leaks of classified information--think of Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the Pentagon Papers-- are arguably illegal. Leaks about government corruption usually involve information from secret grand jury proceedings or investigative files--also illegal.

Even investigative reporting about corporate malfeasance--think of stories on Big Tobacco-- often will involve leaks of records that are trade secrets, other proprietary information, or privileged. The illegality of the leak, without more, can't be enough to strip a confidential source of all protection.
I'm reminded of my previous post: Journalists Pass Social Responsibility Test

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 7, 2005 7:19 PM | Permalink

"What the hell was Miller doing?"
--Richard Aubrey

At last, we find common ground.
"What the hell was Miller doing?" is precisely the question of the day, albeit somewhat modified in this thread to "What the hell was the SPJ doing?"
The important thing here is that even the Mandarins of the New York Times -- Keller, Abramson, Calame -- are, however belatedly, finally asking that very same and very pregnant question.
Which explains the pickle in which Ms. Miller currently finds herself.
It appears that with her jail stunt, exposed by her fellow reporters at The Times, Judy finally took it a bridge too far.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 7, 2005 8:03 PM | Permalink

I didn't mean what the hell--generically and rhetorically--was Miller doing?
I meant, what the hell was her use to the investigation?
Nada about agent outing.
Did Fitz need her to show Libby fibbed? If so, she hardly protected him.

Or did Fitz want something back for her outing a couple of terror investigations?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 7, 2005 8:23 PM | Permalink

Sisyphus, you raise a very valid point on the criminal nature of leaks and confidential sources, one that I didn't think through sufficiently before writing.

The relationship between leaker and leakee is far more convoluted than either you or I have dealt with. So much for easy answers.

I go back to point that the issue isn't so much who leaked what to whom but why. As JennyD noted, any promise between reporter and leaker is actually a proxy for the readers' interest. The first promise should be to the readers/public/citizens.

The leak of the Pentagon Papers was illegal, a violation of government secrecy. And Elsberg was willing to go to prison for releasing them because they revealed a dirty secret about how the government went to war. The NYTimes and the Washington Post were willing to take on the Nixon Justice Department over the order to desist publication all the way to the Supreme Court. For the parties concerned, there were issues considerably bigger than government secrecy to consider. For the readers/citizens, it was of particular importance.

I'm not sure we can say the same about Scooter's leaks to Judy et al. So maybe it's a matter of who benefits? Is the leak vital for the public to know? Or is it to protect the powerful and further the reporter's career track?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 7, 2005 10:29 PM | Permalink

The usual questions, feel free to ignore...

"I hope, and believe, that the members of my Society [SPJ] do honor the code always. "

In general, if you belong to a professional organization that has a code of ethics, what obligation do you have to abide by them? What happens if you don't?

"the way I see it journalists make promises in order. The first promise should be to the readers/public/citizens..."

Are columnists journalists? Should those columnists who are SPJ members and feel bound by its code of ethics make this info known?

Posted by: Anna Haynes at November 7, 2005 10:46 PM | Permalink

My letter to Romenesko about the Times still refusing to answer my question about Miller's security clearances.

"We have no reason to trust what Miller says."

... The implications are large, and I don't want to speculate about whether she did or didn't; that's why I asked my question and tried to follow up with Mathis and Calame. But if you're a Times reader, how can you trust a Judy Miller who talks about having security clearances, forcing you to guess whether a.) she really does or b.) just goes around saying she does.


Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 7, 2005 11:50 PM | Permalink

From Jay's letter:
" (Calame indicated to me that he hasn't dropped the matter. Good for him.)"

I'd feel better if we (or at least you, Jay) knew what steps he was taking to look into it. I don't know Calame from Adam, and credibility is something you build over time; from some people, "We're working on it" means absolutely nothing.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at November 8, 2005 1:24 AM | Permalink

I think he is working on it, in the sense of pressuring the editors to give him an answer, and following up. Whether he is working independently of them to determine the answer, I do not know.

I think the problem with confidential sources involves the moment of promise-making, and what's actually going down when the agreement, "I will preserve your namelessness" is made. If the actual terms of what each was agreeing to, and unable to warrant, were spelled out, the actors would probably say, "I'd never agree to that," and yet they did, and do. The profession's story of what a journalist is doing when she grants confidentiality is not a good description of what she is actually doing, contract-wise. But we debate the story.

So... when Miller bestows on Libby namelesness that's "her" source, and "her" promise, and "her" notes, and "her" cause if she fights it, and who is obligated? Not just her, but the New York Times. Who is affected? Not just her but every journalist working for the Times, which lost its voice because of what she and Libby cooked up together.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 8, 2005 2:05 PM | Permalink


What are the differences in the "moment of promise-making" between a "confidential source" and the reporter/editor/publisher?

What are the differences in the terms of the promise between "off-the-record" and other forms?

"On Deep Background"
For the Record, What "Off the Record" Means
Off the record

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 8, 2005 6:01 PM | Permalink

I am shaking my head even now over this. What a load of baloney. I anguished as a reporter over these turns of phrase. And I anguished most when I was employed at the smallest newspaper. I was most vulnerable as a baby reporter at a 50K circ paper, quoting local sources. I was convinced my editors would rather kill me than defend me, and the pockets of potential dysfunction in local government were deep. In the sum, I would guess that local govt in total wastes a ton more money than federal, yet the reporters who cover it are least supported in their work.

In my next job, at a circ 275K paper, I felt on much firmer ground. My editors were much clearer and so was I. Basically, it was "can I quote you?" or "can I use it and not quote you" or "can I say it and not get sued?" This deep background baloney sounds like it's from the movies sometimes.

