Thursday, November 17, 2005

NYT: Woody hits the fan

Rebecca called it right last night at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, little Miss Run Amuck is Bob Woodward.

In the New York Times today, you have two articles addressing Miss Run Amuck.

Abandoning his smelly jock, Todd S. Purdum actually shows interest in a story. Possibly David Johnston and Douglas Jehl insisted he abandon it because they couldn't work around the fumes? Both are credited as contributing reporting to the article -- not in an end credit but immediately below the title.) The headline reads "New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak" and the topic is Woody. From the article:

The disclosure that a current or former Bush administration official told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post more than two years ago that the wife of a prominent administration critic worked for the C.I.A. threatened Wednesday to prolong a politically damaging leak investigation that the White House had hoped would soon be contained.
[. . .]
The latest revelation left Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Post who operates with extraordinary latitude to produce best-selling books detailing the inner workings of the highest levels of government, in an unusual - and unusually uncomfortable role.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Woodward said he had apologized to Mr. Downie for not disclosing his own part in such a long-running story long ago and said he had kept a deliberately low profile to protect his sources. "The terms of engagement change when a reporter and reporters are being subpoenaed, agreeing to testify, being forced to testify, being jailed," Mr. Woodward said. "That's the new element in this. And what it did, it caused me to become even more secretive about sources, and to protect them. I couldn't do my job if I couldn't protect them. And to really make sure that I don't become part of this process, but not to be less aggressive in reporting the news."

Consider the quote from Woody the joke for the day.

Is he a reporter? Is he a book author? Where do his divided loyalties lie? Those questions are raised in Katharine Q. Seelye and Scott Shane's "A Star With Multiple Roles Now Faces Questions of Conflict Among Them:"

Mr. Woodward enjoys a unique, if not mythic, status at The Post and among journalists, stemming from his work with Carl Bernstein in uncovering Watergate. Now his withholding of the leak information from his paper has renewed questions about the potential conflicts of interest brought on by his multiple roles - as a reporter, editor and author, as well as a commentator on television and the lecture circuit.
In this case, Mr. Woodward appeared on television discussing the C.I.A. leak investigation - and minimizing its importance - without his editors, his readers or his television viewers knowing he was privy to information for which other reporters had been subpoenaed.

[. . .]
It was the second time this year that Mr. Woodward's loyalties to a book seemed to cross with his duty to his newspaper. In June, W. Mark Felt, a former F.B.I. official, revealed himself to be Mr. Woodward's legendary Watergate source, Deep Throat. Mr. Woodward, who was writing a book in which he planned to reveal Deep Throat's identity, reluctantly acknowledged that Mr. Felt was his source only after Vanity Fair revealed his identity and Mr. Felt stepped forward.
[. . .]
A confidential internal memo board at The Post lighted up yesterday with comments that Mr. Woodward's withholding of information would hurt the credibility of other Post reporters.
"This is the logical and perhaps inevitable outcome when an institution permits an individual to become larger than the institution itself," read one of those confidential postings, written by Jonathan Yardley, a veteran staff writer.

Yardley did not mean for his posting to become public. Nor is his posting the only one on this topic. At the Post, they're pretty sure they know who leaked the posting and are targeting a "name" who hasn't been named in any of the coverage but is "leaking like a bad tire" on "deep background." (Whether ___ spoke to the Times or not is not known but it is assumed. There is criticism towards ___ because ____ is not thought to have any real concern as to the ethics of this situation but just to even an old rivalry.)

This is a huge story, Woody, at the Washington Post and it's not going away. Three at the paper, on the phone this morning, voiced dismay that Downie had learned nothing from the burning of the Times and is making statements similar to Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.'s when he should instead be maintaining a distance and a "wait and see" attitude.

At Why Are We Back in Iraq? Ron's raised an issue of the notes Woody turned over. There's no real exploration of that in the paper. Possibly because Woody's anal tendencies are well known. The notes turned over were typed copies and not the original ones taken by hand. Woody's very anal and orderly. Whether Woody wants to refrain from making raw data available or not (due to his quirks) is beside the point, the notes themselves should have been turned over. His source has released him.

(Another possible explanation, though please note that Woody is very anal, is that the notes do not run smoothly -- e.g. he may run his conversations with ____ into conversations with another person or conversations on another topic. If it contains anything Woody deems "explosive" -- what you or I would call a "yawn" -- he won't turn them over because the book he's working on is always the god to Woody. That said, Fitzgerald's office should be requesting those original notes.)

Ron advises that he intendes to explore this story further so visit his site for more on Woody.

We'll note another section from Seelye and Shane's article because it's about a site that we link to:

"Woodward's metamorphosis over the past several decades from a tough investigative reporter to a soft courtier to the powerful" has been discouraging, said Rory O'Connor, a former CBS News producer and Frontline director who runs the Web site

As for Pudrum et al and Shane & Seelye, they seem on the story. E-mails indicate that the same can't be said for others in the mainstream media.

Which is surprising since, as Rebecca noted, "Miss Run Amuck" could easily become Woody's nickname. (I'd argue it should.)

At the Post, the outrage hasn't mitigated. (The Times' two articles mention this.) One of the reasons the entries have been slow in going up this morning is due to the incoming phone calls.
(I didn't answer the phones last night. I concentrated on the e-mails to the private address, from members, and then went to sleep early. Sidebar, I have a funeral to attend this afternoon so there may be a delay in postings. Yesterday, I dictated an entry over the phone due to having to attend a memorial. If it looks like there's no time to sit down at a computer, I'll dictate an entry again.)

The outrage at the Post is vocal and it's not being hidden within the organization. I'd compare it less to the Times' Judith Miller situation and more to the outrage that led to Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd leaving the paper. Downie would be wise to stop coming to Woody's rescue and to instead focus on the needs of the paper he's supposed to be the editor of. That last sentence was more or less stated in every phone call coming in this morning (from people at the Post).

It's felt that he's addressing this as though it's a personal problem for Bob Woodward when people at the paper see it as an issue for the paper, one that goes to everyone at the paper's credibility. The feeling is that, once again, the paper's resources are being diverted from news and used to instead "prop up" Bob Woodward.

Downie needs to deal with the very real crisis at the paper. Woody needs to explain himself (the apology is termed "laughable"). Thus far, he has justified his secret keeping by citing his duties as an author. The people at the Post note that he's yet to fully address the issue of their credibility and that of the paper and feel that Woody needs to make a public, vocal apology to the harm they feel he's caused to everyone at the Post.

This is a news story. I'll give credit to the Times for covering it as such.

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