Wednesday, October 05, 2005
American bloggers: from Jayson Blair to Judith Miller
Jay Rosen, NYU professor and blogger, just changed his ranking of the top three newspapers in the US: The Washington Post is now first before the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal! But what is interesting in this - personal - view is that his move is linked to the Judith Miller story. Rosen was horrified that nothing appeared in the Times except a very deferent article presenting the journalist as a "First Amendment hero". That is exactly the Editors Weblog position from the beginning: you can't see the trees (anonymous sources debate) for the wood (the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction scandal in American mainstream newspapers).
Moreover, Rosen made a subtle link between the Jayson Blair story (forged sources issue) and the Judith Miller story (anonymous sources issue). But the great difference is that the blogosphere was an infant two years ago and now it is a rebellious teenager! When the Blair scandal appeared in 2002-2003, the debate was among journalists and a Times report cleared the affair in a few months. It seems that this kind of "smooth process" does not exist anymore. Rosen and other bloggers are asking for more transparency and more investigation, they want more than the fairy-tale...
At the Editors Weblog we understand that it is difficult - and sometimes unfair - to compare the Jayson Blair scandal with the Judith Miller case. But in both situations, it raises questions on the information process and how stories can be distorded or manipulated. And we think it is a very good debate to clarify what really happened when Judith Miller was in jail. If not, the community of journalists will be accused not to cover the real news!
My conclusion: The New York Times must react very quickly to avoid any parallelism between how the newspaper managed the Blair scandal and how it deals with the Miller affair.
Here are some quotes from Jay Rosen: "Just one man's opinion, but now is a good time to say it: The New York Times is not any longer--in my mind--the greatest newspaper in the land. Nor is it the base line for the public narrative that it once was. Some time in the least year or so I moved the Washington Post into that position...
? The Post, I believe, is our great national newspaper now; the Times is number two, with the Wall Street Journal close behind. Still a strong fleet. With a new ship in the lead perhaps it will sail to unexpected places."
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I personally believe the professor is too generous with the NY Times by ranking it second. It is not in the top three and has not been for several years. Circulation numbers say nothing about quality.
What must not be forgotten is that Miller could not have published a word of her WMD fabrication if Arthur Schulzberger, Jr. had not prevented her editors and others from treating her like any other NY Times journalist. So, in spite of the fact that Miller was doing nothing more than writing fiction, responsibility for letting it out of the box into daylight rests squarely on Art, Jr.
To paraphrase Mike Ditka on the Bears frachise a few years ago, it is time for Arthur's father to take Jr.'s toys away from him.
Posted by: Edwin Kennedy at Oct 5, 2005 9:41:38 PM