As the editor of a magazine, I almost NEVER ran a quote without attribution. And if we did, we called the source, confirmed the fact, and then all the staff knew but we didn't publish. I was a fact-checkers nightmare and demanded that every single fact had a source that I knew about, even if there was no name.

I was sued several times, and always won. Because I did my homework. I broke some ground in my work as an editor, and lost a few hot tidbits because I felt the reporting was weak. Looking back, I did good. But I never got invited to the fancy Washington celebrity dinner. Was I bad journalist, then? How do you know a good journalist when you see one?

Posted by: JennyD at November 8, 2005 7:00 PM | Permalink

Tim: Most journalists work with two categories: off the record and on. Off the record means, "don't use my name." For the great majority of transactions that is sufficient.

The idea of there being all these categories within categories is mostly Hollywood. In Wahington where you have professional leakers they no doubt come into play. The way I have always understood the levels:

* you can quote me, no name, as in "senior officials said" (off the record)
* you can't quote what I say or name me, but you can use the information (on background)
* you can't quote me, name me, or use this, but I will tell you so you know (deep background)

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 8, 2005 7:21 PM | Permalink

Jay, it's the reverse.

From least restrictive to most restrictive, here's the order of battle:

"Not for attribution" means "Here are some specific facts. You can use the information, but you can't blow my cover by telling where you got it."

"On background" means "here's some context that you need to understand the situation for this story and for future stories. You can print it, but don't quote me or name me."

"Deep background" means "Here's what really happened. But since you can't attribute it to anyone, not even an administration source, your best bet is to use it as a jumping-off point to interrogate others."

"Off the record" is the most restrictive of all. It means a lot more than "You can't use my name." It means "you can't print the information, period, unless you get it from a source other than me. I'm telling you what I'm telling you only so you can adjust your queries to other officials accordingly."

I know it must sound incredibly silly to an outsider -- hell, now that I look at it, it sounds incredibly silly to me -- but those are the rules that Washington reporters and officials work under.

I can assure you that there have been cases where everyone of those characterizations -- not for attribution, on background, deep background and off the record -- have been used to describe a president himself talking to a reporter.

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

I stand corrected, Steve. But then I have never been a Washington reporter. I'd bet that among the "outsiders" to these rules would be many seasoned reporters who don't work inside the Beltway or in New York and LA. Could be wrong about that too.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 8, 2005 8:35 PM | Permalink

I couldn't get through this whole post. It was too painful. I thought this was a respectable site. Is JennyD really so naive that she has absolutely no idea how investigative reporting--particularly in the political arena--is practiced? Is Judy Miller the first to rely on sources with axes to grind? Jenny levels this accusation as if it's somehow damning. It's sort of like saying, "And most damning Miller took notes, then later returned to her computer where she typed them up." Can someone tell me a secret source for any investigative piece who didn't have some axe to grind, be it professional, personal or psychological? Um, please. "Editor: Oh, my god, remove all stories whose sources have agendas. Paper reader: why is my paper blank today except for these press releases on page 19?" By the way, Miller didn't even write a story about Plame--so the accusation that she was a stenographer for Libby is rather lame and seems to be actually motivated by another charge that Jenny would really like to make...that Miller was a stenographer for WMD reports. But that's another story and more complex (much) and not at all reported well enough for anyone to comment on it with precision; so Jenny conflates and confuses the two stories in her 'attack' on the society for its award; the conflation is revealing.

Posted by: Lee Kane at November 8, 2005 8:38 PM | Permalink

I'm not a journalist, but the rules sound eminently practical.
Without them, you get nothing.

The problem is, of course, telling the difference between an unnamed source of whatever variety and the reporter making stuff up.

If Jenny D had had a solid position at the NYT, we wouldn't be having these conversations. But, of course, the editors at the NYT were above trying to differentiate between anonymous sources and fiction.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 8, 2005 8:41 PM | Permalink

Lee: We get that you think this is all ideology-- no truth to it, no principle, just politics. But it's absurd to characterize Jenny's post as the "discovery" that sources have agendas. That's not a misreading; it's a non-reading.

Though you said you didn't actually read the entirety--too revolted to finish--you're quite able to characterize the entirety (incorrectly). Are we supposed to find that "respectable?"

Jenny's post is about the reasoning SPJ used to give Miller an award despite concerns about her ethics that even SPJ people had. Most people in the press or paying attention to her case knew she had gotten the award, but not much about why. The post seeks to remedy that. There is in fact a fuller explanation here than any the society cared to give.

I will give you this, Lee: Jenny's sentence:

One would think that Miller might have made that intellectual leap, and turned away from this particular confidential source given the chance that he had an agenda.

could have been improved.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 8, 2005 9:25 PM | Permalink

I guess then the question is whether my ethics are close to those that are "professional" in journalism, or whether I am some kind of reportorial saint, far more ethical than required.

I don't know. Maybe everyone who is in Washington operate inthe squishy, ends-justitifies-the-means kind of reporting. I didn't in the hinterlands. I would be curious to find out what reporters who are elsewhere (ie. not in Washington) think about that.

I have this hunch, based on nothing more than a hunch, that DC/NYC reporters (and maybe LA too) have a different view of ethics/sourcing/etc. than do reporters elsewhere. I would LOVE to be proven wrong.

