Accuracy in Media

The September 18 copy of New York magazine features the blaring headline, “Times Under Siege,” and the reported claim by President Bush that the paper’s editor would have “blood on his hands” if he published a story about electronic surveillance of terrorist telephone calls.  If this is true, the Bush Administration has an obligation to prosecute the Times for revealing classified communications intelligence information.

First, it must be said that this is one strange magazine. One article is about serial killer David Berkowitz supposedly converting to Christianity. Another article features full-page photos of assorted cuts of meat. I picked it up as I was returning from New York City to Washington, D.C. Senator Hillary Clinton was on the flight with me, although we never met and she was in first class.

As she disembarked and walked down the hallway to baggage claim, she was quickly approached by two young women, one of whom grabbed her around the shoulders demanding a picture. The gracious Senator obliged with a smile. The reaction to Hillary was like she was a Hollywood star. Mrs. Clinton’s bodyguard watched all of this carefully.

But back to the Times and editor Bill Keller.

If this story by Joe Hagan is to be believed, Keller and his publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. thought they might be facing jail time for refusing to go along with White House suggestions to forgo publishing a story about a secret NSA terrorist surveillance program. At this point, that seems unlikely. Although a grand jury is reportedly looking at the sources for the story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the reporters themselves and their editor and publisher seem to be off the hook. That’s a shame.

There’s a lot of personal stuff in the article about Keller, including that he divorced his first wife, a National Public Radio reporter, after having an affair with Emma Gilbey, a British journalist who dated John Kerry. It also says that Times reporter Philip Taubman is a close friend of Condoleezza Rice and threw a lavish dinner party for her at his Washington house.

After the NSA story, Hagan says Keller decided to become even “more aggressive” toward the administration. His sidekick, Jill Abramson, is herself an “aggressive editor” who wants reporters to “go kill for us.”

Isn’t that a bad choice of language?

Considering the “blood on his hands” comment, that may happen. Rather, the Times may encourage terrorists to go kill more people, producing what one recent study on media coverage of terrorism called “blood for ink.” The Times, of course, will cover that story-that is, if the paper’s employees survive the next terrorist attack on New York City.

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