Free-Floating Hostility

Sunday, October 16, 2005

She Kidnapped Herself

I feel a little like the New York Times today, getting scooped on a major journalism story by 34, but I assure you it was only work and not an overwhelming fear of angering a special prosecutor that got in the way. Also, since we get home delivery of the Times (Anna checks out Arts and Leisure, I go straight for the Magazine) I tend not to read ahead on the website.

So there's this long Judy Miller story in today's paper, discussing why exactly she went to jail and what the issues were internally at the paper. And basically those issues were the entire newsroom hated her, but management wanted to be seen as protecting the principle of confidential sources. That's a good principle to protect, especially for a media organization. But I would imagine that everyone at the paper wished they had a better client.

After reading the story today, I remain convinced Miller decided to go to jail in order to rehabilitate her journalistic reputation, which was harmed when she was badly duped by her neo-con buddies during the run-up to the war in Iraq. I don't blame her specifically for the Iraq quagmire like Fritz does, but it's an embarrassing situation for a reporter. Miller's story is unconvincing because she seemed to have avoided any situation that would have let her get out of going to jail. She didn't contact her source, among other things. There is plausible deniability in all of her explanations, but saying that she "owed it to herself" to try to get out of jail after two months just smacks of someone getting tired of the game and wanting out. Standing up for principle isn't supposed to be easy. I know a guy who was jailed in a South African prison for 168 days in the early 60s for refusing to reveal names of other members of the African National Conference. That's standing up for fucking principle. This is an exercise in self congratulations.

Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe you stand up for whatever you have to stand up for at the time. In fact, maybe I'm evincing the ethic that makes the crutch of pack journalism so easy to fall into. After all, I'm bashing the ambitious reporter who tried to report a story that no one else had. That's not acceptable behavior. But Miller was wrong. And not only was she wrong, other journalists revile her. Combine those two things, and she's going eat shit for months. And I don't feel bad for her. If you're going to have sharp elbows inside the newsroom, you get what you get.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at October 18, 2005 4:43 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Personally, Judith Miller is part of the problem, and is a guilty victim. She shilled the war, maybe for personal prestige, maybe for anti-islam reasons...She was really trying to cover up for Libby and the Administration. Libby's letter to her was almost a mash note. Her inability to remember how Plame's name got into her notes suggests incompetence as a reporter - her reputation traded on getting access to the administration spin meisters, not reporting.

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