It’s not really surprising that nobody — other than Newsmax readers and die-hard Fox News devotees — has heard much from or about ex-New York Times journalist Judith Miller. Ever since she wrote that slew of stunningly inaccurate stories about Iraq’s capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the ones the Bush administration used to help bolster their case for invading Iraq in 2003, she’s kept something of a low journalistic profile. And with good reason: no matter what your view of the war her assertions helped launch, her less-than-intrepid investigative efforts are not exactly what I’d call a hallmark of good journalism.
So it was a bit surprising — yeah, let’s go with “surprising” — to witness Miller blasting Wikileaks’ Julian Assange during a recent appearance on Fox News Watch for being a “bad journalist,”
. . . because he didn’t care at all about attempting to verify the information that he was putting out or determine whether or not it would hurt anyone.
It seems like what she’s saying is that it’s a journalist’s responsibility to independently assess information, question sources, and analyze information before reporting it. Did I misinterpret that? I must have, because this is what she had to say about a journalist’s job (i.e. her job) in the wake of that whole mythical WMD debacle:
[M]y job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal. Some have criticized this position, believing that a crucial function of a journalist is independently to assess information, to question sources, and to analyze information before reporting it. [Ed. Emphasis mine.]
And of course no one was harmed by Ms. Miller’s un-verified information. Certainly not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis or 4430 American troops.
So really, I get where she’s coming from. I really do.
But without defending Assange in any way, I think it’s safe to say that Miller might have more in common with her Australian colleague than she wishes to admit. They’ve both spent time in prison, they both have strangely pale complexions and they’re both bad journalists with absolutely no sense of irony.