MONDAY’S LETTERS: Doonesbury Debate; Judy Miller Jail Visit Inspires Reader Fury

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By: E&P Staff

Re: Former Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede, who was fired for taping a conversation he had with a public official who later killed himself in the paper’s lobby:

Fiedler made a grave error by firing Jim DeFede. His column is the first thing I look for and one of the main reasons for subscribing to the Herald. I knew that he could not be bought and that he kept us well informed of the trashy politics in South Florida.

Stange — Karl Rove still employed — Jim DeFede gone.
Just not fair.

Renee Kropnick

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Re: Novak Speaks Out on Plame Case, Hits CIA Spokesman:

Integrity…Bob Novak…oil and water…simply dont belong together…No, not at all!!

Ted Church
Memphis, Tenn.

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Since news broke last week that newspapers had edited and/or pulled Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury strip because of a reference to President Bush’s nickname for Karl Rove — “Turd Blossom” — cartoonist Wiley Miller and a reader have engaged in a spirited exchange (last item) regarding the merits of Doonesbury and an editor’s right to edit comics. The latest retort from Mr. Miller is below:

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I sincerely hope that Mr. Horchak isn’t an editor, as his understanding of comics, syndication, and copyright law is apparently sadly lacking in his vitriolic attack on Garry Trudeau.

Mr. Horchak said: “Mr. Trudeau sells a comic strip. If I buy the Mona Lisa and paint a mustache on it that is my right. I doubt if many editors purchase Mr. Trudeau’s comic strip for his political analysis or acumen.”

First of all, the analogy is wrong. Newspapers don’t buy the cartoon, they buy the right to reprint it. If editors were buying a print of the cartoon to hang on their office wall, then they could indeed do anything they want with it. But that’s not what they are purchasing. They are buying copyrighted material for publication. When they buy this one time reprint right, they are NOT allowed to change the copy in any manner without the permission of the copyright holder. If you will take a close look at Doonesbury, as well as every other comic in the newspaper, you will see a copyright notice.

Once the editor buys that right to print the cartoon, they are free to either run it or not run it, and they can print it on any page they wish. That is their editorial decision. Garry Trudeau very clearly said he had no problem with this, as that is the nature of publishing. He only stated that he had a problem with editors changing the copy in the cartoon. In that complaint, which Mr. Horchak dismisses as “whining,” Mr. Trudeau is simply defending his copyright. It is ILLEGAL for an editor to change the copy and print it without permission from the author.

Apparently Mr. Horchak’s major complaint is that he sees Doonesbury on the comics page in his paper. This is the editor’s decision, not Mr. Trudeau’s. In fact, many papers run Doonesbury on the editorial or Op-Ed page.

Finally, yes, Mr. Horchak, editors do buy Mr. Trudeau’s comic strip for his political acumen. That is the main selling point of the Pulitzer Prize winning feature.

Wiley Miller
Non Sequitur

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Nothing brings out readers’ passions like the ongoing CIA leak investigation, which has resulted in New York Times reporter Judith Miller serving jail time for not cooperating with investigators. A sampling of dozens of reader comments — in response to this article about Tom Brokaw and members of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) visiting Miller at the Alexandria Detention Center — follows below.

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The only thing keeping Judith Miller in jail is Judith Miller and her employer the NY Times. Maybe Brokaw would change places with her!

Cliff Hair

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What is Miller trying to hide? As I understand it, she has her source’s permission to go public. So who is she protecting, another journalist, or a demcrat, or perhaps a Jason Blair wannabee? I don’t think she is as honorable a journalist as you suggest. After all, she works for the New York Times, doesn’t she?

G.L. Gunderman
Florence, AL

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“There’s no good purpose in keeping this dedicated, honorable, committed professional in jail,” Steiger said after the visit.

Does Steiger mean other than the fact that Miller is breaking the law by willfully withholding information from a grand jury?

Joe Drager

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In reference to Paul Steiger, CPJ chairman and Wall Street Journal managing editor, stating that Ms. Miller was an honorable person: Nothing could be further from the truth! She broke the law. Further, it goes without stating that a journalist would kill his/her mother if there was ?scoop? behind it. No, she is not an honorable person, in fact, just the opposite. She is a scoundrel, a person who adventures outsides the bounds of decency, one who would stop at nothing to advance her career, a nobody, a person without character and certainly one without honor!

Charles R. Cox

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Some may think that the visit of Tom Brokaw and CPJ to imprisoned NY Times reporter Judith Miller was a version of the chickens coming home to roost. After all, it was the Washington press corps itself, led by former left-wing NY Times columnist and now University of Missouri Journalism executive Geneva Overholser, that demanded a special counsel investigate the alleged leaking of CIA employee Valerie Plame’s identity to conservative columnist Bob Novak. The idea of course was to get Novak in trouble, but it backfired. The press thus has only itself to blame for Miller’s incarceration. The old adage “be careful what you wish for — you may get it” certainly proved true in this case.

Bob Bronson
Naperville, IL

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Tom Brokaw is quoted as saying after visiting incarceraded reporter Judith Miller,?”it was emphatically clear that she is absolutely convinced that she made the right decision and is prepared to stay the course.”?There you have it, she isn’t complaining; so why are so many of her cohorts protesting her situation.?Why deny the woman the opportunity to burnish her reputation??Especially since so many of her cohorts detested her previous reporting from Iraq on WMD. Don’t they understand — Judy needs this attention to distract from her previous predicament.

Robert Holmgren
Menlo Park, CA

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Judith Miller to me is not a hero. To me she is a rather foolish person who thinks she is above the law in refusing to divulge information thought necessary by a lawfully appointed prosecutor for his investigation. Until the law is changed, reporters are ordinary citizens like the rest of us who are not in the field of journalism and are obliged to obey the law or face judicial reprimand; in Miller’s case that means time in prison. In fact, since all involved in the Plame leak investigation have given a waiver, it seems Miller is being more than foolish. Many of us think she is protecting not one of the principles of the investigation but perhaps someone else, perhaps someone at the Times itself. Otherwise, why would the management of the Times allow a very good reporter to stay in jail?

Joe Pryor
Sunrise Beach, Mo.

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