Arianna Huffington has a new post up at her site about Judy Miller, this time taking aim at Times uber-boss Arthur Sulzberger. And she gets into a thicket of issues I've been giving a lot of thought to as the Judy saga has unfolded.
I'm far from knowledgable about the inner workings of the Times, as many of my colleagues seem to be. But you don't have to be to know that the new editorial regime at the paper stakes much of its legitimacy on the failings of the old one, and that treatment of Iraq is perhaps the key narrative thread connecting the two.
Allegedly, what brought down the Raines regime at the Times was not simply that he and the paper on his watch had been taken in by a serial fabricator, Jayson Blair. It was that he and his team had missed, ignored or made excuses for other warnings signs about Blair. And this was taken, perhaps not unreasonably, as evidence of a deeper pattern of poor editorial judgment, with political and cultural implications we all remember.
Now, let's assume, for the sake of discussion (but as I and many others believe), that Judy Miller is sitting in that prison cell for much more than the actions one might reasonably call those of a journalist. Assume that she has dirty hands in this whole affair and that the Times has quite publicly and effusively fastened its credibility to hers.
If this all proves to be the case, how will this be any different for Keller and Sulzberger than the Blair matter was for Raines?
After all, going back two years now, the Times has quite publicly and painfully failed to take any account of or responsibility for Miller's compromised reporting. And the backstory many of us suspect to her present confinement (though it is important to say that they remain suspicions and are not proved) was richly telegraphed or foreshadowed in that earlier reporting.
So if this all comes to pass, what will the upshot be for Keller? Isn't it the same? Actually, isn't it a lot worse when you consider that the real-world consequences of Blair's lies were limited at best. Journalistically they were capital offenses. But the stories he made up, from my recollection at least, were mainly human interest type stories (with the exception of some reporting about the DC sniper), which might well have been true, but weren't. The consequences of Miller's deeds are legion; and just as ignored.