Blogging will be light through the weekend as I'm in Arizona working on some border stuff.
Meanwhile, I was talking on the phone yesterday to a friend who works for a research institute in Washington D.C. "Business must be great for you journalists," he said to me. "Seems like everything's coming apart at the same time."
Indeed. I'm used to following several story lines at once, but events are conspiring to make that as difficult as ever.
Just keeping up on the Judith Miller/Karl Rove/Libby Scooter/Valerie Plame story alone requires a road map, a scorecard, a crystal ball and a secret decoder ring. Patrick Fitzgerald's probe is quickly coming to a head and, frankly, I'm going to be damn disappointed if some big trees don't come crashing down. How do I know how to evaluate Arianna's claim that major news organizations are about to tie Cheney to the federal probe? I'm going to sit here and watch with the rest of you.
The most aberrational aspect of this story is the posture of the New York Times. Not only are other papers merely out-scooping the Times' reporting on its own reporter -- Ms. Miller-- but the Times has gone mum. The same paper who bored us to death with its interminable, excruciatingly detailed mea culpa around the insignificant Jayson Blair, has virtually nothing to say about the Miller Scandal.
The always sharp Jay Rosen asks all the right questions in this comprehensive posting on the NYTimes and its editor, Bill Keller. A small excerpt:
What combination of things prevents the New York Times from telling us more right now? Again we don’t know, and the Times isn’t telling. The only explanation we have is: “…the paper had been wary of revealing too much about the case for fear of compounding Ms. Miller’s legal problems.” It feels constrained because the Fitzgerald investigation goes on. Which works for why Miller is not divulging her testimony.
- But would it explain why the columnists have been silent on the case since her release?
- Would it tell us why the Times hasn’t covered the reaction and controversy in journalism circles over the terms of Miller’s release?
- Does it make you curious that Keller has written no editor’s note about the glaring inability of the paper to tell us what it knows, or even do normal journalism?
- Do you understand why none of the bosses in this photograph has gone on television to explain how the paper is handling the Miller case and what it sees as the lesson, the stakes? They know Charlie Rose’s table is waiting.
- Now even if we could explain Keller’s reticence with “not making more trouble for Miller” (doesn’t make sense to me, but…); and even if we did understand why the columnists and media reporters and legal correspondents have fallen silent (doesn’t make sense to me, but…) we would still have to explain why the public editor, Byron Calame, whose whole job is to represent readers, sees no reason even to mention the matter in this Sunday’s column or at his web journal, which were invented for this very reason.
Make sure to read all of Rosen's piece and all of the links. Put aside an entire hour to do so. It's worth it.
When you're done, you will be chilled. The silence of the Times is nothing short of ominous. This is a sobering reminder of the awesome power that such institutions have over us. Not only by commission but also by omission.