The Times' Silent Treatment

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Oct. 14 2005 5:28 PM

The Times' Silent Treatment

Bloggers are discussing the New York Times' role in the Judith Miller saga. They're also buzzing about the less-than-spontaneous teleconference President Bush held yesterday with soldiers in Iraq, as well as a Minnesota Vikings sex scandal.

The Times' silent treatment: New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame, in a Web journal posting yesterday, called on his paper to publish a full account of the Judith Miller saga. Miller was jailed in July for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame but was released in late September when she agreed to cooperate. Calame, like many other press-watchers, believes there is much more to the story behind the story.  

North Carolina MBA David Boyd applauds the bold Calame post. At TalkLeft, lawyer T. Christopher Kelly says that "NY Times readers deserve honest answers to questions that [Calame] wants to ask." In remaining silent, the paper "is acting more like a defendant than a journalistic organ," writes libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit, "and I certainly find their behavior mystifying."

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Others see corporate wisdom in the strategy. "All the hand wringing among media critics about why the New York Times isn't doing more original reporting on the Judith Miller story strikes me as naive," writes "counter-conspirator" Donald Luskin at the Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid. "As Miller's employer, the Times in deep legal doodoo. It has to be very circumspect about what it writes and when. To imagine that it is above the law, or above liability, in this matter is to assign it an extra-legal status that it simply doesn't have." Nevertheless, Luskin is happy to see Calame playing hardball.

New Yorker Sisyphus Shrugged  chalks up the silence to a calcified institutional culture—but Steve Gilliard thinks a Washington Post column on Times discord is a sure sign of institutional disarray. "The staff of the New York Times is so frustrated at Miller and her bosses defense of her, they ran to Howie Kurtz to rat her out," he writes at The News Blog. "At their rival newspaper. Normally, people would have closed ranks," he writes.

"It's put up or shut up time at the paper of record," writes blog magnate Arianna Huffington. "In order to quell the rising newsroom rebellion—not to mention fulfill its obligation to the Times' readers—the [paper] needs to produce an article that tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what Bill Keller called Miller's 'entanglement with the White House leak investigation.' ... [C]oming clean on Miller will mean focusing not just on 'the drama' of Miller's time behind bars but on her discredited reporting on WMD in Iraq—the issue that brought her to the Plame dance in the first place." She predicts the resignation of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who she says has recently taken unprecedented control of the newsroom.

Read more about Judith Miller and the Times, and more about the CIA leak investigation.

Mission accomplished: Soldiers participating in yesterday's public teleconference call with President Bush were heavily coached by a deputy assistant defense secretary, who also led them through a brief rehearsal, the Associated Press reports. The conference call had been billed as an open conversation between the president and American troops as Saturday's Iraqi constitutional referendum approached.

"Today's video conference between the President and 'the troops' shows that the White House has learned a lot from its mistakes," writes Beltway gossip Wonkette. "Namely, if you have a question-and-answer session, make sure everyone knows both the questions and the answers before hand." She says the event blemishes the image of the "American-style democracy" the soldiers are struggling to help install. "You know things are bad when they can't even run a photo-op artfully enough that the media doesn't pull back the curtain," jeers liberal provocateur Atrios.

"Yeah, sure, it's embarrassing, I guess," shrugs Jonah Goldberg at the National Review's conservative homeroom The Corner. "But the first five minutes on last night's NBC News were on it like it was some huge scandal. There is other news in the world," he says. "A profession itself so married to theatricality should have let this one go with a mild wrist-slap." Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin agrees. "I'd also add that NBC's news division in particular has some gall making such a big fuss over anyone else staging things," she writes, linking to a story about the network's rigged crash tests in 1993. "Same goes for the rest of the MSM. Fake news? They know whereof they speak."

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