Posts about journalism

Dog, meet bone

Jay Rosen is staying on the story of Judith Miller like, well, a reporter.

The dawn of News 2.0

At the Museum of Television & Radio Media Center’s confab among mogulmen and bloggers, CBS News President Andrew Heyward stunned the listening when he said that news has to change in fundamental, once-heretical ways. I called it then “a big moment, reflecting a cultural change in meanstream news.” Jay Rosen was wise enough to go get Andrew to repeat himself and expand on it and he got others to react. Heyward’s three new laws of news:

One: Truth is a Plural

We have to abandon any claim to omniscience….

This means not just recognizing that on most matters there are multiple points of view out there as opposed to a single, discoverable “truth,” but also — and this is just as important — acknowledging that the world is a complicated place, and the stories and issues we cover are not always reducible to simple, television-friendly explanations.

However, that cannot be an excuse for us to shrug our shoulders and abdicate our core responsibility to strive for the highest standards of accuracy, fairness, and thoroughness. …

Two: Yes to Point-of-View Journalism

We have to figure out a way to incorporate point of view, even while protecting the notion of fair-minded journalism dedicated to accurate reporting without fear or favor. …

Three: News Has an Authenticity Problem

We have to break down the tired formulas of television news and find a more authentic way of writing, speaking, and interacting with the people and subjects we report on.

Here’s hoping that the management and culture of CBS allow Heyward to start enforcing his laws.

The Judy feed

NYTimes.com is now aggregating blogs on the Judy Miller affair. Among the bloggers linked: Jay Rosen, Arianna Huffington, Powerline, Josh Marshall, Romenesko (oops, he’s not a blogger, is he?), Wizbang, Talk Left, David Weinberger, Dan Gillmor, Tim Porter, Mickey Kaus, Sisyphean Musings, Kos, Instapundit….

Len Apcar, editor of NYTimes.com, says they’ll do more of this now that they’ve brought on Philippe Lourier of The Annotated Times to help aggregate blogs and other content.

This is a good step. The Times is now linking out to those linking in; the Washington Post has been doing likewise with Technorati help. That finally starts to get papers into the conversation, including conversations critical of them.

But like a blogger, I’ll see an envelope and push it.

First, it would be good to hear more voices we don’t often hear. All those blogs listed above are good. But as I put together my Judy Chronicles, I was hitting Technorati and PubSub and finding comment all over. (Though, egotist that I am, I’m happy to be in there, too.)

Second, the next step in this trend in linking should be to link to the stories a paper is not covering. That is the real value of the connected world.

At any rate, this couldn’t happen with a better story. Bravo.

(Insert full disclosure here. Oh, and I went to college with Len.)

: Oh, and, why not run quotes from these bloggers in the paper? As news or as op-ed.

: Which reminds me: The link I’m really waiting for is to a New York Times editorial on Judy.

: LATER: Romenesko points to lots of tough talk on Judy and The Times today, including former Timesman Alex Jones:

…I worked at the New York Times for nine years. I love the institution. I think it’s absolutely essential to our democracy…. I feel like any reporter owes it to their editor to level with them, especially when the credibility of the newspaper itself is at stake. And the idea that you would have a news organization that could not pull in a reporter and say not only who the source was but what are the circumstances of your relationship; what are the terms; what is your relationship with the administration — especially now that these questions are being raised — how can you operate a news organization?…

I think this is an extremely important moment for the New York Times. I think it’s a moral crossroads. I think that the New York Times, if I were the editors of the New York Times, I would appoint an internal group that I had complete confidence in to review Judy Miller’s reporting, her journalism.

And I would expect her and ask her and insist upon her cooperating and engaging that. And if she refused to engage it, if she refused to be frank, then that would essentially be a firing offense as far as I’m concerned. I think Judy Miller needs this just as much as the New York Times does. I mean, her credibility is at stake. And I think that she needs either a clean bill or she needs not to be representing the New York Times anymore.

