Saturday, October 22, 2005

"Investigative reporting is not stenography" 
So sayeth Maureen Dowd, in her column in today's NY Times.

Gail Collins, The Times' editorial page editor, must be REALLY pissed off at her bosses Keller and Sulzberger, to let Dowd's column run as is. And, I'd guess, Keller felt he was not in a position to say no.

Here are a few excerpts - Dowd's saying things that a lot of us have been saying for a long time now. However belated, it's nice to see it coming from the Times Op-Ed page.

Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she fired off e-mail to me defending him.

When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D. issues. But he acknowledged in The Times's Sunday story about Judy's role in the Plame leak case that she had kept "drifting" back. Why did nobody stop this drift?

I was wondering that very same thing after I read last Sunday's Times PlameGate article.

And here's a lesson that that almost everyone in today's mainstream media needs to learn:

Judy admitted in the story that she "got it totally wrong" about W.M.D. "If your sources are wrong," she said, "you are wrong." But investigative reporting is not stenography.

Dowd's column closes with this:

Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury. I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.

Brava, Ms Dowd. I know the Times is now in "pay to play" mode, so you may not be able to read it online - but if at all possible you should check it out, in print or in bits, if you care about the health and future viability of the US press.

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