Posted by: JennyD at November 8, 2005 9:27 PM | Permalink

Jenny and Jay --

You are correct. In its fullest manifestation, this is a Washington game, one not much practised anywhere else.
I've been a reporter in Cincinnati, Chicago and Los Angeles, and an editor supervising the work of Washington bureaus from both Philadelphia and New York, and I can tell you, Washington is a special case. In most of the real world, the vast majority of confidential conversations between a source and a reporter are on a "not for attribution" or an "on background" basis.
"Deep background" and "off the record" are Washington inventions, designed for an added layer of anonymity. And even there, they are seldom used.
I can't swear to it, of course, since I wasn't there, but I would bet you real money that when Libby talked to Miller and when Rove talked to Cooper, and when the mystery source talked to Novak, it was on a "not for attribution" basis. That's what a source uses when he/or/she wants the information published.
All the rest -- "on background, deep background and off the record" -- are what a source uses when he/or/she just wants to
give the reporter a larger context within which to frame whatever story the reporter eventually digs up. Such as, "Listen, Jay, the CIA has an ax to grind and it holds a grudge against us because we have made it clear that we don't trust it's analyses, and for good reason. Keep that in mind as you proceed on this story."
That's deep background.
Richard: "The reporter making things up" almost never happens. The risk is too great, what with other reporters breathing down your neck to get to the real story. I wouldn't even accuse Judy Miller -- an extremely sloppy and gullible reporter -- of that.
Judy lived in fear that Walter Pincus would get the real story before she did, just as Walter lived in fear of the opposite.
Her crime wasn't in making things up; her crime was being sucked in by sources more clever than she who were intent on planting a false story.
Frankly, I don't know which is worse.
Go back and reread "All The President's Men." Woodward and Bernstein lived in fear themselves, but they weren't afraid that they were wrong. They were afraid that CBS would beat them to the next piece of the puzzle, which, in fact, it occasionally did.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 8, 2005 10:41 PM | Permalink

Steve. See Jayson Blair.

Also, either stone, impenetrable ignorance or making stuff up, the report on the recruiter that took up a good deal of the comment in the previous post.
Also the deliberate mischaracterization of Cpl. Starr's last letter.

Now, I know in most of these cases it wasn't anonymous sourcing as a fable for the validity. Still, it was stuff made up.

BTW. Do you think the investigation of the leak about the "black" prisons is going to be as much fun without Miller in the middle?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 8, 2005 10:49 PM | Permalink

Steve: Richard came here to tell us journalists make stuff up and he doesn't much care what you say, or whether it happens. That's his story and he'll stick to it. Journalists make stuff up. They're lying leftist liars and they often know nothing (as in not the first thing) about the subjects they cover as news. They're stone cold ignorant.

The discovery part is over for Richard. It happened a while ago. He's here for the drill that follows from his discoveries. You're a journalist; ergo you get the drill.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 8, 2005 11:07 PM | Permalink

Oh for God's sake, Richard. It was one ill-chosen introductory clause in one paragraph of a feature. That doesn't make it or the rest of the story 'made-up.'

You want to believe the media are the source of all evil, knock yourself out. But this fixation that it's all made up is delusional.

JennyD: Though you're quite right that it's a inside-the-beltway, you may be a wee bit harsh on all those media elites. Presumably some good may have come from the weirdly tribal exchange of information in DC, as well as the potential for harm. (See Judy Miller on WMDs.)

It's a game they play and doesn't reflect much on the rest of journalism. For what it's worth, I've been doing this stuff for nearly 30 years and I've never been invited to a fancy dinner in Washington either.

A few drunken revels, perhaps. But that's another story.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 8, 2005 11:29 PM | Permalink

I loved your Romenesko letter, Jay...but I think it's time for one of us to say - again - "Get back to that book!"

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 8, 2005 11:30 PM | Permalink

Jay, et al.
See, as I said, Jayson Blair. For starters.

The "clause" was, as Sisyphus said, possibly a garden-variety error. However, it told the reader that things were as bad in the military as in the darkest days of the ground fighting in WW II.

Either you don't think telling people this is a bad idea, or you don't understand what it tells people.

See the fuss over Cpl Starr's letter.

Is anybody on for insisting the media never make stuff up? al Kaka? Rather?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 9, 2005 4:05 AM | Permalink

Richard: see this.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 9, 2005 7:40 AM | Permalink

Jay. I get an Amazon catalog.

If it's a metaphor, it's beyond me.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 9, 2005 8:32 AM | Permalink

I'm a psychologist and have no training or experience in journalism.

However, I'm looking at this problem the same way we psychologists do when it comes to our guarantee of confidentiality.

We have to weigh our responsiblity to society against our commitment to this one person. And at times we need to remind the person of the limits of confidentiality. If we have reason to believe that the person, in our judgment, is a danger to any other person or to society at large, then our responsbility to society takes precedence.

In addition, and I think this is the primary underlying value which can alleviate some of the problems you all are discussing in journalism, we are obliged to refrain from dual relationships, if such a relationship would lead us to lose "objectivity" or be tempted into unethical behavior.

We consult with each other when we find ourselves in an ethical quandry - to keep ourselves honest, to keep from walking into quicksand, to gather a consensus, if need be, before breaking confidentiality for some larger social good.

From my vantage point, looking at this crisis in journalism, it seems as if there are two principles related to the First Amendment. Both relate to telling the truth and having the freedom to speak or write the truth. One kind is the "truth" as your source would have it; and add to that your efforts to tease out in the most ethical possible manner to what degree that truth can be "proven." The next kind of First Amendment truth is your responsibility - again, I'm speaking as a citizen - your responsibilty to alert the public to betrayals of the truth, efforts of sources to manipulate you, the reporter, and thus us, the citizens.

