By Jeffrey Blyth in New York
The New York Times’ former star reporter Judith Miller is to
campaign for a shield law to protect journalists and their sources in
the US, following her resignation from the paper.
Her controversial departure is the second major blow to arguably the
world’s most famous broadsheet following the Jayson Blair affair two
Miller went to jail for almost three months for
refusing to name a source in the CIA leak investigation (which
subsequently turned out to have been unnecessary), and has now left The
New York Times after 28 years.
Was she forced to retire, or was
it an amicable agreement? No-one is saying officially. But the
57-year-old journalist didn’t leave quietly.
She asked to be
allowed to write a final editorial page article. It was turned down.
Then it was agreed she could write a letter to the paper, which ran to
almost a column. In it she insisted she had done nothing wrong – either
before or after the case. The only reason she was leaving the Times,
which she still respected and admired, she insisted, was because she
herself had become the focus of news. “Something a New York Times
reporter never wants to be,” she declared.
Also because some of
her colleagues who disagreed with her stance in the CIA case had
criticised her in print. “A weekend mugging” was how she put it.
“The past few days have been harder than the days I spent in jail,”
was also distressed by the suggestion in a memo put out by NY Times
editor Bill Keller that she might have had an “entanglement” with Lewis
“Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff for vice-president Dick
Cheney, whom she ultimately named as her informant and who now faces
criminal charges in Washington.
Although the editor of the Times
has since publicly clarified his comment – and admitted it was a bad
choice of words – the publicity created turmoil among the editorial
staff of the NY Times, almost as much as the Jayson Blair plagiarism
scandal two years ago.
The newspaper’s publisher, Arthur
Sulzberger, even went on TV to reassure that morale at the paper was,
in his words, “just great”. Although no figure has been disclosed, the
Times is believed to have reached a “substantial financial agreement”
with its former star reporter who just three years ago was one of 10
Times reporters awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of turmoil
in the Middle East.
“I’m satisfied,” was all Miller would say in a interview on television. “It’s time to move on.”
her final statement in the Times, Miller said she would continue to
campaign in the US for a national “shield law” to protect journalists –
just as lawyers, doctors and the clergy have the right to keep names of
their clients and parishioners confidential.