I think that now she has taken on the sort of symbolic credibility that is going to be something that’s visited on all the editors and reporters and on the institution itself. And this may not really matter to the public at large. But within the world of journalism for the New York Times to lose its stature as the moral leader, as the standard bearer, that would be tragic.

Who are Miller’s defenders? Know any?

If Miller is going to do the noble thing for journalism, it’s not going to jail. It’s resigning.

: LATER: Arianna is, of course, even blunter, calling Miller a cancer on The Times.

What are journalists here for, anyway?

Here are some good comments under my post on journalism and the vow of poverty questioning whether journalism’s job is to dig or inform. They are questioning a primary article of faith that is taught in journalism: that we are here to expose the bad guys.

W.J. Jones says:

Funny how that professor talked about journalists keeping a close eye on the “abuse of power” is their foremost job.

I thought journalism was telling readers what is happening in their community as quickly and correctly as you can.

At least that’s what I do everyday when I go to work.

Maybe the students are fleeing journalism classes when they realize the professor is urging them to doggedly pursue, scrutinize, challenge and scorn anything the professor himself scrutinizes and scorns.

That’s not journlalism. That’s call a vigilante with a pen and pad.

The reason the big newspapers are failing is that the reporters and editors who buy into the professor’s lie are chasing a Pulizter and trying to impress — and walk over — the reporter at the desk next to them.

In other words, they’ve lost sight of what journalism is — and isn’t — and believe a hit piece or expose will put them over the top. It won’t.

People read the newspaper to know what’s going on — not to read who got caught “abusing power.”

John Davidson says:

The way that Schultz frames this is exactly what drove me from becoming a reporter and into advertising when I was in j-school in 1987:

“The thought of starting out at $25,000 or $30,000 to expose corruption and champion the underdog just doesn’t do it for them.”

Which is pretty much the way that most of my professors framed what they were teaching me: it was the altruistic, lowly writer who was the only one brave enough to TAKE DOWN THE BAD GUYS. And thus we have the culture of conflict that the MSM has so carefully manifested over the past few decades: if it bleeds, it leads. If you don’t follow that particular ideology, then apparently democracy is lost (“I don’t mean to overstate this, but I worry about the future of democracy,” one retired professor told me. “If our journalists don’t challenge the abuse of power, who will?”) GOOD RIDDANCE.

And CaptiousNut says:

The notion that good jounalism and good business are inherently at odds is a canard propagated by those that suck at both.

Furthermore, it is rooted in elitism and the premise that the masses are stupid.

“Business” is the feedback mechanism that tells the media they stink. It is not so much the realities of business that chafe them – it is the fact that declining circulation numbers and dwindling viewship dare to impose standards on people who otherwise feel exempt.

: Meanwhile, I happened across a blog post written as a journalism assignment, as near as I can tell. The student said, in response to my saying (in a post or an article, not sure which) that Yahoo should include blogs and news together, since the line between them is blurring:

I can’t help but wonder where the future of journalism is going. Why are students like me studying journalism when the public eventually will not be able to tell the difference between citizen and professional?

Jeff Jarvis is wrong when he says,if you inform the public, you are committing an act of journalism.The public has a tough enough job of determining if something is biased without citizens informing the public.

I’m troubled if journalism students think a degree makes them journalists. Doing journalism does.

The Judy chronicles

are up at NYTimes.com.

I’d say the lead is buried:

She also plans on taking some time off but says she hopes to return to the newsroom.

Place your bets on whether she ever returns for another bylines after this one.

Update on this angle: Raw Story reports that Miller is taking a leave.

“Judy is going to take some time off until we decide what she is doing next,” Times’ spokesperson Catherine Mathis told RAW STORY Saturday afternoon.

RAW STORY spoke with Miller by telephone at the New York Times newsroom in Washington Friday evening. She said that she had not previously been questioned about her plans going forward, and deferred extended comment to her publicist.

Reporters who have flacks? I think matter just met antimatter.

