NEW YORK — Three years after her difficult departure from The New York Times, Judith Miller says she still misses some of the people she worked with and the "excitement of the newsroom." She also says the Times remains "indispensable."
But in today's difficult economic atmosphere, she is glad to be out of the newspaper game at a time when cutbacks and shorter stories are the norm. "The Times has been so gloomy, they have gotten rid of the Metro section," Miller said Monday in a cell phone interview. "It is a very challenging time for our business. Look at the disappearance of The [New York] Sun - it was a very useful addition, whatever you thought of their politics."
Miller, who left the paper in 2005 after 28 years, spoke as word spread of her latest new job, as a commentator for Fox News. Miller said she will be on air and on the Web site part-time discussing First Amendment and free speech issues, as well as foreign policy and national security.
"I get to spout my views, I will NOT be joining the news team," she stressed. "I care about First Amendment issues and free speech and I will talk about that and foreign policy if and when we ever stop talking about the economy, which is going to be going on for a while."
Miller, 60, gained national fame in 2005 when she spent 85 days in jail for failing to reveal a source in the Valerie Plame scandal, the federal investigation into who leaked the former CIA agent's name to reporters.
After she was released, conflicts with some Times editors and reporters over the reporting of her story eventually led to her departure. She has also come under scrutiny for her reporting on pre-war Iraq, including misleading stories about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
Miller came out of the whole mess as an advocate for a federal shield law, she said, among other First Amendment concerns. She also joined the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute a year ago, which has allowed her to write longer-form stories and remains her main day-to-day focus, she said.
"There are very few places left where you can write 4,000 and 5,000-word pieces," she said. "My main work will be for the Manhattan Institute, and write for Fox's Web site."
Citing her work for the Institute's City Journal, Miller said she is able to write as much or more than for any newspapers. "I like it very much, it is a very supportive place," she said. "They welcome lots of viewpoints and I find it stimulating; my colleagues are very collegial."
Does she hold any animosity for those who criticized her three years ago? "I am not a grudge-holder, it was really time to leave the Times, " Miller said. "I still think The New York Times is an indispensable institution. But it is great we have these new [web and blog] outlets because we are going to need them given what is the state of journalism."
Joe Strupp ([email protected]) is a senior editor at E&P.