Friday, November 11, 2005

When journalists eat their own

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who became involved in the Plame/Wilson/Libby/Niger/Iraq/Uranium brouhaha and ended up going to jail for 85 days in order to “protect” her source, has officially resigned from The New York Times. The fact that she was able to negotiate a severance package and a parting shot to be published on the letters pages of the Times in exchange for her departure suggests that perhaps “resign” doesn’t quite capture the reality of the situation. What wouldn't you give to be able to walk into your boss' office and say "I quit...what are you prepared to offer me?"

The Guardian’s Gary Younge covers Miller’s “resignation” (scare quotes are Younge’s as well), but more fascinating to me are the down and dirty details of the infighting at the Times which appear to have presaged her departure. Miller has posted to her own website her closing NYT missive, along with several enlightening letters/responses that she’s written to various colleagues who publicly criticized her on the pages of the NYT. I don’t know whether or not Miller really deserves the vitriol heaped on her from some of them, but I must confess (not without some shame) to a bit of schadenfreude when a journalist falls prey to the type of reporting so often inflicted on others.

Miller puts her resignation in part down to the fact that she has “become the news, something a New York Times reporter never wants to be.” Given the inside knowledge they must have of the way NYT reporters often report the news, it’s no wonder they would want to avoid becoming its subject. But frankly I think it would do a world of good for reporters, not just at the Times but elsewhere as well, to become the object of news stories. Given the power that people in the media have to shape opinion and therefore influence public policy discussions and decisions, I think shining a light on who those people are, what they think, and most importantly how they go about shaping those opinions and influencing those discussions is a pretty good idea. This is what “media correspondents” ought to be doing…looking critically at what reporters at other news outlets are doing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some time ago I emailed Andrew Neil complaining that in interviews on "The Daily Politics" he had been far more inquisitorial with a Labour backbencher than The Mirror's resident Brownophile, Paul Routledge.

Mr Neil kindly replied

A fair point ... it's just that journalists don't really matter ... politicians do (or should).

Is Mr Neil really so blinkered as to think that a backbencher is more important than a leading columnist at a national newspaper?

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can not agree with you more. This is exactly what I have been advocating for years. Some one should be reporting on activities, credentials and ability of journalists particularlty those of the BBC not least becuase they should be accountable to the average joe on the street, since their salaries are payed by direct forced taxation.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have thought reporters should be under more scrutiny, too. in particular, with reference to bbc journalists, i'm curious to know who and how many of them are as "convicted" as Tim Llewellyn before and after their stints with the bbc, all the while, of course, being scrupulously objective and above the fray during their actual employment with the bbc.

i know this is anecdotally based but, funny how even doctors, lawyers, educators, judges are not exactly rarely required to recuse themselves for possible conflict of interest or bias, but journalists?

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you mean that we should know a journalist's bias before reading the story, perhaps you are right. If you mean that the journalists should be the object of the story as much as the story itself, I disagree.

Not necessarily because you are morally wrong but because if the journalist was the story, the story itself would get lost. And then all we would have is a "personality contest"--but between journalists, papers, news outlets, what-have-yous. In short, the American Presidential elections 365 days a year, 24/7.

I am not sure I want that.



8:19 AM  

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