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Dear NYT Editor Bill Keller

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(** Note: I updated this story here)

To: Bill Keller, The New York Times Executive Editor
From: A Former Reporter/Current News Junkie
Re: A Good Start

It was with great interest that I read the memo to your staff.

It’s a good start and an admirable, soul-searching piece.

This is progress, but you still have a long ways to go to get the Times credibility back.

Your memo doesn’t answer many of the lingering questions, but I think you know that. Here are some of the questions I’ve asked about the situation.

You, the other editors and Judith Miller should answer the questions listed at this Nieman Watchdog site.

Meanwhile, Jay Rosen details, in a Press Think piece how he not only has concerns about how the Times is handling the issue but seems to be getting the run-around from its spokeswoman. This is bad public relations in addition to being just all around unhelpful. As always he raises good questions that should be answered.

Count me among those who believe the credibility of the New York Times – and all of its reporters – is on the line. As Rosen notes it seems like the more we hear from Miller, the more confusing this issue becomes.

In last Sunday’s piece, for example, Miller alluded to having security clearance to see classified documents. This brings up a whole host of ethical problems from Miller being beholden to the government to her – as she herself writes – being unable to share some information with her own editors.

Your memo hits on some of the important points about what should have been done differently. It also touches on a point which must be a great source of frustration for your reporters – how often you are getting scooped on stories about your own newspaper reporter. It doesn’t offer a solution, though.

The sooner you deal with this, the sooner you can resolve morale problems at the newspaper.

Oh and before I let you go, let me direct your attention to a piece I did comparing the Times handling of the Internet age with that of the Washington Post.

While I still think TimesSelect is stupid and short-sighted I was pleased to see you are now running an aggregate of bloggers writing about the paper and Miller. That could not have been an easy choice.z M
But I’m with Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine in asking for you to include some original voices too.

Speaking of the Web, as I write this the blogs are abuzz over what it means that Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, has launched his own Internet site.
Stay tuned.

Good luck in the months ahead.
I remain,
Your constant reader
Scott Butki

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • kob

    I love the NYT and still do. It’s the greatest newspaper in this country; it’s reporting is consistently standard setting. Its editorial page is the first thing I read every morning.

    One of the things that has made that paper great is the tremendous trust and independence it gives its reporters. It’s also a point of vulnerabilty that no amount of editor control can completely safeguard against.

    I don’t believe the NYT is facing any sort of crisis and, I’ll respectfully disagree, but I don’t think the newspaper’s credibility is on the line.

    The record of the NYT to expose wrongdoing, profile the ills and problems of our society, is rich, deep — and very much ongoing. Reporters are still turning out insightful work.

    I’m not worried about the NYT. It has character, depth and tradition strong enough to deal with any problems.

  • Well then we’ll have to disagree on that one.

  • Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd is the first of the NYT op-ed writers to take shots at Miller.

    Dowd writes what she likes about Miller as well as what she thinks of the issue.

    It is an interesting read

    Oh and I emailed my memo to Keller, just to be polite.

  • I just posted.
    an update with more thoughts as Maureen Dowd weighs in.

  • Scott Butki

    I just posted an update and response to the remarks of Kob and others at my blog.