In your area, as in mine, I think the key ethical principle should be to avoid becoming entangled in dual relationships. And by this I mean that your own needs - for money, influence, power, and so on - have not been utilized by your source as a way to entice you into betraying the public trust.

This matter deeply concerns me as a citizen. I agree that Judy Miller should not have been given an award. But, and I have no evidence to support this suspicion, I can't help but fear that the organization that gave this award has lost its moral compass.

There is a great deal of selflessness which goes into keeping trust. One must be ready to go to jail, yes, if that is what is called for. And one must also be ready to lose one's livelihood in the service of that same trust.

And all of us should realize before taking on positions of public trust to what lengths we are ready to go, whether to maintain confidentiality or to serve the public welfare.

Posted by: Mary Ann at November 9, 2005 10:33 AM | Permalink

Breaking News:

"Judy Miller has retired from the NYT effective today."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 9, 2005 3:51 PM | Permalink

And with a pretty hefty severence package, apparently. What does she have? Photos of Keller and a sheep named Lola?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 9, 2005 5:55 PM | Permalink

Jenny D, been meaning to leave you a note complimenting your piece. It's one of the four pieces I recommend for people desperately seeking perspective on Ms. Miller's interpretation of her job and her editors' interpretation of their responsibilities.

Posted by: Lisa Stone at November 9, 2005 6:32 PM | Permalink

Lisa, and others, thanks for the nice words about my piece.

Posted by: JennyD at November 9, 2005 8:41 PM | Permalink

And Judy's letter is now up.
I'm blogging about it now.
The best irony for me is that she scooped them - sort of - by putting her resignation letter online.

Posted by: Scott Butki at November 9, 2005 8:43 PM | Permalink

Now posted at: Karl Rove Says Who Leaked First

The Times They Should Be A-Changin

Bloggers Request:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the Times should be a-changin'.

Good Bye Sulzberger, Keller, and Miller!

Fitzgerald's response:

Come politician's, journalists
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For more indictments they are a-comin'.

--Bob Dylan

Judy plans to write a book.
Now that's a novel idea.
It certainly won't be based on facts

Posted by: MnMnM at November 9, 2005 8:53 PM | Permalink

Judith scooped the Times, and (in a preview of what's to come from her) published at her own letter-to-the-editor, which will be in tomorrow's paper: Judith Miller's Farewell. It is not an op-ed piece.

I will continue speaking in support of a Federal shield law. In my future writing, I intend to call attention to the internal and external threats to our country’s freedoms – Al Qaeda and other forms of religious extremism, conventional and W.M.D. terrorism, and growing government secrecy in the name of national security – subjects that have long defined my work. I also leave knowing that The Times will continue the tradition of excellence that has made it indispensable to its readers, a standard for journalists, and a bulwark of democracy.

One indicator of her intellectual standards: she continues to say her case dramatizes the need for a federal shield law without mentioning that her case would not have fallen under the law's protections. It is clear she intends to keep doing this. And that's Judy Miller to a T. If she ignores it, it didn't happen, and it isn't true.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 9, 2005 9:30 PM | Permalink

Ok, I put together my thoughts about it, hitting on some of the same points you mention, Jay.
It's up here now.

Posted by: Scott Butki at November 9, 2005 9:47 PM | Permalink

Thomis Feyer, letters editor of The Times:

"A few important ground rules: Letters should be kept to about 150 words. (Not enough space? Well, the Gettysburg Address was only about 250 words.) They should be exclusive to The Times and respond to an article that appeared in the newspaper in the last week."

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 10, 2005 12:27 AM | Permalink

Jay, please don't try to run Richard Aubrey off your message board. He does not appear to be a "bias" warrior and he is not attacking all journalists as commie bastards or whatever. He appears to be making these points:

1. Miller's behavior does not appear to rationally benefit Libby. What do you think she was protecting him from? How did she help him by going to jail?

2. Libby did not out a covert agent. Fitzgerald did NOT state that - the way you state it is by prosecuting. Settle this in your minds once and for all. She was, or was not, covert.

3. How exactly Wilson came to make his trip, write his op-ed, and otherwise set this whole thing in motion are not irrelevant issues, and will have to be addressed, whether you like it or not.

4. Reporters make stuff up all the time for non-rational reasons, such as vanity or identity confusion or just unashamed ignorance. This is not something to get defensive over, it is something to incorporate into your critical view of Judy's performance.

It looks to me like Miller is exactly this type but smarter - she makes up useful things, like Secret clearances and shield laws interpretations, that actuually help her. She writes about editors that somehow prevented her from correcting earlier errors Perhaps it would be worthwhile to not explain by conspiracy what is fully explained by vanity?

What I have noticed over that past 2 weeks is that while Jay has gotten better and better at articulating the problem that Judy and 'Judy's Times' subtract from the sum of knowledge, rather than adds, everytime they publish (especially in his Romenesko letter), he and many of you have gotten more and more certain that you DO know exactly what she did, when, why, and for whom. I would be wary of feeling this way.

Posted by: Marc Siegel at November 10, 2005 12:34 AM | Permalink

From the letter:

... "an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it.” True? Not true? The Times has not said....

... In fact we know more than enough to be interested and alarmed, but nowhere near enough to draw any conclusions...

...The implications are large, and I don't want to speculate about whether she did or didn't; that's why I asked my question and tried to follow up with Mathis and Calame.

Is that what you meant by more and more certain, Mark? My letter expresses no sentiment like, "I know what happened." It's almost entirely about the confusion and un-certainty that Miller has created, and the Times has not cleared up. It reaches no conclusions, and explicity says none can be reached until we know more. So I don't know what your observation means.

