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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The New York Times' reputation is in its own hands

There has been much ado in the blogosphere during the past week about Judith Miller's release from prison and the New York Times' reticence to report on what she, and conceivably it knows. What's Miller's role in the Valerie Plame case? Did she have clearance to give up her source well before her sentencing? Did she go to prison to save her career? These, among others, are all pertinent questions with potential implications for the anonymous source debate (not to mention the ongoing investigation) that must be answered (see previous postings here and here). But The New York Times has skittered around the topic in Bush administration-like fashion.

Because of its transparency-avoiding jig, the Times was knocked off its pedestal of best American newspaper, as so far as Jay Rosen, media critic and NYU journalism professor, who also called the Times 'Judith Miller's paper', is concerned.
In an article for Media Guardian that argues that a national shield law would only increase professional journalist privileges over citizen journalists and blogger, Jeff Jarvis asks, "she did not immediately reveal the full story to her public - and shouldn't that be a reporter's gravest sin?" Editor and Publisher asks, "Is the Times' reluctance to report fully on this case the result of being in a bit of hot water itself with the prosecutor?" and "Why have the Times' seven hard-hitting weekday opinion columnists remained virtually silent, pro or con, on their colleague Judith Miller throughout this ordeal."

Although the Times' executive editor promised that "Now that she's free, we intend to answer those questions (about the 'drama') to the best of our ability in a thoroughly reported piece," the Times has printed very little and other papers are beating it to every scoop on its own reporter.

The Times is only hurting itself. People want to hear the story, Miller's story; they want to know the truth. And just as everyone has been complaining about Robert Novak's silence and Karl Rove's politicking in the Plame case, they have just as much a right to complain about the Times' protection of its journalist.

The truth will eventually come out. If it is not read first from the pages of the New York Times, there will be grave consequences for the credibility of the Gray Lady.

Sources: PressThink (here, here and here), Media Guardian, Editor and Publisher, Huffington Post

Posted by john burke on October 12, 2005 at 10:52 AM in o. Ethics and Press Freedom | Permalink

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