‘NY Times’ subverts the truth

Greg M. Schwartz

The current fuss over the jailing of the New York Times’ Judith Miller for not revealing her source in the Plame leak affair is so misguided, it should make all principled journalists ill. Most newspapers are painting Miller as some noble martyr of the Fourth Estate. She’s no martyr and the New York Times’ editorial policy is a farce: “All the news that’s fit to print”? Get real.

Investigative journalist supreme Greg Palast sums it up best: “Part of (Miller’s) oddball defense is that the Times never ran the story about Wilson’s wife. They get no points for that. The Times should have run the story with the headline: BUSH OPERATIVE COMMITS FELONY TO PUNISH WHISTLEBLOWER. The lead paragraph should have been, ‘Today, Mr. K— R— [or other slime ball as appropriate] attempted to plant sensitive intelligence information on the New York Times, a felony offense, in an attempt to harm former Ambassador Joseph Wilson who challenged the President’s claim regarding Iraq’s nuclear program.’” (See http://gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=444).

As Palast notes, Miller’s real crime is not concealing a source, but burying the actual story. Who is the Times covering for and why? Palast suggests it’s the same source that, “used Miller to promote, as fact, her ersatz report before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam truly had nukes and bugs and chemicals he could launch at Los Angeles.”

Palast cuts through the chicanery by pointing out that what Miller’s silence is protecting is, “the evil called ‘access.’ The great poison in the corpus of American journalism is the lust for tidbits of supposedly ‘inside’ information which is more often than not inside misinformation parading as hot news.”

This poison is a cancer on the American media. If political journalists are going to be reduced to simply being conduits for inside misinformation, then “the news” will soon be little but government propaganda. The fact is that corporate consolidation of American media combined with corporate sponsorship of American politicians has created an incestuous climate that threatens the Fourth Estate’s designated role of government watchdogs.

Plain Dealer editor-in-chief Doug Clifton revealed that the Dealer is now sitting on two stories of “profound importance,” in a June 30 editorial, because they involve leaked documents that Clifton fears would cause legal trouble. You can’t blame Clifton for wanting to keep his reporters out of jail, but his editorial oversimplified matters by joining the Miller-as-martyr choir. He should have taken the Times to task for burying the real story.

On July 19, the Times pompously editorialized that, “the hard truth is that no reporter can choose the circumstances for upholding a principle. It doesn’t matter whether we think a source is a good person or has good motivations … reporters cannot apply ideology when protecting their sources.”

I couldn’t disagree more with this suspicious stance. When journalists reduce themselves to being robots of neutrality, they open the door to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous leakers, precisely as seen in the Plame case. Constant application of ethical principles is critical if the press is to remain the watchdogs that a free society requires it to be.

The question remains: who is the Times protecting, and why?

Greg M. Schwartz is a graduate journalism student and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].