Saturday, July 09, 2005

At Zach and Shirley's request, comments on vistors' e-mails

When Zach and Shirley saw Rebecca's entry on the e-mails visitors had sent this site, they each e-mailed to say it needed to be commented on here. There was an article in Friday's Times that would have allowed that but Friday morning we were focusing on London. Today, McFadden's article is the most important one in the paper (my opinion as well as that of Kara, Eli and Markus.) (Marcus and Markus are two different members, Susan wondered if I'd made a typo. Many, but that's not been one of them.) (Consider this a companion piece to the entry that just went up.)

I'm picking it up now because Saturday mornings allow for longer discussions and because some members feel Saturdays are slack off days on my part (because I put in time with The Third Estate Sunday Review on Saturdays and often the morning entries are all that goes up).

Miller is responsible for her reporting. She is not, however, responsible for the reporting of others. It's an easy out to act as though Miller persuaded the nation. The Times does have a reach but other papers and TV (and radio) do as well. Making her the fall guy for every bad reporter is letting a lot of people off. Offering that her story, wavied around by Dick Cheney, silenced dissent means you know of a Meet the Press rule that I don't. I'm not aware of any rule that Tim Russert has to operate under which says, "If a guest cites the New York Times, the debate is over."

Miller wrote her stories (and Howell Raines was fine with running them -- some occur under Keller's tenure but the bulk that people complain about are under Raines' tenure). Hold her accountable for them. But she didn't anchor and report for Nightly News. NPR didn't offer up an hour or two to her daily to produce, report and star in The Judith Miller Report. Miller wasn't laughing it up with the weather man on Good Morning America before ttossing to a breaking report, live from D.C., reported by Judith Miller.

I'm not defending her reporting. But there's a tendency to overlook the others involved. I don't know if that results from people being late to criticism of the reporting on the lead up to the war or what. It can't just be a case of "bash the bitch" because there are a number of women who cheerleaded into war and while one now deceased columnist may get a pass since she's no longer around, a lot of the reporters are still around, still on your TV, still on your radio, still in print.

I don't know Leslie Stahl's reporting because outside of 60 Minutes, I really didn't follow CBS news as a viewer. But Stahl's stated she should have been more skeptical. I haven't heard a lot of voices saying that. (And I have no idea how lacking in skepticism Stahl's reporting was.) If the Times had named Miller in the mea culpa, it would have been very easy for every network to turn it into "Miller did it!" I also haven't heard of any network offering a mea culpa of any sort. (Ted Koppel offered a wishy-washy thing on Democracy Now! that didn't cut it for me personally, maybe it did for you. Or maybe it's just that since he read the names of the dead, the American dead, we're all so thrilled that he finally did his job that we're going to overlook all the Nightline reporting?)

And maybe turning it into Miller Time allows us to overlook NBC reporters? Take the rah-rah, getting ready for war, news reporter (male) doing segments about packing a toothbrush! Rah! Rah! Forget the vanity behind that "report," that was time that could have been spent expressing less enthusiasm and asking some hard questions.

In the mainstream there's not a lot of people who's hands are any cleaner than Miller's. Within the Times, she deserves criticism (though she's not the only one at the paper that does). And the Times does have a reach. But the NewsHour needs to take responsibility for their own actions (including Jim Lehr sitting dazed on the sidelines when a former general attacked a guest who offered, in 2003, that Haliburton might be getting paid for work they weren't actually providing -- what was so "shocking" then is hardly news today because we've grown so use to hearing one report after another about the results of Haliburton -- in all it forms -- and their no bid contracts).

NBC fired Peter Arnett. Was that bravery? Ashley Banfield (Ashleigh?) gave a speech criticizing the war reporting that, as the Times reported, led to her being called into "the woodshed." And as soon as her contract was up, she was gone. Was that bravery?

Blame Miller for what she did, absolutely, but let go of the fantasy that Miller was somehow unique or alone in the coverage. A reporter (on TV, radio or print) can't offer up, "I said 'The New York Times' is reporting!" We're a resource/review here. I could offer that up. But I'm not standing in front of microphone pretending I'm reporting from D.C. If someone wants to endorse a Miller report on TV (and bask in the reflected glory), they're responsible for knowing the report and checking it out. It's not NBC's Nightly Resource/Review. It's NBC's Nightly News.

Miller's "crimes" (bad reporting) were not the "crimes" of one. I also don't believe that Miller went on TV pronouncing "Democrats" as "demoCRATS" as one reporter did (not at Fox) until called on it. And what's Stretch's excuse for trumpeting that the administration was saying Paul O'Neill might have stolen documents? I'm sorry, I'd finished the book Sunday (The Price of Loyalty). Stretch reported Monday. Granted the book wasn't due out until Tuesday but if I could get a hold of an advanced copy (and I did), Stretch and NBC could as well.

