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Nick Lemann is the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a former New Yorker staff writer. While at Harvard – where he  graduated in 1976 –  Lemann[…]

The New York Times did exactly what it was supposed to do, Lemann says.

Nicholas Lemann: This question comes up again only in a tiny little slice of the stratosphere of the press. And I support strongly the stories that primarily the New York Times has reported that has gotten this charge against them by the Bush administration – the warrantless wire tapping and so on. Every day – and people don’t realize this – the editor of the New York Times and papers of that caliber decide not to publish things. So it’s not like they just will publish anything willy-nilly. I think they were right to report this. They made a careful decision, and you know they’re not really holding themselves above the law either. They’re catching the Bush administration holding itself above the law. That’s what the press is supposed to do. As an example on the other side just to show, rightly or wrongly, that the press does self-restrain, look at the coverage of Israel’s bombing of the . . . whatever it was in Syria not too long ago. And it was . . . It’s very clear from the outside that there was some kind of self-censorship going on at the request of government. And several other incidents have slipped out where, you know, people in the press were asked by people in government to hold off on something and they did so. So I’m on the press’s side on that one.


Recorded on: 11/30/07