New York Times public editor Byron Calame yesterday roasted publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Bill Keller for not offering any real explanation as to why they waited a year before publishing news of the Bush administration’s no-warrant wiretapping. Jay Rosen has let Times management have it here and here.
I’d like to know more myself. Naturally, I’m curious to know whether the Times could have published a story before the 2004 presidential election. I’d hate to think Keller sat on a story that could have changed the outcome.
But with the Justice Department’s announcement that it plans to root out the source or sources who leaked this to the Times, there really isn’t a chance that Keller will be able to say more. In fact, it’s pretty obvious that Keller decided to stonewall the New York Observer, Calame and others because he knew his paper’s reporting — which continues — would drag it into yet another legal battle.
Like Slate’s Jack Shafer, I think it’s likely that Keller has a good explanation for why he sat on this for so long. I wish he could tell us, but I think I understand why he can’t.