And it wouldn't have required anyone reading the entire book. They only would have had to make it to the second page of text (viii of the author's note) to read:

That was just the start. In March, O'Neill approached his former colleagues at the Treasury Department for what he insisted was his due: copies of every document that had crossed his desk. One day, as he was leaving Washington for Pittsburgh, he passed me a few unopened CD-ROMs. "This is what they gave me," he said. . .

Stretch couldn't tell you that because he hadn't done the work. Seems like with the charge the adminstration was making (no surprise, a later investigation found O'Neill innocent of the charges), he might have wanted to get O'Neill's side. (Katie Couric was left to mop up after Stretch the following day in an interview with Ron Suskind and Paul O'Neill.)

I won't disagree that Miller benefitted from the system (a lazy one) but she wasn't the only one.

And the character assinations (on Scott Ritter, on Susan Sontag, on Paul O'Neill, on Richard Clarke, etc.) were successful because a lot of people ran with them. (Miller supposedly had Ritter blackballed from the Times. Whether that's true or not, I don't know; however, since we're speaking of this topic, it should be noted.) Everytime a Dixie Chick was trashed, it made it that much harder for others to speak out.

The administration operates under intimidation and bullying (hence, the Bully Boy). But it took a lot of meek reporters and sycophants to allow that to happen.

If you missed Poppy's televised interview around the time of the RNC convention, he had no kind words for the Times. (Unless you consider his plea to Maureen Dowd to come back into the fold, kind words.) The Timid has bent to the administration. It didn't win them any love letters. (Which is why they long ago should have stopped trying if only for selfish reasons.)

What they're doing now (they being the Times and Miller) is standing up for reporting. Regardless of their motives (which I don't know) this can have an effect. Some other paper can say, "Hey, the Times stood up." Or a reporter at the Times can argue that the cuts go back into the article with, "Well do we believe what we argued in court or was that just a bunch of hot air?"

Regardless of their reasons, they took a stand and it's one I personally support.

The visitors who e-mailed claiming "Now Karl's going to walk!" That presumes he would be convicted of something in the first place. But let's say he would be. Let's say if Miller testified, he'd be thrown in prison. I don't think the whole world depends on Miller. Fitzgerald seems to have a number of witnesses who claim to be reporters. And if it's a choice between Rove going to prison or the principle of a free press, I'll go with free speech. Rove's not that all powerful. If he were, Bully Boy wouldn't have had to constantly call in Karen Hughes during her "I'm going back to Texas with my family" period. Like Betsy Wright before her, Hughes becomes a footnote in the narrative's thrust to maintain the importance of the males involved. (If Hughes' power is news to you, read Laura Flander's Bushwomen.)

Rove's slimey and he trips himself up. The fact that he's been fingered (by Lawrence O'Donnell who drove the story, not Cooper) tarnishes him in a way that could bring him down (without a trial, without a conviction). But that would require making him the focus of rage and not Miller.

Among others, Fitzgerald has reporters from Time, the Washington Post and a goodly segment of NBC. If he can't make a case yet, that says more about him than it does about Miller.

It's working out nicely for Rove, this anger and frustration at Miller. It certainly detracts from what he allegedly did. Now you don't suppose that's why the New York Post attacked Miller, do you?

The Times should have front paged Robert D. McFadden's article. It's buried on page A10. It's important and part of the debate that should be going on re: Miller. FAIR's included news such as this in their argument. They argue that there are legitimate whistle blowers and they should always be protected. Visitors show up and want to e-mail, "You don't realize that she's putting free speech at risk!" Which demonstrates that not only did they misread the one entry they're responding to, they also missed all the entries where we outlined that.

It is a risky stance. She's decided to take it and so has the paper. There's rarely a perfect case that presents itself in real time. But if Miller and the paper are willing to defend the right of the press, I'm going to go along with them. No one else has to but unless you want me to chuckle, or marvel over your abilities to use the f-word as noun, verb, direct object, adverb and God knows what else, you're wasting time with your e-mails. And visitors who think I'm crushed at the thought that they might not ever come back have mistaken this site for one of the many cowardly newspapers that buckles under any criticism.

This site generates no revenues. It was started as a place to address issues (mainly about the war) that weren't being noted elsewhere. (By elsewhere, I'm not slamming any blog. I'm blog ignorant. Then more so than now but still blog ignorant.) I'd say what I usually said in a speech. (And have posted sections from speeches, which is how Jim, The Third Estate Sunday Review, recognized me when I was giving a speech he attended.) I'm critical of the press (as should be obvious from any entry) but I was raised to be critical of it and to expect a great deal from it. (More than it can probably give in the real world but also more than it's given in the last decade.)

