The New York Times’ Public Editor is attacking the New York Times for not having a reporter present at the Bradley Manning trial, in what may be the Times’ first pre-emptive response to a journalistic issue. The Public Editor is an in-house ombudsman of sorts, whose responsibility is first to the Times’ readers and to journalism itself.
Reporting that David Leonhardt, the Times’ Washington bureau chief, “did not think the hearing itself demanded coverage,” Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor, declares the the Times “missed the boat.”
Over the past several days, as compelling testimony over the harsh treatment of this 24-year-old Army private turned whistle-blower (or illegal informant, depending on your point of view) flooded the media zone, The Times was notably absent.
Accused of giving hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and classified reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the dealings of the United States State Department to WikiLeaks – which later released them to the world via its Web site and through news organizations including The Times — Mr. Manning could be sentenced to life in prison. He has been held as a “maximum custody” detainee at Quantico, Va., for the past nine months, and this hearing is the first time he has given public testimony.
The New Republic’s Eliza Gray bashes The Times in her piece on Wednesday, and a Times reader, David Morf – one of many readers who wrote to me about this — was highly critical. He wrote, in part:
The N.Y. Times is the paper of record that published and stood behind the Penagon Papers. Where are you now on the brutal prison treatment and studied legalities being visited on U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning? All he did was reveal to us what the rest of the world actually experiences of us as an actor-in-fact whenever we apparently feel we can get away with it.
Mr. Obama has run a long, low, and mean campaign when it comes to prosecuting the exposure of wrongful behavior by U.S. operatives.
I voted for him as a decent voice of liberal values in a world where the lights are going out, and this is what we get — Private Manning naked in chains? Is this the behavior the U.S. chooses to condone, while posturing itself as the home of the free and the brave?
I do not really understand Mr. Obama’s silence and prosecutions. I truly do not understand your silence. It’s bad enough that Private Manning has been badly maltreated for revealing truth to power.
It’s unconscionable and sad if The Times sits quietly by saying nothing — even worse, simply running AP wire copy to let the story bury itself.
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