Blair vs. Miller

Old Blog Import

An interesting article about journalistic ethics at the New York Times:

The actions of Blair, while grossly inappropriate, are hardly unknown within the media.

…Blair’s alleged violations of journalistic ethics must also be viewed in the context of the kind of behavior that the newspaper is prepared to tolerate. The diatribe against the young reporter described his conduct as a “low point” in the paper’s 152-year history. But in reality, his deceptions were of a relatively minor significance from the standpoint of providing an objective account of developments to the newspaper’s readers. Blair did not attempt to deceive the public for the purpose of furthering some hidden agenda.

The same cannot be said, however, for the work of Judith Miller. Assigned to Iraq, Miller has been the source in recent weeks of sensational stories purporting to substantiate US charges concerning the existence of chemical and biological weapons in the conquered Middle Eastern country. Having appeared in the Times , these stories have been picked up by the cable news channels, radio and other mass media and presented virtually as proof in and of themselves.

The biggest of her “scoops” came in an April 21 article titled “Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, An Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert.” The story had everything the administration could have wished for in terms of justifying not only the aggression against Iraq, but also a future invasion of Syria, reportedly favored by some of the right-wingers in the leadership of the Pentagon.

…In other words, the only source that Miller had for what the scientist had to say, indeed for his very existence, was the US military. She did nothing to substantiate the identity of this individual, much less to verify his claims. She moreover agreed to prior military censorship as well as the withholding of information and the delay of the story itself.

Bill Vann