Why are NY Times writers lashing out at their own Judith Miller?

I am a loyal NY Times reader, but I never followed the whole Judith-Miller-goes-to-jail-to-protect-her-source controversy too closely. I know the basic facts, but not all the nitty-gritty details.

Anyway, during JM’s prison stay I know the Times Editorial Board pushed hard in support of her, saying she should be released because it was obvious she would not reveal her source (a weak argument for relasing someone from jail, IMO, but that’s fodder for another thread). In the end, the source gives her permission to talk, she spills the beans to the grand jury, and walks from prison. Fair enough.

So why has there developed all this criticism from other Times writers against JM? (I read only one harsh column myself, but I understand there are more negative comments – printed and unprinted – out there.)

Please save me from having to search through piles of stories to untangle it all, and explain the whole mess in a few paragraphs. Thank you, thank you!

The short, short version is she did some really crap reporting leading up to GWII, essentially parroting the talking points of the Bush admin. on WMDs in a most uncritical fashion. After being completely wrong about that (and getting called on it by her colleagues), her response was an even greater level of arrogance than normal for her, and yet the editors gave her more latitude than she deserved. Finally she got mixed up in the Plamegate debacle, and appears to have made a much bigger deal out of the matter than her claims of source protection can justify. It’s not at all clear that anyone even asked her to stay silent. Worse, she now appears to be further obstructing justice by claiming she can’t recall who gave her snippets of information like “Valerie Flame” that she clearly wrote down in her notes at the time she was interviewing Scooter Libby.

Essentially, she’s turned into a shit reporter, but her managers have been treating her like she’s still a star. Apparenly she’s alienated most of her colleagues, and they’re now being given a free pass now to unload some spleen on her, in a cynical move by the Times to appear responsible. I think it’s the Times editors who really should be getting the brunt of the criticism, as it’s their screwup to let this so-called reporter ride roughshod over the principles of journalistic integrity, and pose as a martyr to the free press to resuscitate her reputation, to which all damage was self-inflicted.

Anybody got a cite for NY Times pieces on her?

Well, here’s the Times-sanctioned synopsis: Linky-link

Daaaayum that’s a long piece. Thanks for the link though.

The vitriol is mainly because a lot of reporters at the Times knew she was a hack reporter who kept getting passes form the top. That she was then able to be a heroic first Amendment poster girl based on a pile of crappy, disengenous reporting is more than they can tolerate. Plus, as is evident to almost everyone at this point, she’s a world class liar. The anger is equal parts, jealousy, embarrassment, and disgust at how this makes them all look.

Keep in mind that the NYT is an organization like all others, with people forming factions of various sorts.

In recent years “The Suits” have been dominant and been making a lot of decisions based on economics and personal preferences. They have routinely overruled basic journalistic practices. The majority of NYT reporters have of course been nose-to-the-grindstone actual journalists interested in facts.

Take the Jayson Blair fiasco. All the other reporters knew he was a fraud. They repeatedly told management. But a couple of key Suits liked him for office-politics reasons and kept him on.

It’s a similar story with Judith Miller. She was well known within the newsroom as just a mouthpiece for the Bush people. When the NYT published its famous apology about bad reporting leading up to Bush War II, 5 of the 6 articles were authored or co-authored by her. At any “normal” place she would have been long gone by then. But again, she was a favorite of a few key Suits and considered “untouchable”.

When the Plame thing hit, her key Suits thought it was all a “freedom of the press” thing, did the usual “back our poor journalist” line. The other NYT people then were more or less forced to fall in line in support. While they didn’t like this particular reporter at all, they thought it was more important to support the more general “protecting our sources” issue. (Nevermind that protecting The Bad Guys is not what shielding is all about.)

So, a deal was made, she got out of jail, testified. Then she wrote about her testimony. It is clear that she is lying big time. The revelations about her notes are scandalous in and of themselves. Her incompetence and dishonesty is now clear to one and all.

So the pro-journalism faction is free to write what they want about her. Her supporters are running for cover.

I’m afraid the Times, as an institution, has much to answer for once again, and too soon after the Jayson Blair scandal for comfort. I would prefer nothing less than another high-level purge, but I don’t expect it at this point.

Somewhat off topic, but: Are there any good newspapers anymore?

Not as weak an argument as it would initially seem. The court jailed Miller to induce her to reveal her sources, not to punish her - as soon as she named the source, she was released from jail. As such, the Times Board was saying, I think, that since jail would not work the way the court desired, it was pointless to continue to deprive her of her liberty solely for doing her job.

