To: Judith Miller c/o The New York Times
From: A Former Reporter/Current News Junkie
Re: Retirement Party at Libby’s House – Bring your notes for a planned bonfire
Judy, Judy, Judy.
Thanks to the great media Web site Poynter.org I came to read in the New York Times that the newspaper and you have reached an agreement in which you are leaving the newspaper. And already, the New York Observer has reported that your colleagues – oh, I mean your former colleagues – are happy you are leaving.
Hey, I read it in the newspaper – so it must be true, right? I mean, it’s not like anyone would lie about something in the paper, not about something important like whether your departure will help newsroom morale or if, say, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
So you have retired?
I’m hoping this means truly retired, as in leaving the profession with no plans to do this type of work for any other new organizations.
In other words, I’m hoping this is Tonya Harding post-Nancy Kerrigan attack-retired, where you’re shamed into working outside your profession. As opposed to most news personalities who “retire” from one news organization only to then join another.
Perhaps you can go do now what you do best – help Republicans with public-relations campaigns. You retired a few days late for what would have been the perfect job in my eyes – You could have taken the place of I. Libby Lewis Jr, your source and the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Wouldn’t that have been true poetic justice? But while that job has been filled I’m sure there are other administration jobs that Cheney or Rove would give you in a heartbeart.
Or maybe you can be an assistant for Robert Novak?
I want to congratulate you. You managed to bring closure – at the same time – to two issues I’ve been writing about.
First, I’ve been giving a hard time to the New York Times for its bad professional habit of getting scooped – not just on any big news, but scooped on a regular basis on all stories relating to you, Judy. So what do you do when the news starts to break about your retirement? You post your letter announcing your retirement on your own Web site, thus scooping the Times, sort of, on its news about you one more time.
Second, I’ve been writing for sometime that the Times needed to fire your sorry butt since you are a disgrace to this industry who makes Jayson Blair look good in comparison. As Jenny D rightly points out at PressThink, there is no good reason why the Society for Professional Journalists or other groups should be fooled by your attempts to act like a journalism martyr, let alone give you awards and recognition. For the truth is that when push came to shove and life in jail became difficult for you, you accepted the waiver – which had already been offered – and sang like a canary.
So if you sent any message at all to prosecutors, it is not that there should be a shield law (although I agree there should be one). Instead the message of your confinement was that if a prosecutor rattles enough cages, puts enough pressure on people being investigated (Libby, Karl Rove, etc.), and prison confinement gets difficult, eventually the reporter will do exactly what you ask.
So next time a reporter insists they will go to jail to protect a source I expect the prosecutor and judge will think, “I wonder if they’ll outlast Judy before they give up their source?”
What bugged me more than the mixed message you sent, though, was your surprise discovery of additional notes. That makes it sound like you were holding out all along – and heck, seeing as you still claim not to remember the name of one of your sources, how can we think any differently? Plus, you keep suggesting the shield law would have saved your lying butt from going to jail when it would not have applied to you. So even now you’re still deceiving people.
I’m sure your intent is to finish this story yourself with a memoir, but I’m hoping that sales will be tiny and you’ll be another has-been journalist people stop caring about, like Jayson Blair.
One last question: About a month ago Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine suggested you leave the newspaper business behind and blog to tell your side of the story. Does your use of Judith Miller as a Web site name mean you’ve taken him up on that suggestion?
Maybe you and other disgraced journalists can go to blog meetings together and talk about the good old days when people used to take you seriously?
Oh, and does this mean you didn’t like my suggested punishment for you?
Past Media Reality Checks are available for perusal here.
Scott regularly blogs about his career change from newspaper journalism to becoming an elementary school teacher.