Expecting More Of the Same  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   December/January 2006

Expecting More Of the Same   


Missing from Bill Keller's confession was any indication that he'll do any better the next time ("Doing the Right Thing," Web special). His reasons for not dealing with the Judith Miller mess earlier and more forthrightly are all very human reasons fear of embarrassment, "too busy" (procrastination), misplaced trust (and so soon after Jayson Blair!). Keller isn't able to tell colleagues, competitors and readers that the New York Times will put new processes in place to prevent Blair/Miller abuse of readers (the old processes failed spectacularly).

Public Editor Byron Calame isn't afraid to embarrass the paper; he doesn't dawdle; and he is robustly skeptical of reporters' and editors' explanations. Nothing Bill Keller has said or done regarding Judy Miller suggests that he won't make the same mistakes again. The New York Times must change its practices, most notably its willingness to trust reporters to the extent that reporters need not disclose their sources to editors before publication.

Judy Miller takes the fall because the editors say, well, we trusted her. What right does an editor have to NOT cross-examine every writer? What ever happened to the idea of quality control?

Ian Gilbert
Freelance writer
Washington, D.C.

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