Starting out, I thought I'd Daniel Okrent it ("what I wanted to write about") but it quickly became a community (probably further evidence that I'm blog ignorant and that what it became papered over some of my many blog flaws -- though not all, I'm sure). Early on readers became members because they took this site as their own. Suggestions, requests, links, they weren't hestitant (then or now) to make known what they were interested in.

Today, a member e-mailed asking about advice for starting a blog. I told the person that if I were starting up today, I'd probably just be a smart mouth full time. That would allow for readers, not members, and we'd never have to get too heavy. (And I wouldn't stay awake, as I did Thursday, until I heard from our last member in England.)

If every visitor walked, it wouldn't hurt my feelings or cause me to worry. We don't have a site meter and I'm truly not concerned with "hits."

Though I wouldn't rejoice over it, I'm also not worried if members walked.

I value members e-mails and really regret that I don't have time to reply to them all personally.
But the community's far larger than anything I expected.

When I offered my objections to Dexter Filkins' November reporting (the now "award winning reporting"), the objections of some visitors didn't make me back off that stance. This has never been done to make money or to get "exposure."

This isn't to get a job in print as some suggested in e-mails. I could have that out of college and didn't take it then. (Nor am I suited for it. I would add "or talented for it" but I think there are a lot of people of little talent working in the print medium so that doesn't seem to be a hinderance of any kind.)

Those who are convinced that my support of Miller's legal battled is an attempt to land an offer at the Times have apparently not noticed the quality of rought drafts here (poor -- I'm speaking of mine, not members' posts). They also are under some assumption that the Times is going to see one defense of a stand that I believe in as more important than all the mockery that's gone on here.

I've refused private contact with people of the Times (or anyone else I comment on*). Which meant asking Dallas to be the in between on informing Felicity Barringer of the post where I attempted to offer her reasons for her article (without revealing who she was or what she wrote) as well as my own. (Dallas also contacted the one angry that Love in the Greenzone gossip hadn't translated to easy treatment here. Only Barringer gave permission to be quoted.) (And Love in the Greenzone rumors wouldn't have made it up here. The reporters remarks about how their article was savaged unfairly would have.)

I haven't traded "access" for treatment of anyone.

I think that covers all the topics Rebecca posted on. If I forgot something, Shirley and/or Zach, let me know.

The e-mail address for this site is

[*We do have members who are journalists including Professional Journalist who disclosed in this space that he works for the Wash Post. They aren't highlighted by me. I also avoid highlighting reporters I know. Or in the case of Anthony Lappe, people whose family I know. And I read a really strong piece at Guerilla News Network today and was hoping someone would e-mail on it. No one did, so it didn't go up here. We do highlight Tom Hayden and I've disclosed that I know him. Considering the efforts of some to distance themselves from him -- due to the call for an immediate withdrawal -- I frankly don't give a damn that we've highlighted him. We've also highlighted Jane Fonda who's not a reporter but I mention that because Martha asked, "Has Monster-In-Law crossed 80 million yet?" It did so last weekend. No, it's not a "bomb." Yes, Martha, people would like to work that "fact" because of their own hatred of Fonda. And it's conventional wisdom so unsuspecting people may end up repeating it. It isn't, however, reality. As Mike pointed out, it's the second highest moneymaker Jennifer Lopez has appeared in -- live action. Worldwide, it's at over 92 million. The film was a hit. Not a recouper, a hit. In a summer that's seen only five live action films cross the one hundred million mark, 80 million looks pretty damn good. And as Martha noted in her e-mail, we're talking about a film that's three stars include a woman over sixty, a Hispanic lead and an African-American lead -- Wanda Sykes. Martha wondered how it ranked next to Steel Magnolias which was the last film she could remember with mulitple females in lead roles. It's three million behind Steel Magnolias currently. It's a hit and in a summer -- the Times was right on their prediction here and I was wrong -- that's depressed and depressing for the movie industry, people should know the box office before dubbing it "a bomb." Universal would be dancing in the street if Cinderella Man had done eighty million. Even with an idiot trying to grab publicity for himself by refusing to exhibit the film, Monster-in-Law proved that Fonda is bankable and that for all the nonsense from the anti-Fonda set, she will not drive paying customers away. And believe it or not, that was a worry for some. The same nonsense of "too controversial" that Fun With Dick & Jane had to earlier put to rest. If she wants to, if she wants to, she can make additional films. The myth of protests and and five million tops, the threats of boycotts were proven to be the voice of a small minority -- as has always been the case but certain types can get skittish. Polling demonstrated that Fonda's presence positively impacted the film. If she makes this her final film, it will be her choice not something imposed upon her and she will be able to say she went out a hit. And went out as a lead, not a supporting player. As she, and others like Barbra Streisand, broke down the age barriers for leading women in the late seventies and early eighties, she's blazed a trail yet again.]