October 21, 2005

Crisis Of Faith

National Journal

By William Powers,Abuse Tracker Journal
National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Oct. 21, 2005

Are you confused by the latest New York Times scandal -- the one about the reporter, the White House, and the spy?

It turns out that Judith Miller had a lot more power at the New York Times than young Jayson Blair, and she used it.

Did you spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to decode the 5,800-word report on the case that the paper published last Sunday, which felt less like a news story and more like a candidate for The Times' puzzle page? (Answers not on page B6.)

Don't despair. As with so many tricky modern problems -- global warming, string theory, setting up a home wireless network -- the problem is not your brain. The problem is "The Miller Case" itself, a tale so intricate and involuted, it appears to have been consciously designed to stump us. In fact, the only way to make sense of this scandal is to go outside it and find a good metaphor. I've got one, and it comes from The Times itself. On October 12, as a frustrated media establishment (plus a few scattered readers) was waiting for the paper to explain the role played by reporter Judy Miller in the case of outed spy Valerie Plame, The Times published a front-page, above-the-fold news scoop. It began:

"The confidential personnel files of 126 clergymen in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles accused of sexual misconduct with children provide a numbing chronicle of 75 years of the church's shame, revealing case after case in which the church was warned of abuse but failed to protect its parishioners."

The italics are mine. That phrase hit me like a nudge from Miller's notoriously "strong elbows," as I realized that The Times' scandal looks more and more like the one that's been tearing up the Catholic Church.

Posted by kshaw at October 21, 2005 12:13 PM