The mild-mannered blogger starts slowly, arguing that the Washington Post has eclipsed the New York Times as our best daily newspaper. Given the Times’ woes in recent years – Wen Ho Lee, Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, the run-up to the Iraq war – it’s a reasonable position to take. Even if the Post doesn’t quite bring the same journalistic resoures to the table as the mighty Times, there’s no question that the House that Ochs Built has repeatedly squandered its readers’ trust.
But Rosen’s essay soon veers off into more satisfying territory: yet another blistering critique of how the Times, as an institution, has placed itself at the mercy of Judith Miller. The other day Rosen wrote about “Judith Miller and Her Times.” Now he expands on that theme, saying:
ROSEN: With many unanswered questions, some of which only the Times can address, being itself a huge actor in the drama, the newspaper has gone into editorial default, as if a plea of nolo contendere had been entered at Supreme News Court in the matter of Judy Miller, prosecutor Fitzgerald and the sputtering New York Times.
Notice that in her first few days out of jail Miller could not manage to: 1.) compose a statement for the Times that reveals anything, 2.) answer a single question from reporters that reveals anything, 3.) say a thing about her grand jury testimony that reveals anything, although it is legal to do so and Matt Cooper of Time magazine did, or 4.) admit that Lewis Libby was her source, even though letters from her lawyer to his lawyer were posted for all to see by the New York Times! (She did it admit it Monday, four days after the whole world knew. This is journalism?)
From what I understand of the code that binds reporters, if you have big news because it happens you are a participant in the news, then you phone the desk because you think of your colleagues and they deserve the scoop. Of course you answer questions from the press when it’s time for that because you’re a source and they can’t write their stories without you. You behave with an awareness that you’re usually in their position, trying to squeeze information out of harried people, who sometimes just want to go home and have a quiet meal. You remain a journalist, even though you have to operate as a source, and defend your interests.
Judy Miller has behaved like she understood not one word of this.
This is very rough and very smart. And it exponentially raises the pressure on the Times to come clean, once and for all, if and when it publishes its promised comprehensive article about Miller and the Plame case.