November 11, 2005
Soul Searching At NY Times
If I'm understanding this correctly, the publisher of the NY Times has said the Judith Miller affair is minor when contrasted with the Jayson Blair affair. Among other things, Blair plagiarized his way through the ranks and, at some point along the way, did so without sufficient oversight from management. These failings put in question all that the Times -- and the thick we who work there -- stood for. Miller, in comparison, used her position to promote a war and the political careers of those who wanted it. Along the way, she lied to her colleagues, hoodwinked her publisher, reported fiction instead of facts, took the Times's honor to jail on false pretenses -- and did untold damage to her nation.
Both are disgraceful. And, while much worthwhile discussion might arise from contrasting the two for lessons learned, there is one unavoidable reason why I think the Miller affair is worse for the NY Times: it came second.
It came after folks at the Times spent untold resources and energy rooting out the causes of journalistic and management misbehavior and declared to the world not only what the NYTImes stood for - but any number of serious steps being taken to live up to those values.
And, all the while people at the Times were working hard to reform while also proclaiming revitalized virtue, Judith Miller -- acting as 'star' reporter without adequate management oversight -- was eating away and violating the soul and the heritage of the company.
I would like to see this type of Press Release ASAP as a temporary solution pending the passage of an effective journalistic shield law:
Judith Miller’s Lament:
“On July 6, I chose to go to jail to defend my right as a journalist to protect a confidential source, the same right that enables lawyers to grant confidentiality to their clients, clergy to their parishioners, and physicians and psychotherapists to their patients.”
Inspired by the eloquent words and cogent ideas expressed by Judith Miller in her resignation letter, the New York Times announced today that they have entered into secret negotiations with a yet to be named national counseling service. Through a well-established network of neighborhood treatment centers and other outpatient facilities, the service has established an effective national presence in the behavioral health care marketplace. Volunteers at each facility will receive 8-week courses in journalism. Once trained, this dual duty cadre will be available to see whistle blowers and other unnamed sources who wish to leak important facts to the press. The conversations will be protected by the psychotherapist/patient relationship and will avoid any First Amendment conflicts. Besides saving the paper millions in insurance and legal expenses, this project will provide free counseling to those leaking as they deal with the anxiety of testifying before future grand juries. Individuals close to the talks say NYT will conduct a campaign asking their readers to suggest names for this new entity. Got any ideas?
In an unrelated story, the parent company of the unnamed national counseling service plans to establish a series of self-help urgent care centers in major U.S. cities. Each site will stock an abundant inventory of self-help publications and medical supplies and will be called “Suture Self.”