Monday, February 14, 2005

Small Thoughts For Today

It's a day of interesting obituaries.
In addition to Sister Lucia, I read of the death of an actress, Beverly Dennis, who had been blacklisted in the 1950s by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Why was she blacklisted. Said fellow blacklisting victim and friend Lee Grant: She probably "signed a few petitions like the rest of us."
It's interesting to reflect on the phenomenon of McCarthy era blacklisting, at a time when the careers of a few noted journalists -- Dan Rather and Eason Jordan to be specific -- have been damaged so viciously by bloggers.
From my left-wing perspective, the damage done to Mr. Rather and Mr. Jordan is regrettable, unlike the justified exposure of the Bush administration's payoffs to journalists and its support of phony journalist "Jeff Gannon" (aka Jim Guckert).
Dan Rather and Eason Jordan are distinguished journalists who have done much honorable work in their long careers. While there may be valid questions about the stories that have laid them low, they remain -- very importantly -- questions. Nobody -- including the CBS news investigators whose report led to the dismissal of four senior staff members -- has shown that the documents used in Mr. Rather's report on George W. Bush's military "service" were false. The case still is open. And nobody seems to have produced a text of Mr. Jordan's comments about the deaths of journalists in Iraq, which were made in a supposedly off-record speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (the same "off-the-record" event at which the attendance and remarks of Angelina Jolie and Sharon Stone were extensively covered -- what does "off the record" mean anymore?).
Mr. Guckert, on the other hand, is a phony, pure and simple. A propogandist who gained favored access to the White House press room because of his blatant partisanship.
But that's my perspective, and I'm always interested in reasoned arguments to the contrary.
My blogging buddy Jude Nagurney Camwell has written some interesting posts about Eason Jordan and the controversy surrounding his resignation.


Another death reported today: The singer Tyrone Davis. His early 1970s song, "If I Could Turn Back the Hands Of Time," was a fav.orite of mine at the time of his release. More sweet music in heaven

For the first time in a very long time, I noticed a byline by Judy Miller in The New York Times this morning. A small story, buried on page A12, about bribery of an inspector in Iraq. Judy is someone about whom I have very mixed feelings. I knew her 25 years ago, when I worked as a research clerk at the Washington bureau of The New York Times. At the time, I found her arrogant and nasty, a shrill prima donna without much justification for being so (what did I really think of her, you might ask). She was part of a "Young Turks" faction that hung out with young Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who was paying his dues as a reporter at the time. Also in that group, Steve Rattner (now a well-known investment banker), Steve Weisman, and, on the periphery, a few folks like Bobby Reinhold and Karen deWitt. Bobby and Karen were extremely nice people, Arthur and the Steves were okay if a little self-satisfied.
Because I had disliked her at the Times, I was not unhappy when the serious flaws in Judy's reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction in the leadup to the Iraq war were exposed. However, I was appalled when I read later that she might be sent to jail for refusing to name a source for a story she had never written -- about Valerie Plame.
The fact that Judy, who had not written about what she was told, could be targeted while Robert Novak, the right-wing columnist who feloniously exposed Ms. Plame's identity as a CIA operative, seems to be immune, has struck me as one of the most amazing absurdities in journalism today.
It put me on Judy's side, maybe for the first time ever. So it's good to see her byline back in print. Of her controversial recent appearance on CNN, when she talked about news that had never appeared in the Times and was taken to task by the paper's public editor: Just goes to show, some people just can't stay out of trouble ...