The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Judith Miller story: when did she stop being on Daniel Pipes' list?

On March 12, I retailed the bizarre tale of Jay Blotcher, a stringer booted from the New York Times for a spot of activism in the late 1990s whilst others with far more proximate connections with apparently conflicting-making activities are apparently immune from so strict a rule.

The name of Judith Miller wasn't mentioned; but it seems it should have been.

There's a little conflict-of-interest puzzle here: back in May 2003, the World Socialist Web Site (bear with me!) was in leftie dudgeon over the Jayson Blair comparison with Miller, whose WMD stuff was, from memory, already flaking at that point [1].

The piece mentioned that Miller was associated with the Middle East Forum, run by Daniel Pipes. Specifically, it said,
Miller is listed on the organization's panel of "experts" available for speaking engagements on "militant Islam" and "biological warfare."

Reference to the page from April 2 2003 as cached on the Wayback Machine confirms this [2].

The current page of experts, however, does not include Miller.

Which leads one to enquire when, and in what circumstances, Miller ceased to be on the list.

More to come, one hopes...

  1. The Howard Kurtz embed story comes on June 25: the July 25 Jack Shafer piece has the full catalogue, as then available.

  2. It's the latest version of that page on the site.


There's also a Global Vision News Network piece from May 2003 which (I now find!) covers the Miller-MEF/Pipes connection in a deal more detail. It also seeks the Times's side of the story:

Neither Times' Executive Editor Howell Raines nor Foreign Editor Roger Cohen responded to requests for comment regarding Miller and the forum. A Times foreign desk staffer agreed to forward an e-mail with questions on the matter to Miller. Both this e-mailed set of questions and two e-mailed queries sent to an address the forum lists for Miller received no reply. She is currently in Iraq and no attempts were made to reach her there by phone.

Times' vice president of corporate communications, Catherine Mathis, provided a statement: "Our staff members are free to make guest-speaker appearances of a variety of kinds and there is no indication of any type of staff relationship with the forum." Mathis refused to address any questions, including any regarding the propriety of Miller being a forum expert or any perceived taint to her objectivity.

The Times' own ethics guidelines does address the matter, though, in a chapter on "Participation in Public Life." It states, "Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics." This is so as to not "do anything that damages The Times' reputation for strict neutrality in reporting on politics and government." Another prohibition says staffers may not "lend their name to campaigns . . if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or The Times' ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news."

Whether paid or not, the rules continue, staffers "may not join boards of trustees, advisory committees or similar groups" except those pertaining to journalism. An exception is granted for such organizations as hobby groups, fine arts groups and youth sports -- that is, organizations "that do not generally seek to shape public policy." But shaping public policy, of course, is the forum's raison d'etre.

Miller also did a review - not a puff piece - of a book of Pipes for the paper:
Unaware that Miller was on the forum's expert list, book review editor Charles McGrath said that such panels and boards may be fairly amorphous and insignificant. McGrath added, "I trust our people to tell me whether it's a problem or not." Nor did McGrath feel it necessary to indicate to readers that she was a forum expert. "Given what you've told me, I'm not wary of this. I trust Judy Miller," McGrath said.

If Miller's connection with the MEF was fine and dandy back in Spring 2003, what happened to cause that connection to be severed within the space of less than a year?

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