An Editor Attacks Linda Greenhouse's Critics

While taking readers' questions online, Assistant Managing Editor Craig Whitney answers a Massachusetts reader who defends Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse's left-wing, pro-abortion, anti-Bush rant at Harvard this June: "Is there some way to adjust NY Times policy so that a reporter of Ms. Greenhouse's standing can give opinions to an audience as long as they are labeled opinions? It is a shame for us to lose out on some of the deeper reflections we can get from this."

(Here's part of what Greenhouse said: "Our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.")

Whitney responds by attacking Greenhouse's critics: "It is simply fatuous, I think there is no other word for it, to expect intelligent and conscientious reporters on any subject they've covered as seriously as Linda Greenhouse has covered as well as the Supreme Court to have no opinions about the issues that come before it. The requirement of fair and balanced journalism is that they keep those opinions out of the news articles they write - to step back, not imposing their views, and, even in a news analysis, to give readers enough factual information to decide for themselves whether or not they agree with the reporter's view. Great reporters like Linda Greenhouse have always done this scrupulously and conscientiously. That contributes to what used to pass for intelligent political debate in this country, before debate degenerated into the fatheaded name-calling we see so often today - but now I've gone and fallen into it myself.

"Linda Greenhouse has faced, for one paragraph in a very thoughtful and stimulating speech that she thought she was giving to a closed audience, attacks on her integrity that she could have avoided if she had been more reticent about what she thought. And she should have been. But her critics should be honest - would they really rather have a dope who didn't know what she thought about the current big issues before the Supreme Court? Or only someone who agreed with their own views, whatever they are? Shame on them, if they would."

You can decide for yourself if her bias was limited to just "one paragraph in a very thoughtful and stimulating speech" (after talking about crying at a Simon & Garfunkel concert, she later called herself a Democrat).

And precisely how, given its recent history, can the Times get huffy over someone leaking a tape of Greenhouse's speech to the press? Are leaks suddenly bad when they make the Times look bad?