Times watching, Oct. 17, 2005

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

I spent a sleepless night Saturday. My excitement was high over the New York Times’ anticipated report on Valerie Plame case and the roles played by its reporter, Judith Miller, and her editors.

That’s correct; I’m not much fun at parties.

I was online before the sun rose Sunday, making my dog wait to be taken out, going to the NYT site.

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The stories were a bit of a disappointment and frankly, I could not make it all the way through them. I figured if nothing earth shattering was coming from the first four or five pages, there probably wasn’t much after that.

It’s been interesting how the punditry world had turned on Miller. Her miserable reporting in the nation’s paper of record is accused of greasing the skids for the president’s invasion/occupation of Iraq. Apparently, not only did she not ask any questions of what officials were telling her, she basically ran what they said verbatim in the paper.

Miller has been accused of being a little to cozy with certain administration figures, even Iraqi liar Ahmed Chalabai, who it is assumed was the source of much of her faulty reporting.

Howard Kurtz, writing on his WashingtonPost.com media blog writes the following:

Craig Pyes, a former contract writer for the Times who teamed up with Miller for a series on al-Qaeda, complained about her in a December 2000 memo to Times editors and asked that his byline not appear on one piece.

&uot;I’m not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller,&uot; wrote Pyes, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times. He added: &uot;I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies,&uot; and &uot;tried to stampede it into the paper.&uot;

Other commentary quoted by Kurtz:

James Wolcott is, I believe, engaging in a bit of sarcasm:

&uot;Let us not be too harsh on Judith Miller herself, however. She was caught up in the hypnotic voodoo of highstakes journalism. We’ve all been there. All of us veteran reporters who risk our parking privileges in pursuit of a hot story know what it’s like to have strange words leap into your notebook out of nowhere in the middle of an intense interrogation.

&uot;You’re sitting there having breakfast at the St. Regis with Scooter Aspen, buttering each other’s toast, and somehow the name &uot;Valerie Flame&uot; pops up in your notebook without you knowing how it got there! It’s your handwriting, sure enough, but rack your brain much as you will, you just can’t remember which little birdie tweeted that name into your ear.&uot;

Greg Mitchell takes no prisoners in his Editor & Publisher column:

&uot;As the newspaper’s devastating account of her Plame games — and her own first-person sidebar — make clear, she should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism, and her own newspaper. And Bill Keller, executive editor, who let her get away with it, owes readers, at the minimum, an apology instead of merely hailing his paper’s long-delayed analysis and saying that readers can make of it what they will.

&uot;Let’s put aside for the moment Miller exhibiting the same selective memory favored by her former friends and sources in the White House, in claiming that for the life of her she cannot recall how the name of ‘Valerie Flame’ got into the reporter’s notebook she took to her interview with Libby; how she learned about the CIA operative from other sources (whom she can’t name or even recall when it happened.&uot;

Andrew Sullivan reaches back one administration for an analogy:

&uot;Miller is pulling a Clinton when she says she cannot recall who gave her the name ‘Valerie Flame.’ So she is either protecting Libby or someone else entirely or her own reporting. What is she hiding and why?. . . .

&uot;Why did her editors not insist on her turning over the notes? Are they not NYT property? Or is she somehow in a ‘star reporter zone’ outside of normal editorial control?&uot;

The entire episode has severely damaged the NYT, far more than the Jayson Blair scandal. While my heart goes out to them and I can’t help but root for them, they appear to be deserving of whatever negative fallout happens.