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Judy Miller: Back in the Bosom of the Times?

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When last we left the Judy Miller soap opera, “As the Times Turns”, Judy was demanding the chance to write an op-ed answering her critics, while her bosses were trying to find a way to fire her without unleashing her legendary wrath.

So far, neither has happened. But sources tell me that the melodrama has taken a surprising turn, and that, as of this morning, the faction within the paper pushing for a Miller comeback -- aka Arthur J. Sulzberger, Jr. -- is winning the day (which is not as preposterous as it may sound given that said Arthur J. Sulzberger, Jr. is still da man).

It started with this weekend’s “we have no reservations” editorial page caress. After a week of Miller’s reputation being pummeled within an inch of its life by the combined blows of Keller, Abramson, Taubman, Calame, and Dowd, the Sulzberger/Collins "Miller was right on the central point” pushback signaled that the pro-Judy crowd -- aka Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. -- hadn’t given up the fight.

And, indeed, a Times staffer tells me that talks with Judy have moved from negotiating her severance package to discussing ways to bring her back that would not lead to a newsroom revolt.

And you won’t believe the reason. “The people who think Judy should come back,” my source tells me, “say it’s for the good of the paper. They think it will calm everything down.”

Which is like saying the best way to put out a fire is to toss a bucket of gasoline on it.

In reality, it’s Judy they really want to calm down. Hard to believe, but it seems those in charge are more worried about an out-for-revenge Judy off the Times payroll and on the loose than they are about alienating a newsroom that Nicholas Lemann paints in the New Yorker as “distracted as it had been during the Jayson Blair incident”.

As my source puts it: “I guess Judy is still driving the car”.

So what are they so afraid of? Well, as the Times’ legendary "Johnny" Apple told the Austin American-Statesman yesterday, Miller is “relentless and totally out of control”. And this was while he was praising her “doggedness” a reporter.

The situation at the Times remains as volatile as a schizophrenic who’s gone off his meds. The latest odds, though, are that Judy stays. Trust me, this would be such a ludicrous turn of events that it’s hard to even type those words. But I report, you decide.

Leaving aside how the newsroom will react, it’s hard to figure out in what capacity Judy could realistically return. Can you imagine Miller calling up a potential source and saying, “This is Judy Miller, I’m doing a story on [fill in serious topic here].”? It would be like getting picked last for dodgeball at recess. The source would think, “Dear God, am I really that unimportant?”

So, assuming the divorce that most of the Times newsroom kids want doesn’t go through, where will Judy land? What corner of the Times would allow her to do the least harm?

Food critic doesn’t seem the best beat for the author of “Germs”. Movie reviewer? Fashion writer? Too much at stake. How about writing those breathless boy-meets-girl tales for the “Vows” feature or captions for the Travel section’s Slide Show of the Week? Or maybe she can work the cash register at the new New York Times store at Bryant Park.

Our pals at Gawker just announced their Millerpalooza Sweepstakes, inviting readers to guess the time of Miss Run Amok’s departure from the Times. But if my sources have it right, it looks like no one will be taking home the prized Yellowcake from Billy’s Bakery.

I hate to spoil the fun, though. So how about if we offer a HuffPost prize to whoever comes closest to guessing the exact time the announcement that Judy is staying at the Times breaks?

Here’s our prize: a tray of baklava and a special ceramic pencil holder featuring a reproduction of a Times front page that includes a vintage Judy Miller byline.