: The other lead from the Times chronicle: Miller wrote down “Valerie Flame” in her notebook but insists she doesn’t remember where or who that came from.

It’s a straightforward piece that speaks frankly. Again, I’ll wait for others who have followed this more closely than I have to give me the better analysis.

The summary of the juicy bits — the nutgrafs, as we say:

Interviews show that the paper’s leadership, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control.

“This car had her hand on the wheel because she was the one at risk,” Mr. Sulzberger said.

Once Ms. Miller was jailed, her lawyers were in open conflict about whether she should stay there. She had refused to reopen communications with Mr. Libby for a year, saying she did not want to pressure a source into waiving his confidentiality. But in the end, saying “I owed it to myself” after two months of jail, she had her lawyer reach out to Mr. Libby. This time, hearing directly from her source, she accepted his permission and was set free.

“We have everything to be proud of and nothing to apologize for,” Ms. Miller said in the interview Friday.

Neither The Times nor its cause has emerged unbruised. Three courts, including the Supreme Court, declined to back Ms. Miller. Critics said The Times was protecting not a whistle-blower but an administration campaign intended to squelch dissent. The Times’s coverage of itself was under assault: While the editorial page had crusaded on Ms. Miller’s behalf, the news department had more than once been scooped on the paper’s own story, even including the news of Ms. Miller’s release from jail.

Asked what she regretted about The Times’s handling of the matter, Jill Abramson, a managing editor, said: “The entire thing.”

The story leaves open questions about why Miller would not contact her source, Scooter Libby, to get his blessing for her testimony … and then, after dragging the paper into jail with her, she did. The story also has her admitting that her WMD coverage was wrong, but hiding behind sources she does not name.

The theme I’ve heard echoing out of the newsroom — a theme covered by Jay Rosen — is that Miller had the paper wrapped around her q-a-z- finger:

Inside the newsroom, she was a divisive figure. A few colleagues refused to work with her.

“Judy is a very intelligent, very pushy reporter,” said Stephen Engelberg, who was Ms. Miller’s editor at The Times for six years and is now a managing editor at The Oregonian in Portland. …

In the year after Mr. Engelberg left the paper in 2002, though, Ms. Miller operated with a degree of autonomy rare at The Times.

Douglas Frantz, who succeeded Mr. Engelberg as investigative editor, recalled that Ms. Miller once called herself “Miss Run Amok.”

“I said, ‘What does that mean?’ ” said Mr. Frantz, who was recently appointed managing editor at The Los Angeles Times. “And she said, ‘I can do whatever I want.’ ”

Ms. Miller said she remembered the remark only vaguely but must have meant it as a joke, adding, “I have strong elbows, but I’m not a dope.”

Miller remains clueless about reaction to the tempest around her. Upon her return to The Times:

At a gathering in the newsroom, she made a speech claiming victories for press freedom. Her colleagues responded with restrained applause, seemingly as mystified by the outcome of her case as the public.

“You could see it in people’s faces,” Ms. Miller said later. “I’m a reporter. People were confused and perplexed, and I realized then that The Times and I hadn’t done a very good job of making people understand what has been accomplished.”

She blames her sources for getting WMDs wrong, Libby for going to jail, and her editors — who stood by her at cost to them — for her unheroic welcome. In a phrase: what a case she is.

: REACTION: PowerlineBlog on Miller’s story: “…a low-comedy conclusion to a low-comedy investigation.” Jay Rosen is on the case; expect that wine when it’s time. Blog posts are pouring in.

Kos reaction here.

: Keller’s statement to the paper.

: And for those who don’t know, here’s a link to my full disclosure. I consult for a division of The Times Company.

: Compare and contrast: This from 1115.org:

Judy Miller 2004:

“You know what,” she offered angrily. “I was proved fucking right. That’s what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, ‘There she goes again.’ But I was proved fucking right.”

Judy Miller 2005:

“W.M.D. – I got it totally wrong,” she said. “The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them – we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.

