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Defendant Miller: You are sentenced to sit on a committee with Jayson Blair, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson

Journalists Judged & Sentenced

We have a name in journalism for people who repeatedly avoid reporters’ attempts to get comments on big important issues.

And that name is spokesman and spokeswoman.

Ironically these mute spokespeople are most unhelpful after some juicy info was leaked that made an institution look bad and is often accompanied by a memo discouraging employees from talking to the media.

So… using what I’ve been learning in my physics and statistics and educational science I have reached a hypothesis of my own: Judith Miller is less helpful than a bad spokeswoman.

And unfortunately in this case – unlike most instances when such a system is in place – others don’t seem willing to go on the record with what is really going
on.

When you consider the New York Times got into this mess because of leaking in the first place and Miller didn’t even write a story for God’s sake, well, I think there is only one logical next step.

And that step is for Miller to get on a government committee with Jayson Blair (plagarist), Robert Novak (deceitful windbag), Richard Cohen (for stupid columns like this) and others who need to a refresher course on what it is journalists do.
Example from their first session: Check facts before printing them not act as stooges for anonymous sources, etc.

I’d nominate Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame – the real victims in this whole Miller mess – to be in charge of the committee and let those two decide if the “journalists/apologists” should
get any pay and how long the committee will last.

In Miller’s case my suggestion is her immediate termination from the Times since she appears to be helping the paper restore needed credibility about as much as Dan Quayle helped Bush senior get taken seriously.

For extra credit each committee member will have to leak something to the media and then ask the source if they will go to jail to protect them.

Committee members will remind cooperating journalists they are not to do anything crazy or weird like leaving notes of important interviews from anonymous sources in bureau offices and then conveniently forgetting about them when asked by a prosecutor.

Last committee member to admit they have done a terrible disservice to the journalism community has to write an op-ed – yes, have it printed too – for The New York Times.

And, no, it can’t be hidden behind the “subscription only” TimesSelect wall either.

That would be too easy.

And for what they have done to the journalism community they should pay, not be rewarded, let alone given bogus First Amendment awards, as is scheduled to occur with Miller.

I make a motion to this effect.

Do I hear a second?

Oh, wait, who is that screaming obscenities in the back there? Oh, it’s Courtney Love. Why is she screaming in the recesses of my mind?

Oh, right, she is reminding me of a wonderfully ironic moment in the mostly forgettable documentary Kurt and Courtney. It’s a moment when the
independent documentary maker tries to attend and ask questions at an event being held for Courtney Love.

Oh, yes, and that event too is to give the female guest of honor an award for her devotion to “freedom of information.” He gets kicked out of the free speech event where he is trying to have some free speech of his own, noting correctly that she is an odd honoree seeing as she has made implied death threats against journalists. Roger Ebert describes it all here.

At least Courtney has a reason to be upset having lost her talent/husband to suicide.

I am not sure what reason Miller will give to continue avoid answering questions at events and in interview attempts but I’m sure she’ll come up with something.

Odds that the Times story referenced here will contain anything new of note from Miller seem about as likely as that George Bush will join Mensa after leaving office,spending his days doing crossword puzzles in ink while debating the merits of James Joyce versus Thomas Pynchon.

Stay tuned to journalism jury for next month’s case when we’ll look at whether it makes sense for journalists with clear conflicts of interest – be it one visited in
prison by potential sources, or a spouse who works for a company or party you may have to cover – to stay on beats where it would be hard to have an appearance of objectivity, let alone achieving anything close to that goal.

Hint: Those would be references to Judith Miller (prison visitors) and Howard Kurtz, media critic of The Washington Post (his wife, Sheri Annis, does work for Republican candidates), according to her bio.)

Of course, I’m sure that doesn’t affect their work life at all.

And I’m sure that Deep Throat aka Mark Felt has no objection at all to be compared – at First Amendment events – to Judith Miller even though he helped show the government’s failings in Watergate while she seemed to be part OF the governments failings in regards to the Iraq war and the months leading up to it.

And with that….
This court is adjourned.

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.

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