August 10th, 2005

Behind the Scenes Responsibility

Judy Miller and Bill Keller

Those who berate Judy Miller for her coverage of Iraq’s alleged W.M.D. should remember that Miller’s copy was only one aspect of any final article, which, as former New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent wrote in a different context, “is the collaborative product of reporter, editor, copy editor, desk or department head, and sometimes, the anointing ministrations of a masthead editor.”

Addendum: Steve Engleberg, former head of investigations at the Times, tells Editor and Publisher that he puts primary blame on the papers’ editors for printing Miller’s stories on WMD.

We should also remember that some of Miller’s worst articles were coauthored; see here and here.

Addendum (12/16/2005): Ken Auletta:

Miller, for her part, asked why no one blamed editors like [former executive editor Howell] Raines, and others, “who knew all of my sources.” (Raines, in an e-mail, said, “I did not know Judy’s sources. At the time, I followed the customary Times practice of relying on the supervising desk editor—in this case, most often the Washington editor and the foreign editor—to make sure the sourcing on the stories they handled was correct. I questioned reporters directly on some stories out of the Pentagon, but, to my regret, I did not do so on these stories. As many journalism critics have noted, the Times has yet to reveal what editors among present staff members were directly involved in assigning and editing Judy Miller’s stories. Scapegoating Judy or anyone else does not erase their responsibility to tell their readers the full truth in this matter.”)

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