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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mata Whori Rides Again

I'd heard Vanity Fair was trying desperately to get Judy Miller to write a deep dish piece for them, but I guess they were unsuccessful and instead got Seth Mnookin. Still nothing from either Judy or Pinch himself, but looks like plenty on-the-record disgust from her colleagues. I remember reading that story about Judy's glorious return to the newsroom and thinking "my God, they must've kidnapped their kids."
Mnookin describes step-by-step how the reporters, including Don Van Natta and Janny Scott, were picked to write that October piece and how Miller often failed to cooperate fully with them. She allegedly refused to talk to Scott because she had not bothered to write to her in jail.

Von Natta talks about Miller putting him off even as she had time to talk with Lou Dobbs and Barbara Walters. "That was pretty amazing to me," he tells Mnookin, author of "Hard News," the recent book about the Jayson Blair/Howell Raines blowout. "I'm a colleague of hers, I'm trying to get an interview, and she doesn't have time for that, but she has time for Barbara Walters."

Von Natta came to believe that what Miller was saying at the time was so "preposterous" she must be "saving it all for a book.”

The Vanity Fair article reveals that the Times team actually finished a draft of that piece exactly a week before it appeared. Adam Liptak, one of the team members, recalls printing it out at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning and reading it in the cab home, before deciding, "This thing sucks and I don't want my name on it. ... There was no logical reason why she couldn't tell us her testimony." So it went through another week of drafting, with Miller finally convinced, partly on the advice of her Times friend David Barstow, to reveal her grand jury testimony.

Elsewhere, Mnookin pulls no punches in stating that over the years Miller "had built a reputation for sleeping with her sources," had dated one of Sulzberger's best friends, Steve Ratner, "and had even, for a time, shared a vacation home with Sulzberger," whatever that means.

He hits Sulzberger hard with quotes from various unnamed Times people, who say things like, "Post-Howell, Arthur and Judy were both looking at resurrecting their reputations. And Arthur was so oblivious he didn't care about the repercussions."
Like her WoodMill counterpart, I guess Judy is holding back all the sizzle for her own book deal, which there is reportedly abject little interest in outside of fellow sex-in-disaster aficionado Judith Regan. I think they should collaborate, something catchy like War Tips for Hot Chicks: Gettin' It On at Ground Zero and the Green Zone.

I know, I know. They can thank me later.