The new "public editor" of the NY Times, Byron Calame, has concluded that the NYT was slow on the uptake regarding the "Downing Street Memo," a secret document containing minutes of a high-level intelligence meeting regarding preparations for the Iraq war. Although the British press reported the contents of the memo on May 1, in the run-up to the British election, the NYT didn’t write about its impact here until this past Friday. Mr. Calame writes:
key editors simply were slow to recognize that the minutes of a high-powered meeting on a life-and-death issue – their authenticity undisputed – probably needed to be assessed in some fashion for readers. Even if the editors decided it was old news that Mr. Bush had decided in July 2002 to attack Iraq or that the minutes didn’t provide solid evidence that the administration was manipulating intelligence, I think Times readers deserved to know that earlier than today’s article.
Righto, Mr. Calame. Really, the importance of this memo was evident to anyone who bothered to read what it said – even we here at this humble Mass.-focused blog thought it was pretty obvious that the memo showed Bush to be (as we delicately put it) a big fat liar. And the editors’ explanations for not covering the story, as provided to Mr. Calame, are not terribly convincing. The editors gave basically two reasons for their decision. First, they seem to be saying that everyone already knew that Bush was lying about when he decided to attack Iraq. But that’s silly – just saying that "everyone knew" it is a lot different from having a British intelligence memo that actually shows it to be true. Second, they say that the head of British Intelligence’s conclusion that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" wasn’t proof that that was true. Please. It may not be rock-solid proof, but it’s certainly "news" that the head of British intelligence thought that was the case.
In short, America’s "newspaper of record" blew the story on Iraq yet again. What a huge failure on the part of this incredibly influential media outlet.