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It's Not Just Judy

By Russ Baker,

The Wicked Witch of the Eastern Media Establishment is gone! Long live The New York Times!

Well, hooray, I suppose. Though if that refrain is the final word on the Judith Miller saga, we’re in deeper trouble than I thought. To be sure, I’ve been as outspoken as anyone about the "Miller problem"—her credulous, duplicitous hyping of non-existent WMDs; her enthusiastic prejudging and exaggeration of complicated "oil-for-food" allegations involving Kofi Annan and the United Nations. But now that she has finally "resigned," let it be said that getting rid of Judy Miller is only the beginning of the reforms necessary at The New York Times and in journalism generally.

For one thing, the Times’ leadership has still not come clean about the process and values that allowed someone so compromised and controversial even within her own newsroom to continue to operate with impunity. The paper’s position belatedly shifted from there being no problem at all with its Iraq coverage to there having been a lamentable but understandable industry-wide screw-up caused by faulty sources, to, finally, there being a Miller problem—when in fact it is about something bigger: the failings of theTimes itself, and of all journalism in the age of Bush.

Miller was not some rogue operator. She was a star at America’s most prestigious news organization. Whatever her journalism was about, she certainly never understood the journalistic dictum "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." She loved all things gilded and powerful, and thrilled at the company of the connected. She was unique in the Times newsroom because, like Sally Field at the Academy Awards so many years ago, she could say of people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld: “They like me! They really like me!



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