With reaction and commentary flying around about today's editors' note in the New York Times admitting the paper's role in hyping the pre-war Iraq threat, ex-editor Howell Raines sent off an email to the L.A. Times' Tim Rutten with his take on it all. Presumably, the email was destined to be part of an upcoming Rutten column on the furor. But the email was also sent to Romenesko and appears on his site. Excerpts:
First and foremost, I agree with the editors' statement that the stories were published in a reasonable effort to share with our readers the best knowledge that we had at the time. We relied in that period on a group of national security and intelligence reporters who worked tirelessly to keep up with developments in the search for weapons of mass destruction. I believe then as I do now that this group of reporters -- including, among others, Michael Gordon, Patrick Tyler, Judith Miller, William Broad, and the Pentagon and intelligence reporters in the Washington Bureau -- acted in good faith to present the best version of the facts they could obtain at the time...
Personally, I do not agree with the contention in the editors' note that problems in the WMD stories came about because some editors felt pressured to get scoops into the paper before the necessary checking had taken place. I cannot read the minds of others in this regard. My feeling is that no editor did this kind of reckless rushing while I was executive editor. Any of the 30 or so people who sat in our front-page meetings during the run-up to the Iraq invasion and the first phase of the war can attest to the seriousness with which everyone took this story. As for my part, I can tell you positively that in 25 years on The Times and in 21 months as executive editor, I never put anything into the paper before I thought it was ready.
Somewhat to my surprise, I was not contacted by anyone at The Times prior to today's commentary. Had I been I would have repeated my concern that editors' notes do not give readers the facts, analysis and context they need about disputed stories. I found this editors' note as vague and incomplete as some that have preceded it.
I assume that Judith Miller is the "individual" reporter who, according to the editors' note, is being singled out by outside critics. Like other Times readers, I could not tell from today's note what the editors found out about the disputes over her stories. I do know that while Judy Miller's work has been widely discussed, her reporting on Al Qaeda was prescient, and much of her work on terrorism over the years has been highly regarded.
Raines was the executive editor during the time many of the stories discussed in the "From the Editors" note ran in the NYT.
Says Pierce, who sometimes chooses his blog over his girlfriend: "In three years, I don't think I've missed a day...I wouldn't call it dedicated, I would call it a problem. If this were beer, I'd be an alcoholic." Says Barol, who quit blogging after a month of travel: "It was starting to feel like work, and it was never supposed to be a job. It was supposed to be an anti-job."