If I remember the Times Editorials, though, they seemed more along the lines that Miller should not (have) be(en) jailed because it interfered with a journalists’ ability to report information. The Times took the right line, here, even though it is a shame that Miller was a less than ideal reporter to be standing behind. Nevertheless, I do applaud them for standing up for a journalist wishing to protect her source.

I think ftg covered the rest pretty well.

Note: she was released when she agreed to testify about her source. She then testified that she couldn’t remember her source!!! Since the key breakthrough was that Libby had sent her a letter pointing out that other “journalists” had also been unable to remember their source, it is awfully clear what is going on.

If you are taking a stand for civil liberties, you don’t lie. You face up to it and do the time.

Maureen Dowd wrote and article Saturday called Woman of Mass Destruction tearing her up a bit.

It’s only available through “Times Select” though.

Here’s a snippet. . .

Ouch, babe!

Entire Dowd Article

Woman of Mass Destruction

I haven’t been closely following this either, but a couple other thoughts:

  1. Being wrong as a reporter isn’t a sin, it’s just a mistake – and one that can often happen with tight deadlines and only a few hours to get a story (and often to chance to redo the story when you know a little more). But allowing yourself to be used by someone in power for their personal political gain/revenge is a big, big, big mistake as a reporter, and doing so willingly is a major, major, mortal sin.
    So other reporters are very offended by that aspect of it (and it’s such a pattern with Miller, that it seems either willing, or not-trying-very-hard-to-resist, rather than just mistakes).

  2. Times reporters have real, personal reasons to be angry – it’s not just abstract concern for some ideal of reporting that’s getting them upset. It’s that Miller has now affected the reputation of the Times, and therefore to some degree all of the other reporters at the Times.

I think it’s safe to say they sure don’t think of her as ‘their own’ at this point. I think ftg covered most of the reasons.

No, she testified that Libby was the source. But she said she couldn’t remember some key things, and I don’t think her explanation makes sense.

Reporters didn’t like Miller anyway, because she was arrogant (good way to keep yourself from being one of anybody’s own) and a bad reporter. She did a lot of crap coverage of WMD prior to the war, and was told to stay away from national security issues. But she kept reporting on them because management didn’t pay enough attention. That had to frustrate the rest of the newsroom to no end.
Then she gets involved in this case and starts grandstanding. And if you know what the Times reporters knew then (and what we know now), it’s hard to believe she went to jail for journalistic principles. Also, as was discussed in the long article, the paper protected her more than she deserved and went so far as to keep other reporters from revealing certain facts about the Plame story. That’d make any good reporter furious.

I liked Dowd’s piece, but my favorite was the following:

So she fucked up, lied, and embarrassed the paper. (And she got an award for going to jail from another group.) That’ll make you pretty unpopular.

My favorite part was this. It may be a petty thing to write, but it’s funny, and it’s meaner, in its own way, than lambasting Miller’s journalism.

She (claims to have) testified that she interviewed Libby, etc. But she has not said where who she was talking to when she wrote down the two corruptions of Valerie Plame’s name. Same notebook as her Libby notes, but no proof there either.

Yes, you, me, the prosecutor, the NYT and my cat’s furball all know it was Libby. But you need proof to proceed.

One of her major concerns is that Libby testified that he didn’t tell her. So a significant issue is she may not want to establish her source as a perjurer. Why? Wrong forum.

One thing to keep in mind in such matters, there’s always someone who is basically moral but keeps letting a little thing slip, one at a time. Then one day he wakes up and realizes that all those tiny bad choices have resulted in a career-destroying screwup. (It’s a lot like Vietnam.) Bill Keller was brought in after the Blair mess. He’s going to leave an even worse mess behind.

Moderator interjects: Hey, the Cafe Society forum is for discussion involving the arts and entertainment. I don’t see how this discussion is either.

Off to Great Debates. (If the moderators there think it’s more for the Pit, that’s fine by me. I tossed a coin and GD lost, so I’m moving it there.)

It’ll take a lot more for me to be convinced of that. This started happening before his watch, as he notes in his column about it. I personally blame the higher-ups for not examining Miller more critically.

I was just talking about one person in a large cast of characters that I have noticed tends to recur in these situations. A sort of archetype. Think of Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony. Obviously, the Real Bad Guys within the NYT are among his superiors. They’ll keep their jobs.

There’s inherently good people, there’s inherently bad people. And then there are people who just screw up a little at a time until they end up on the sharp end of a sword.

No. But there are good journalists.