Monday, July 28, 2003

Miller's wretched reporting

Slate's Jack Shafer is still at NY Times reporter Judith Miller's throat.

After cataloging some of her worst reporting over the past few months, Shafer writes, "The most important question to unravel about Judith Miller's reporting is this: Has she grown too close to her sources to be trusted to get it right or to recant her findings when it's proved that she got it wrong? Because the Times sets the news agenda for the press and the nation, Miller's reporting had a great impact on the national debate over the wisdom of the Iraq invasion. If she was reliably wrong about Iraq's WMD, she might have played a major role in encouraging the United States to attack a nation that posed it little threat.

"At the very least, Miller's editors should review her dodgy reporting from the last 18 months, explain her astonishing credulity and lack of accountability, and parse the false from the fact in her WMD reporting. In fact, the Times' incoming executive editor, Bill Keller, could do no better than to launch such an investigation."

Update: In an article for AJR, Charles Layton offers his own analysis of Miller's performance, and stresses that Miller's gaffes were indicative of the larger failures of the American media in reporting the runup to war. Layton even concedes that "the New York Times' op-ed columnists were far better analysts of the administration's evidence, day in and day out, than the paper's news reporters and editors were." This was not a phenomenon confined to the NYT, either.