As far as I know, I haven't written a word about how Miller "helped" Libby; I haven't spoken of her as neo-con, either, because I don't think she is a neo-con. I haven't speculated about her motives; I cannot fathom her motives. I don't know what she was doing, and I have criticized the Times because it didn't know, either. So again I don't know what your observation means.

The description of Ms. Wilson as covert originated with the CIA in its criminal referral to the Justice Department. It wasn't Media Matters, or Atrios that thought it up, and it wasn't Fitzgerald. It was the CIA. Still, the CIA has no power to appoint a special prosecutor. All it can do is squeal. The Justice Department has to decide that a crime was committed, and therefore an investigation should be launched. Which is what the Justice Department decided. No covert agent, no crime. If you think Ms. Wilson wasn't at all covert, then your complaint is with the CIA and the Justice Department, not the press, or Democrats in the Senate, or the Huffington Post.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2005 2:36 AM | Permalink

Jay. If you think Mrs. Wilson was covert,your complaint is with the justice department, the press, the dems, and the Huffers.

BTW. Is the actual text of the CIA's "squeal" available anywhere?

I understand the CIA squeals about once a week on one matter or another. I'd be interested to know if the CIA literally said "covert", or something else like "classified".

And if the CIA said "covert", were they using a different definition than the Phillip Agee law uses? They must know what the law says, and if they used "covert", they either thought the situation fit the Agee law, or they don't have a leg to stand on.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 10, 2005 7:31 AM | Permalink

Here's a remarkable profile of Miller in the Washington Post. Colleagues tell many outrageous tales about her--like "intercepting" an interview another Times reporter had set up with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, attempting to send herself instead--but without fail she doesn't remember the incident or disputes that it ever happened.

I also (highly) recommend Franklin Foer's reflections on her leaving at the New Republic site.

"But now that they have extricated Miller from the building, perhaps the Times will be liberated to finally speak honestly of the mess that just transpired," he writes. "Although based on its record this past year, I wouldn't count on it."

Yeah, I wouldn't either.

Richard: If the CIA and John Ashcroft's Justice Department said Ms. Wilson was under cover, and found a potential violation of the law against outing a covert agent, serious enough for Ashcroft to recuse himself, serious enough to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation, but you know better, you know she was not under cover, well, who am I to argue with you? You obviously have sources more reliable than mine.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2005 9:21 AM | Permalink

Sounds like your disagreement is with Fitzgerald, Jay.

BTW, recusal is used for two reasons. One is to clear the air of potential conflicts of interest. The other is to disarm political opponents. Had Ashcroft not recused himself, you guys would be having a ball.

But I say again: Is the exact text of the CIA squeal available anywhere?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 10, 2005 9:51 AM | Permalink

I doubt the full text of the CIA's complaint to Justice has been released. We do know it happened and that George Tenent and the CIA took the revelation of a CIA operative's identity very seriously.

In USA Today, the CIA's chief spokesman, Bill Harlow is quoted on the seriousness of the leak allegation.

"People spend years in the business developing contacts overseas who can be placed in danger," Harlow said. "This sets a precedent which can result in people being targeted and killed."

More to the point, Richard, what are your sources that feed the absolute certainty that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent? Anything real - or just wishful thinking?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 10, 2005 11:46 AM | Permalink

It depends on what you mean by sources.
This being a journo blog, I'll start with them.
Hugh Sidey, late, I believe, of Time submitted a statement saying that he and many his friends (an in-group, admittedly) knew that Plame worked for the CIA.
Under the Agee law, that means she's no longer covert.
Robert Novak said he heard it from a CIA guy who didn't do much to keep him from saying so publicly.
That's two.
Nobody has shown overt, positive efforts by the CIA to keep Plame's situation covert.
She needs to have been in the field within five years of the outing for it to qualify.
I am using the stricter definition of "covert" as I understand it to be in the law.

If she was openly a CIA employee, it's hard to see how she could be undercover. If she had been overseas doing one thing or another that could be tied to her at some cost, it would seem reasonable to think the CIA wouldn't have her as an open employee.

Genl. Vallelly has made the statement that Wilson told him some time ago when they met waiting for their turn on a television show.

If you want to make the case that Plame's status would have been better kept under cover, you can do so, but that's not the same as finding somebody guilty under the law. Which Fitzgerald doesn't seem likely to do, there being no indictment under that law.

I must say, though, it's good to see journalists taking the CIA's word for things. It's been a long time, but I wish there were some way to see if there was this much outrage over Agee. Somehow, I doubt it. Bush wasn't president.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 10, 2005 12:01 PM | Permalink

Okay, Richard, you win.

Here's my take on Miller's resignation:

After Miller Let There Be Light. (Huffington Post)

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2005 12:49 PM | Permalink

Pinch is going to be on TV tonight, but unfortunately, he will be on The Charlie Rose Show.

It's the elite interviewing the elite! I heard that Charlie and Larry King are in a softball throwing contest. In other words, don't look for any breaking news on tonight's CR Show.

Posted by: kilgore trout at November 10, 2005 2:21 PM | Permalink

So it's wishful thinking, backed up with supposition and a columnist or two. OK, Richard. Thanks for answering.

Kilgore, I never look for breaking news on Charlie Rose. He's the world's most irritating interviewer, who answers his own questions before the guest can.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 10, 2005 3:18 PM | Permalink

Mr. Rosen, I fail to see the reason for your arch tone - "Okay Richard, you win."

