The Rudderless Ship

These past few days the story which has convulsed journalism has centered around Judy Miller, the reporter who first gained fame helping the Bush administration pump up support for the Iraq war. Later she would go to jail for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury for reasons which grow murkier by the hour.

Miller’s work contributed to the death and disfigurement of thousands of people, many of whom are our own American service personnel, but what about those running the New York Times who let Miller turn the world’s most influential newspaper into a throbbing drum of war? Miller works for the paper, not visa versa, so what goes on here?

The paper itself describes Miller, their employee, as “an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control.” A Times reporter is quoted as saying “most people (on the staff) I talk to have been troubled and puzzled by Judy's seeming ability to operate outside of conventional reportorial channels and managerial controls." Douglas Frantz, at one point her nominal supervisor at the Times, says that he was told by Miller anent her work, “'I can do whatever I want.'”

When Bill Keller became the Times’ executive editor after the Jayson Blair scandal, which looks like a pimple compared to this one, the paper related that, “in one of his first personnel moves, Mr. Keller told Ms. Miller that she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons issues. Even so, Mr. Keller said, ‘she kept kind of drifting on her own back into the national security realm.’" Pardon me, but who is the boss here? She “kind of drifted” back into WWD? Why didn’t he boot her drifting ass back where he had assigned her?

Before Keller, why did the paper continue to print her fictions when one of her editors states that, "There was concern that she'd been convinced in an unwarranted way, a way that was not holding up, of the possible existence of W.M.D."

Two answers come to mind: 1) She had some kind of hold over management or 2) and much more likely, the Times allowed itself to become a war propaganda vehicle in return for the entree into the Administration that Miller brought them. What these people did may not be war crimes but they are acts they must answer for.

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