Whatever you may think of her, Judy Miller did spend 85 days in jail. (Although it would be nice if she stopped claiming that this was more than twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail to protect a source, since it's just not true. In 2002, Vanessa Leggett served 168 days to protect her sources.)
So how rough was Miller's time behind bars? It's hard to say, actually. Your perspective just might depend on whether you're a fan of CNN or PBS.
Appearing on Charlie Rose last night, Arthur Sulzberger described the Alexandria Detention Center as "truly a despicable place... If any of your audience has the sense that this is some kind of a country club -- this is a grim place. I've been to Rikers Island and I've been to other places as a reporter... not as an inmate... and this is as grim as any place I've been."
Rose was incredulous: "As grim as Rikers Island?" Pinch was resolute: "Uh-huh. It's a detention center. You don't get outside.... I think Judy was outside something like three or four days." That does sound grim. And despicable. (Even assuming he meant Miller had been allowed into the exercise yard just three or four times during her stay, as opposed to being left out in the elements for the better part of a week.)
Only problem is, earlier in the night on Larry King, Miller herself painted a very different picture of the Alexandria Detention Center: "It was a very professional place. It was very well-run. The staff took enormous pride in their work. The inmates were for the most part a diverse and interesting group of women, some of whom had made bad mistakes, but they were -- I never felt threatened. It was a fascinating experience for me."
That doesn't sound grim. Or despicable.
No wonder these two had to part ways. Maybe we can ask Maureen Dowd to be the tie-breaker, since Judy revealed last night that MoDo had visited her in jail. Then again, on NPR today Miller responded to Dowd's speculation that Judy's time behind bars was a stab at career rehabilitation by saying, "Anyone who asserts that knows nothing about jail, nothing about me."
So Maureen as a tie-breaker is probably not such a good idea. Maybe we can ask John Bolton.