Ms. Plame was not only not a covert operative by the legal definition, there is evidence that her entire behavior here was highly inappropriate and I would think EXTREMELY questionable. There is nothing regular about her sending her non-clearance-holding husband on this trip and then injecting him into the media debate, while herself being a CIA personality known as such to players in the media circuit, and then using this incongrous situation to accuse the administration of destroying her career by leak.

I am NOT asking you, Dave McLemore, or Steve Lovelady to agree on these last points.

But she was, apparently, NOT a covert agent under the law, being not overseas within 5 years, her cover being known, etc. Why does that keep provoking such an angry, and prissily superior, response?

Posted by: Marc Siegel at November 10, 2005 3:23 PM | Permalink

BTW that is a good brief piece at the Huffington Post... thanks again for presenting a public framing of how Miller uses confusion, increases confusion, as part of her professional skill set.

Posted by: Marc Siegel at November 10, 2005 3:27 PM | Permalink

I'm backing Jay here. At a certain point you realize "the other" will never be convinced, so you just cut your losses and avoid future blathering by saying, OK you win. I've been there, and done that.

Posted by: kilgore trout at November 10, 2005 3:33 PM | Permalink

You're absolutely right, Kilgore. Jay's point is made. I'm going to take the pledge and try very hard not to add to the 'blathering' quotient.

Richard - and Marc - we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 10, 2005 3:51 PM | Permalink

It's a softballer's dream come true! Judy Miller on Larry King at 9:00 and Pinch on Charlie Rose at 11:00. Check your local listings ZZzzzzzzz.

Posted by: kilgore trout at November 10, 2005 4:10 PM | Permalink

Boy, you got that right, Kilgore.
Watch Judy and Pinch hit those fat, hanging softballs right outta the TV set and into your living room.
Being interviewed by either Charlie or Larry is quite an experience; it's not unlike chewing your way through a giant cloud of pink cotton candy.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 10, 2005 5:35 PM | Permalink

Important Message From Counsel's Office:

"We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee."

Richard's argument is with Alberto Gonzales.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at November 10, 2005 5:52 PM | Permalink

Here are my answers to questions Salon asked me, for a piece that never ran:

1. Was her leaving inevitable?

It was inevitable because of who she was, not simply what she did that was "bad." First, the Times staff was pre-alienated by Judy Miller's style of outrageous self-assertion, so that when she got into trouble over her journalism (again) the natural sympathies that would be extended to a colleague-in-distress were just not there.

It's not clear to me that she was a figure "in" the newsroom at all; she seemed to operate outside it, and in violation of its codes of conduct, but somehow still publish in the same newspaper. Judith Miller vs. Times Journalism was already there in the atmosphere, before the events that made that story line come true.

Finally, if Judith Miller were a different sort of person, she could have built on the support she had in journalism and at the Times because she did pay the price-- those 85 days in jail. But: To have had any chance of saving her job, she had to come clean about Libby and a lot more, tell a plausible story and help the newspaper restore the narrative it abandoned in her behalf. She did none of those things.

2. Have you heard any inside rumors about her being forced out?

No. All I heard is that the staff had sent a pretty clear message to Keller, and at a certain point Keller easily heard it. They didn't want her back. I think Keller enforced the will of the Times staff, and that is how it should work. Basically, Times Journalists wanted her out of the newsroom she operated outside of. You don't need a plot to force things. You just need the message, and someone to hear you.

Symbolically, this was accomplished with Dick Stevenson's e-mail, embedded in Keller's note to staff, Oct. 21. But Miller was finished in my mind the day the big report came out, Oct. 16. I knew she wasn't going to cooperate with the Times reporters, and that was the final destructive act.

3. When she was "Ms. Run Amok," what should the paper have done differently?

Judith Miller's "patterns," as a behaviorist might say, were clear from very early in her career. Read Nick Lemann on it. The iron will, the disregard for collegial rules, the suggestion of great secrets being passed through her, the levels she operated at that were inconceivable to peers, the network of sources that trailed off into territory where normal journalists, observing the rules, could not go. But she could. Thus: Miller had her own rules.

I think we have to face the fact that something in the New York Times was attracted to her vices as well as her virtues. Maybe they believed that it took a person like Judy Miller to get inside the national security state and not "lose it," so you come out with a page one story. It's only a fraction of what you know, but way more than mere rule-abiding journalism could have gotten. I think there's an attraction to that person. It's like she's undercover. And that in turn is why her unmasking, the great coming apart, is so compelling and awful to watch.

4. What does her leaving do to the integrity of the Times?

It stops the slide.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2005 5:54 PM | Permalink

Your points are well taken, Jay - especially why Ms. Run Amok was so appealing to the Times. She was their inside source and it played to some cinematic view of journalism. They were playing journalism. Maybe they wanted a movie like the Post had with Woodward and Bernstein?

But what does Ms. Miller's departure mean to the Times' integrity. I'm not confident it will stop the slide. The impulse to 'let Judy be Judy' or whoever transmorgrifies Ms. Miller's role is still there.

That ego, that arrogance that has, at times, made the Times great is also it's downfall. They're still playing journalism. They just need to change the cast.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 10, 2005 6:45 PM | Permalink

RB. I think Fitzgerald is a more important arguer with Gonzales than I am.
He appears to disagree.

This is not the CIA's text, though, and I am curious about that.

The Agee law does seem to be the one which would be applicable here, and Plame did not seem to qualify, given her time out of the field, as only one of the criteria.

