Moving On: Miller, Sulzberger Begin Public Appearances

“One person’s whistleblower is another person’s snitch,” Judith Miller said last night. “And they all have to be defended. I was disappointed some of my fellow colleagues didn’t see that.”

Miller was making her first public appearance as a former New York Times reporter, in a panel discussion at a dinner hosted by the Media Law Resource Center.

The Miller saga is far from over–she may yet be a witness against her indicted snitch/whistleblower, former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. But the moving-on phase has begun for Miller and for the Times.

Thus Miller was speaking her piece–and posting more pieces on her Web site. Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., after weeks behind a press-office veil of no-comments, is booked for Charlie Rose tonight, according to a Times source.

Last night’s panel topic in the New York Sheraton ballroom was “Reporter’s Privilege,” but the first question of the night from moderator Terry Moran of ABC was about Miller’s just-announced retirement. Sounding a theme from her farewell letter, Miller told the audience she “had actually become the news, and that’s something that no New York Times reporter wants to be.”

In the rear of the hall, Times reporter Katherine Q. Seelye was typing away on a laptop, writing a news story about the end of Miller’s Times career.

“The Times is a great institution and a great newspaper,” Miller said, “and I’m very happy with my career there. But it’s time to do something else.”

That something else has yet to be defined. Miler said she plans to take time off, now that her five-week standoff with the newspaper is over–“the break I was supposed to take when I came out of jail and never got.”

In a Nov. 5 interview, Miller had said that she still has no book deal to write about her involvement in special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s leak probe–lamenting “bloggers who report I have a book deal that I don’t have, that my publisher says I don’t have, that my agent says I don’t have, that my best friends say I don’t have…To continue to print that, and to have The Los Angeles Times for example carry [Arianna Huffington's reporting] as if it is fact–that’s not her problem, that’s mainstream media’s problem.”

During last night’s panel, Miller offered another piece of media criticism, saying she’d been “jumping up and down” in jail with frustration over the Times’ lack of aggression in covering the leak case–even if the paper did have “a dog in the fight.”

And she added that the press coverage had failed to adequately address the First Amendment aspects of her case.

“I think the media tends to be focused on the wrong issues when there is so much at stake,” Miller said. “We take the First Amendment for granted. I don’t think we can, given the judicial decisions that have been handed down. We’re facing a serious crisis.”

–Gabriel Sherman