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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Piling On Booby

Howard Kurtz is a little peevish this morning. And well he should be -- the WaPo having had to deal with the load of dung that Booby dumped in their collective laps, having kept his yap shut for more than two years on the big story the rest of the newsroom has been chasing down the whole time.

But in true Kurtzian fashion, he allows other people's words to speak for him:
"It just looks really bad," said Eric Boehlert, a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of a forthcoming book on the administration and the press. "It looks like what people have been saying about Bob Woodward for the past five years, that he's become a stenographer for the Bush White House."

Said New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen: "Bob Woodward has gone wholly into access journalism."

Robert Zelnick, chairman of Boston University's journalism department, said: "It was incumbent upon a journalist, even one of Woodward's stature, to inform his editors. . . . Bob is justifiably an icon of our profession -- he has earned that many times over -- but in this case his judgment was erroneous."
The Kurtz story does contain a very interesting nugget, that I think indicates that Booby's source gave him a heads up -- before Libby was indicted -- that he was going to talk with Fitz.
The administration source who originally told Woodward about Plame approached the prosecutor recently to alert him to his 2003 conversation with Woodward. The source had not yet contacted Fitzgerald when Woodward notified Downie about their conversation, Woodward said.
The wording of this short paragraph is a little stilted, which said to me that Kurtz reworked it with a lawyer looking over his shoulder to be certain that someone's legal jeopardy wasn't triggered in any way. But what it says to me is that Booby got a call or e-mail or something telling him that Fitz was about to be apprised of his little secret. And he ran to Downie to do some personal reputation damage control.

But what does this say about Fitz? Did the source notify him before the Libby indictment had been voted out of the Grand Jury -- or only after? No way to know at this stage in the reporting, but in my mind either way, it doesn't matter one whit to Libby's indictment. (fwiw, Jeralyn agrees with me on this issue, so it isn't just my prosecutor wishful thinking on the read of the indictment and public facts.)

But back to Booby. Other journalists and commentators are piling on as well.

Have to say: I agree with Jack Shafer in Slate on this point -- the decided lack of curiosity in following the lead on this "gossip" comment after the Novak story hit the wires (or the deliberate lack of following it because Booby didn't want to damage his monetarily valuable contacts at the WH) is appalling.
What sort of journalist publishes a "statement" in his paper as opposed to writing a story? What sort of journalist refuses to talk to his own newspaper when making such a revelation, as Woodward did? Today's story reads, "Woodward declined to elaborate on the statement he released to the Post late yesterday afternoon and publicly last night. He would not answer any questions, including those not governed by his confidentiality agreement with source."

But wait, I have additional digressions! What sort of journalist, even one writing a book—Woodward is always working on a book—withholds blockbuster information about a major investigation, prosecution, and First Amendment battle from his editors until the 11th hour, as Woodward did? According to the Post story, he only told them last month. What sort of journalist doesn't use the information he's had since mid-June 2003 to break bigger news about the subject? Was he worried about the legal exposure his bosses might suffer? Or was he holding on to it—and his access to top officials in an unfolding story—for his book?
Along those same lines, Will Bunch has an excellent post on Attytood about those same issues, along with some thoughts that I'm certain a whole lot of journalists have been having over the last 48 hours.

Quite a bit to go through in my in-box this morning, and a whole lot of information being tossed out across the newswires and the blogosphere. But one last bit for now: if you missed yesterday's Froomkin column, it was a great one. And well worth a read, if only for the clear snark oozing out from his contacts with other WaPo reporters about dear, old Booby.

UPDATE: And just so there is no question, I heart Digby. This is an exceptional post.