So I provide some facts and it seems they aren't sufficient.
Just for fun, take Sidey. If he's telling the truth, then it's over. The law requires the agent in question to be not generally known. So it's over.
Or take Andrea Mitchell and her one-way-and-then-another-way comment about what she knew when.
There are two issues here. One is if the facts are true and the other is if they apply.
I haven't seen anybody dispute that Plame was out of the field more than five years. So let's take that as given. That means the law doesn't apply. It's in the law, and unless there is some caveat we haven't seen, she doesn't qualify.
Sidey can be dismissed because he had the astoundingly poor judgment to be quoted by Aubrey, but I haven't seen anybody actually address the, you know, substance of his story. Perhaps being quoted by Aubrey makes that unnecessary.
I'm getting a clearer, if not necessarily more pleasant, view of how journalists work, here.

Jay. How does Miller come clean about Libby? That seems to mean you think she knew more than she told. What of what she knew and what of what she told do you know?

As to your point number three, Miller's antics must have seemed both beyond the pale and, in some people, a view of what they could be if they had the guts. Hate-love.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 10, 2005 6:49 PM | Permalink

Jay, that's a brilliant analysis.
If Salon doesn't print it, it's their loss.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at November 10, 2005 9:28 PM | Permalink

Well, they lost, then. The feature got cancelled when not enough writers cooperated, Steve.

Dave: I lean to explanations somewhat like your "movie" metaphor. I think Sulzberger and some of his advisors thought they were having a Pentagon Papers moment, where a free press is struggling to prevail against the state, and once they seized on that as the correct master narrative, they could only see the Miller "story" one way-- a First Amendment epic in the long tradition of First Amendment epics the Times has been a part of.

Miller fed their dreams of glory, but that does not explain why they were so vulnerable to that particular illusion. After all, skepticism about Miller's case was wholly compatible with a deep yearning to continue the Times tradition of First Amendment defiance.

Because it is so important, so precious, you have to be careful about when you go all out and put the Times tradition on the line. You cannot start down the road toward epic confrontation with any trace left of a sentimental analysis, but this is what Sulzberger and crew did: We back our reporters, we go to the wall for them, we defy prosectors who want to convert us into an arm of the state.

All true and good, but that does not mean these things applied to the particulars. They went for the drama, Dave, you're right. We're still a ways from understanding why.

If anyone's interested, here's what Fitzgerald's indictment says:

Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson

e. Joseph Wilson (“Wilson”) was a former career State Department official who had held a variety of posts, including United States Ambassador. In 2002, after an inquiry to the CIA bythe Vice President concerningcertain intelligence reporting, the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake, a processed form of uranium ore. Wilson orally reported his findings to the CIA upon his return.

f. Joseph Wilson was married to Valerie Plame Wilson (“Valerie Wilson”). At all relevant times from January 1, 2002 through July 2003, Valerie Wilson was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified. Prior to July 14, 2003, Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 10, 2005 10:29 PM | Permalink

Sorry, Jay, but Fitzgerald's facts don't fit the template. I mean, Hugh Sidey said he knew about Valerie's job. Right?

Now, Andrea Mitchell now acknowledges she 'mispoke' about her knowledge of Ms. Plame's secret life. I guess she wasn't that much a part of the sub rosa life as ol' Hugh.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at November 10, 2005 10:59 PM | Permalink

Good cite, Jay.
But it leaves a couple of questions. What does "classified" mean when applied to employment status? I mean that in legal terms.
When we speak of "classified", we are talking about classes of restriction.
One class is "classified". That's the lowest.
Then there's "secret".
So, what is Fitzgerald talking about?

It is also irrelevant, anyway, since he hasn't indicted anybody for outing Plame. Perhaps he loooked at the case and couldn't find a violation of the law. Perhaps he looked at the case and figured he'd go for an OJ tactic. Let everybody go around muttering Libby was guilty but they just couldn't get him.

The only applicable law requires showing an affirmative action by the CIA to continue the cover. Novak's conversation with a CIA source seems to toast that.

And, of course, if Fitz does decide to go for it, he'll have to put up with the defense calling various folks who, either truthfully or in trying to puff themselves up, have claimed at other times to have known.

Tom McGuire has a lengthy analysis of Andrea Mitchell's comment about having known--and then trying the out of context thing later on.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 10, 2005 11:02 PM | Permalink

Oops. Tom Maguire.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 10, 2005 11:03 PM | Permalink

On Miller's security clearance (or not) and Jay's and Byron Calame's attempts to find out if it existed - (and apologies in advance if this is out in left field or has already been covered)

Assume Miller's editor(s) and/or publisher can't come right out and say "she had a security clearance" because that would be illegal(??? could this be the reason for the stonewalling ??)

Can Calame instead ask Keller "While you've been editor of the Times, how many reporters have had a security clearance?"

Since nobody's asking about particular names, would he then come clean with the number? - this would give us what's most important to know, namely if any did.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at November 10, 2005 11:53 PM | Permalink

Arthur Jr. on Charlie Rose...

He said Jayson Blair was many times worse than the Miller case; that there was no confidence-in-the-paper issue remaining after Miller's exit; the legal strategy was 100 percent right, and everyone in the family agrees with him on that; he and his team were right on the merits, right on the law, right on the facts and right in the resolution; the new calls to investigate the Post leak on secret prisons prove how right the Times was to take up the Miller fight; Judy left the Times not because there were any doubts about her truthfulness or conduct but because she had "become the story," and the only reason anyone says any different is that the culture has become so politicized (which happens in 30 year cycles, he said); the New York Observer's reporting was inaccurate but, no, he won't say why ("I'm not going to get into that); no, there is no serious morale issue in the newsroom... well, you get the idea.

