Times publisher: Paper was slow in correcting coverage about WMD and Iraq; many share blame | VailDaily.com
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Times publisher: Paper was slow in correcting coverage about WMD and Iraq; many share blame

NEW YORK – New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said Friday that the newspaper was far too slow in correcting its reports indicating Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but the blame did not lie entirely with Judith Miller, the author of many of the stories.”It was an institutional failure,” he said. “We didn’t own up to it quickly enough.”In a speech to the Online News Association, Sulzberger also defended Miller’s decision to go to jail to protect the identity of her source, vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Miller was released last month after agreeing to testify to the grand jury that indicted Libby on Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury.Sulzberger acknowledged the criticism of Miller, who in the wake of her release from jail has been described on the pages of the Times as untruthful to her editors and difficult to control.”As the lawyers often say, not every case has a perfect fact pattern,” he said. “We fully support, supported, Judy throughout her litigation and when she decided to go to jail to protect a fundamental journalistic principle.”Sulzberger also addressed Miller’s statement, in a first-person article about the case, that she had once agreed to identify Libby as a “former Hill staffer” because he had worked on Capitol Hill. The description never made its way into a story but the agreement has been described as deceptive by many journalists.Although confidential sources are key to thorough coverage of Washington, he said, the Times is reviewing its practices.”We can’t ever be lying to our readers” about sources’ identities, Sulzberger said. “And I think we have a responsibility to our readers to be clear as to why they’re talking to us. What’s their stake in it?”When asked by a member of the audience whether he thought the Times’ credibility had been hurt by what the questioner termed its failure to fire Miller, he responded, “No, I don’t.”He added, however, “There’s no question there has been an effect on the way people are viewing us because of this Judy Miller situation and because of the aftereffects of the testimony.””We are certainly trying to own up to that,” he said. “The story is not over.”Asked after the speech whether he was referring to ongoing developments in Washington or the status of Miller’s relationship with the Times, he said he left that deliberately ambiguous and preferred not to be more specific.Vail, Colorado


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