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By Mark Jurkowitz

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Times Critics Are Off Base
My friend, attorney and Phoenix contributor Harvey Silverglate has another view of the criticism of the Times's handling of the domestic spying story. Here's his passionate email:

Correct me if I'm not seeing this right.
The New York Times has broken an incredibly important story -- a
story that was obviously going to provoke another leak investigation,
only this time a really serious leak investigation because the leaking
of NSA secrets is far more serious than a two-bit hissy fight like
Plamegate. The Times had to think long and hard before breaking this
story, because even though I think that breaking this story is the
highest form of patriotism, it was and is and will remain obvious that
the administration will see breaking the story, and being a leaker for
the story, to be an act of treason. So this is very serious stuff. There
is a federal statute outlawing just about everything, including this
kind of conduct. No wonder the Times hesitated to publish the story
until it became obvious that the story would come out in Risen's book
And so what is the reaction of the rest of the news media?
Instead of lionizing the NYTimes for publishing a great, important, and
gutsy story, at considerable risk to the paper (no less -- and probably
considerably more
-- risk, in my view, than the NYTimes, WashPost, and Boston Globe
undertook in publishing the Pentagon Papers), the LA Times and other
media outlets are ganging up on the Times, not because of what it
published, not because of what it omitted at the administration's
request, but because it published it late! This, at a time and under
circumstances where the media should be sticking together, against the
most lawless administration in my memory (far worse than Nixon). The
news media are beginning to act like a herd of animals that eat their
own. It's disgusting.
Am I missing something? Hell, I'm beginning to like lawyers
better than I like journalists, and that's saying a lot.


Anonymous said...

I don't think they are "ganging up" on the Times. Maybe just saying, when you get a big story,talk it over with your legal dept.,and if you get the ok, break the f'ing story!
What else are they holding back?
* The right invoking the name of Jason Blair as a reason for not trusting the NYT's reporting on this particular story by the way,is a lame defence.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous said...

What if Risen wasn't writing a book? Would they have held it forever? You have to admit that this is the kind of information that would have been useful to have before the election.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous said...

The New York Times, the paper of Blair and Judy Miller, sat on the warrantless wiretap story -FOR A YEAR! Mark, if you had this story and you can tell me that you would have swallowed it for a year because you were told, by the potentially criminal sources being exposed in that story, to do so then I say you have no right to call yourself a journalist.

The New York Times cannot wish or tut-tut away the reality that sitting on the story was a big deal to many people already reeling from the NY Times shortcomings and failures.

You can quote all of your Harvard cocktail party buddies indignation filled rants all you want, that doesn't change the reality that the Bush administration told them to shut up, and they did, until long after the 2004 election.

4:16 AM  
adamg said...

Could somebody please get Harvey Silverglate his own blog already?

9:15 AM  
Annoyed that NYT owns the Globe said...

In the absence of compelling evidence, the delay in running with the story does seem to be that the NYT never wanted to run it, ever. The only reason they ran it now appears to be that it would've looked much, much, MUCH worse if they'd continued to sit on it even after Risen's book came out.

From a paper that's made some very public stumbles as of late, this does not appear to be a courageous move by the NYT...it appears they were dragged kicking and screaming into it.

Used to be the reason a paper existed was to sell itself. You did that by printing news people would want to read. Ideally you ran that "want to read" concept through a filter of journalistic integrity.

This story is huge, very huge, and the NYT knew it from minute one. I'll be even more simple: this sells papers! So why sit on it? I mean, I can understand if they were extra fact-checking or digging up additional sources. But that doesn't seem to be the case here - am I mistaken?

As I said, barring any additional evidence, this looks an awful lot like a cowed media organization run by business interests who've learned they can make more money kowtowing to a corrupt political administration than they can by selling papers.

10:09 AM  
MJ said...

I posted Harvey Silverglate's quote for the sake of diverse viewpoints. My own view of the Times action was posted on Media Log on Tuesday.

10:32 AM  
chilledbongo said...

im confused: the nyt vilifies the bush admin daily on its editorial page, yet is accused of being the bush admin's lap dog for holding this story for a year. which is it?
there's more to this than meets the eye, and that cuts both ways. the story is, at once, more significant, and less, than it appears. if published last year, it could have won the election for kerry. but that wouldn't necessarily have been justified. its revelation that spies listened in domestically for terrorism chatter w/o a court warrant will meet with wide approval by a large segment of society who will believe that's justified in the name of domestic security.

12:10 PM  

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