Monday, October 17, 2005

Miller Disingenuous Draft

Matt Welch has a nice column on the whole Judith Miller affair. He hits hardest here:
...[Miller] insisted that she "went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source." Her boss, Executive Editor Bill Keller, similarly praised Miller's "defense of principle."

[...] we now have an altogether different idea of the "principle" animating Miller's decisions. It may indeed be "time-honored," but it has about as much to do with quality journalism as driving a getaway car has to do with catching a thief.

To put it as plainly as possible, Miller didn't want to testify about the Vice President's right hand man not because he forbade her to—on the contrary, he gave her his authorization from the get-go—but rather because she had good reason to believe Libby wanted her to lie. And in Judith Miller's bizarre, journalistically compromised world, it is less important to catch a powerful official in a blatant lie than it is to protect your friendly relationship with a productive, high-ranking source.

And then...
But even now, she remains both defiant and utterly unreflective about how her own attitudes and work habits contributed to the Times' journalistic black eye. "W.M.D.—I got it totally wrong," she told her colleagues. "The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them—we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did the best job that I could."

This quote should be a firing offense, but short of that it will serve as an illustration of how Miller-style journalism is destined to fail. If your sources are wrong, you should find that out before you print their accusations as fact; and if you discover they were wrong on purpose, you should burn them with extreme prejudice. Especially if they work in the White House.

Amen. the whole "I'm protecting my source" argument really only holds when the source deserves or earns protection. If a source uses a reporter to pass along false information or as a conduit for an attack, that protection is forfeit. Miller and everyone else has known this alll along, but the NY Times, and Keller especially, have taken too much pride in her playing the part of hero/martyr to realize they are patsies. The paper gets shot full of holes, Miller gets a book deal and the leakers are probably going to walk. What was protected here? Not journalism, and certainly not the public interest.

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