: Frederick Ide compares and contrasts two more quotes:

“……at this point in time I do not recall just who said that….” John Dean–Watergate

“…I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall…..” Judy Miller–Traitorgate

: Arianna’s reaction is up:

The first question raised by the Times’ Judy-Culpa and by Judy Miller’s own account is: Who told Judy about Valerie Plame (or “Flame” as the name appears in Judy’s notes)? According to these two pieces, the name was immaculately conceived. “As I told Mr. Fitzgerald, I simply could not recall where that came from,” Miller writes.

: The Left Coaster:

So now we know that Miller is still hiding her second source from Ftizgerald, and both the paper’s Executive Editor and its publisher were willing to let a single reporter take the paper’s legacy and reputation into the toilet without knowing what for.

: In the having-no-shame department:

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter recently released from jail after serving 85 days for protecting a confidential source, presented an award Saturday to perhaps the most famous confidential source – the man who was known as “Deep Throat.”

The award presented by the California First Amendment Coalition was accepted by the grandson of former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt because the 92-year-old could not make the trip to the conference at California State University, Fullerton.

: Raw Story with more newsroom atmospherics:

Conversations with nearly a dozen Times reporters revealed a scarred landscape of discontent. Few reporters were willing to go on the record, but none who spoke with RAW STORY said they supported Miller. Many voiced worries that the paper’s editor, Bill Keller, was sacrificing his own integrity to protect her.

“I think they’re looking at him in wonderment, and hoping he can figure a way out of this,” one veteran reporter said. “Because he’s in a real bind.”

“Part of the fear is that there’s a sense that he might not know very much, but he’s been forced by circumstance, and possibly by the publisher, to become a cheerleader rather than the newsman.”

“I think that pains him greatly,” the reporter added. “He is a news guy, he’s one of the best, and to be in a circumstance where he’s trapped, and he’s carrying somebody else’s water, and he can’t let the newspaper do what it does best–which is run with a story–has to be agonizing for him.”

: Rosen’s initial reactions are up:

First of all, I give credit to the Times for running the story a few days after they felt the legal clearences were had, for giving readers a look inside the organization, for airing uncomfortable facts–including internal tensions–and for explaining what happened as well as they felt they could. This was a very difficult piece of journalism to do.

: Here’s Howard Kurtz’ story: very straightforward summary of The Times. I await the followups.

: Frank Rich writes about Plame but — o, irony — I can’t get into TimesSelect.

: Uniongrrl whews:

I just want to personally thank my friends who saved me from making a fool of myself by unconditionally supporting Judith Miller when she went to jail “to protect her First Amendment rights.” I mean, I almost bought the T-shirt!

: IN THE MORNING: Joe Gandelman has another good roundup.

: ROSEN’S ESSENCE: Jay boils it down to eight succinct graphs (make no jokes about his long posts; all those led to this):

Maybe the biggest mistake the New York Times made was to turn decision-making for the newspaper over to Judith Miller and her “case.” This happened via the magic medium of a First Amendment struggle, the thing that makes the newspaper business more than just a business to the people prominent in it….

It never seems to have registered with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.–Miller’s biggest supporter and the publisher of the newspaper–that he was fighting for the right to keep things secret, not for the right to publish what had improperly been kept from us. By taking on Miller’s secret-keeping (uncritically) the Times took on more and more responsibilities not to speak, not to publish, not to report. All this is deadly for a newspaper, and the staff knew it. By the end the readers knew it and they were crying out. Even the armchair critics knew a thing or two.

So did Bill Keller, so did Jill Abramson. But there was nothing they could do. By the time they realized what Miller’s secrets had done to their journalism, Judith Miller–by staging a First Amendment showdown she escaped from–had effectively hijacked the newspaper. Her principles were in the saddle, and rid the Times to disaster, while people of the Times watched….

Read the rest.

I agree with Jay that one of the oddest angles of this story is Miller having secret clearance. So she knew secrets she could not share with her editors or certainly her readers. She thought she was in the business of secrets.