The Death of the NY Times
Here is a quick diatribe on why the Judith Miller situation has become such an issue at the New York Times. It was originally written for CBSMarketwatch's Jon Friedman in response to a story he wrote.
I’ve been a journalist for 20 years. While I’ve never been a staffer on a major daily, I’ve worked on small papers and now work as an editor for a business trade publication. I say this so you and your readers will understand that I have some basis for what I’m about to write.
As a reader I cannot trust the Times, as a journalist I am appalled at how that organization functions. In my opinion Times’ reporters feel that once they have made it to this level, arguably the top of the profession, they are beyond reproach by editors or the public. The editors feel that no reporter could get to the Times without being perfect journalists, so why question the copy.
For me it is easy to see how this situation has come about.
I frequently see NY Times reporters at press events and I watch how they operate. This may sound outrageous, but Times reporters are lazy. They are accustomed, in many cases, to being handed the news. In my little corner of the journalism world Times, and also Wall Street Journal, reporters are handed stories by corporations before it is widely disseminated. I’m sure the same thing happens with those covering politics and other national topics. Politicians and the makers and shakers in Washington all want to be mentioned in the Times so info is sneaked out to a select few journalists. Granted, I do not expect my publication to have the level of pull as the Times or Journal, but I think this level of access allows the Times reporters to sit back and suck in the raw data then pump out stories. They believe that since the information is coming from the highest sources it does not need to be checked.
“If I can’t trust the vice president’s chief of staff then who I can trust,” is a common thought, I believe.
While this is not too dangerous when covering new consumer electronic products, it is when national policy is the topic.
Then there is the entire issue of journalists as celebrities. The advent of the talking head TV news show has propelled many journalists to an entirely new level. Journalists are not short on ego, believe me. When they are launched from being a faceless, nobody sitting at a keyboard to a person whose opinion is sought after by other journalists then watch out.