"Was [Judith] Miller
a cheerleader or a reporter? A propagandist or a journalist? How tainted was her work by a demonstrable bias for one set of informersâthe former Iraqi exiles, who have their own agenda to push? Did the Times
publish inaccurate stories because it failed to police her bias? Never mind her high-handedness: The Times
owes its readers a comprehensive review of her recent work."
Those are questions Jack Shafer asked last week in Slate about New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Shafer's been asking questions about Miller's reporting for months. And he's posed some pretty damn good ones -- as has Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post -- largely centering on Miller's biased reporting, extreme partiality to a particular source with an extremely conspicuous agenda, and questionable adherence to several basic canons of journalism.
I'm confused. I thought mau-mauing the Times was all the rage these days. In media criticism terms, this is twenty M80s, half a jerrican of gas, ten packs of sparklers and a six-pack of Pop Rocks -- all waiting for a spark.
But no spark.
What is it exactly that has prevented all this from blowing up other than the fact that most of the people who drummed Howell Raines out of the business have benefited so mightily -- ideologically, that is -- from Miller's excesses?
Don't bother sending me the answer. I think I'm set.