By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jay Rosen’s on fire

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.

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  1. Anonymous

    I have held the WaPo in that higher regard for quite some time. I agree. It is quite a wonderful newspaper with a wiiiiiide coverage of everything of relevance, great political wiritng and coverage and great Op-ed guests -usually world reknown. To add insult to injury, their website is great and ALL FREE, every bit of it. It is a wonderful resource for anyone looking up an older issue. WaPo always has an older article handy to refresh minds.NYT has to emerge from its cowardice and status quo malaise and desire to please everyone. NYT has to fire Miller to regain its political watchdog reputation and not feel hamstrung to speak out or cover anything because one of its own was one of the subversives.It ain’t too late but the NYT has to get its act in gear quick. It seems financially it is in quick sand these days with ad and circulation woes and most importantly, its reputation is getting hammered -rightly or worngly- from all sides.Too bad. But Good for the WashPost.N.

  2. Anonymous

    Speaking of the WaPo and Miller, there is a great column by David Ignatius titled “Lessons of the Miller Affair”Money quote:”The big lesson of the Miller affair, for me, is that editors are crucial in mediating the relationships between reporters and sources. Almost by definition, those relationships become incestuous — with journalists and their sources chasing the same facts and often seeking to right the same wrongs. It’s the job of editors to intervene in this process — and demand to know, on behalf of readers, whether a story is really true. In Miller’s case, she filed stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction based on what her sources had told her, but the crucial judgment lay in the hands of her editors.”End quote and point well taken.N.

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