He used the words "small bore" to describe the mess, and indicated to Charlie how silly he thought all the fuss was. When Rose noted the similarity between Miller's official line, "I became the story," and Sulzberger's "Judy became the story," and said it sounded coordinated, Sulzberger even said no to that.

Here's a summary in Editor & Publisher. The most revealing thing he said is in E & P account: "the toughest moment" in the Miller ordeal, he said, came when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal, denying him the chance to make more First Amendment history. It's clear to me that Sulzberger and company had their eye more on that, the grand narrative, than the true story of what was happening to the newspaper. The Rose interview revealed that it's still the case.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 11, 2005 12:24 AM | Permalink

It looks like we might have Judy Miller and Mary Mapes making the rounds at the same time, speaking about journalism - what's wrong with it and why they were right.

I see parallels between how these two "investigative" reporters behave and how their organizations "handled" them and the star power in their newsrooms.

It seems to me that the tribe has an opportunity here to examine Mapes/Miller, use them to educate the public and learn lessons that can be acted upon in journalism's institutions that teach/preach/practice the religion.

Or ... Mapes/Miller can define journalism for them in the minds of the citizenry.

Posted by: Sisyphus at November 11, 2005 10:07 AM | Permalink

Ref your last paragraph, it would be redundant, unnecessary, repetitive and just be icing on the lily.

The problem for journalism is that this is how it is seen already.

Remember Sulzberger's horrified discovery about Blair's sins? Nobody Blair "covered" complained because they thought that was what the media was supposed to do.

Mapes and Miller are more of the same, but with extra exposure. The cumulative effect of their brethren over the years has had an effect that they can only reinforce.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at November 11, 2005 11:57 AM | Permalink

I for one have relearned many good valuable lessons from this latest Press fiasco.

1.) There should be NO shield law for any Journalist w/o considering bloggers and 'regular citizens' who also report on news.

2.) As with the impeachment fiasco and the ruthless dirty tricks in the media that manufactured an 8 year long 'crisis of confidence' for the Clinton's, I will never think of the media the same way again. The real lesson? NEVER. **NEVER** Trust the MSM /News industry to protect, defend or support the 1st Amendment or indeed any other significant parts of the Constitution. It never happens on a consistent or regular basis, for anyone other than the Press Barons and their profits and self interest.

3.) The truth, or even the search for the truth or facts have become largely irrelevant to most modern news outlets. They exist for only one major function, to enlighten us as to what swell products we should be buying. That's it. It's a commercial advertising venture from older centuries. As such it's dying a slow death, and no one cares, due to their inattention and neglect to actually report on news.

4.) If you can not speak the 'truth to power' and instead seek to propagandize for the powerful, you really need to be in the PR office of some conglomerate other than the NYT. Miller has been in the bag for the Bush's for well over a decade. She is now, as she is then a disgrace to everything the 'profession' says it stands for. She has violated every single one of the tenets of ethics journalism ever claimed for itself. So naturally you and your kin keep awarding her prizes. She helped lie us into an illegal and unjust war, and people keep on cheering her on. Yeah, Jason Blair was waaay worse. This is a MELTDOWN of your profession guys, and no one seems too concerned about it. 'Revisit the award', indeed! This is TASS territory. This is just sheer politburo work for the good of the One True Party, and no one else. No concern for the future, not for the truth, not ever for the public interest.

5.) The fact that the Press is one of the most corrupted elements of the American political system seems lost on all the celebrity millionaire 'journalists'. Truth be told you are all judged by their standards and actions. So we finally come up with a largely entertainment driven celebrity obsessed medium that's largely incapable of actually reporting on 'real news', and most news departments have made their peace with this fact. Real news coverage of local politics declines year by year so that only the highly lucrative paid ads serve as 'political discourse' throughout the nation.

6.) Most people under the age of 40 already know all this, which is why they no sooner think of looking to the press for 'real reporting' or 'the truth' anywhere about anything than they would by reading the old Pravda. And admit it, Pravda had more truth than most papers are peddling today. Judy was MORE than just a stenographer. She was a player, a real decent and useful propagandist for the Bush's. Just like Walter Duranty on a different front. Her name too will live long in infamy.

7.) If you are incapable of policing your own profession, you invite various Government entities to do it for you. The NYT and others did not see what and where Judy was doing (and had done) was wrong. It was worse than wrong, it was and IS Criminal. There can be no 'special rights' and considerations for people who countenance or participate in the commission of felonies. Here Judy Miller as a Times reporter was a vital part of the coverup of some of the most significant crimes perpetrated by Government officials in our nation's history. And she was willing to go to jail to defend these accused criminals. Just damn breathtaking really when you consider that yes, 10's of thousands of lives were at stake, and Judy went with the lies. The stories she printed were sheer self serving propaganda BS. And she knew it, or at the very least suspected it, as she made every effort to conceal her 'secret' clearances and other personal involvement.

8.) The American people will not tolerate rampant criminality on the part of their government officials or the press for long. Don't look for a shield to protect you from your lies and corporate and individual malfeasance and yes, crimes. It can not and should not be done. Judy belonged in jail. She does not deserve any award for this. Not now, not ever. When someone wakes up and recognizes this central fact, that will be the first step in any recovery of your collective lost credibility. It will be a long slow climb back to. I do not expect to see it in my lifetime.

Regards, 'VJ', ga.

Posted by: VJ at November 12, 2005 3:33 AM | Permalink

From the Intro