Flashback: Top 10 Career Moves for Judith Miller (what – being Karl Rove’s transcriptionist isn’t good enough for her all of a sudden?)
At the risk of being perceived as a “self-promoter,” I would like to note that I was railing about her faux-journalism well before the J industry woke the hell up and realized they were being played. If I have my timeline right, I posted that blog entry on a Friday. Then David Ignatius became the first MSM voice to say it out loud on Saturday or Sunday. My Editor & Publisher op-ed, derived from the blog, I believe posted on Monday or Tuesday. At that point, there were people who seemed sympathetic to the perspective (most of my colleagues in the Jandoli J-School, for instance), but nobody was making much noise about it. The folks with published opinions were mostly making Miller out to be the Joan of Feckin’ Arc of journalism for her “courage” in defending the “right” to protect a “source.”
Now, of course, they’re all outraged – outraged, I say. I point all this out not because I think it’s important that people worship my predictions (although if you want to send money, go right ahead), but because I shouldn’t have been a leading voice. Even as a prof in the Jandoli School, I was hardly an insider. At best I was a just media studies and marcom guy with a lot more attitude than hard experience. What I know about the workings of the news biz wouldn’t make a good footnote compared to the résumés of the people in the newsrooms at every major daily in the country.
And yet, damned near an entire industry whiffed while a chimp like me was out front. Why? Well, that’s the issue, isn’t it, and the answer has very little to do with me and everything to do with the state of reporting in this country. See, you have a profession in such disarray, plagued by such confusion and self-doubt about its legitimate role in a business that ceased being about anything but business some time ago, that it has no sense of itself. The PR and political comm fields have gotten a lot better at obscuring the truth than journalism has at illuminating it.
We can debate the whys and hows if you like, but the bottom line is that Judy Miller became a corrupt White House’s black op inside the Times. She was sort of the anti-Deep Throat in a way. Like a suburban watchdog taking hamburger from the burglars on the sly, she was worse than useless – she was malignant. She was the opposite of what the 1st Amendment was about. And the entire industry gave her a pass. For months she was the martyr, rotting in prison to preserve a principle.
Well, we now understand that she was, in fact, preserving some principals. But her “retirement” doesn’t serve as absolution for the house of dunces that validated a cynical White House sucker play. And frankly, if you’re a journalist and all you have is 20/20 hindsight, you’re Bad for the Republic®. Responsible reporters should have stomped Judy’s bullshit game bloody on sight and Karl Rove’s ass should still be sore from the collateral damage.
But it’s too late for that now. All that’s left for America’s journalism establishment is to wake up tomorrow, dig its cojones out of storage, and see what it can do about making up lost ground. I’m sick of talk and self-analysis. Time to do something, folks….