11/10/2005 10:28 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Kicking Judy Miller When She's Down

It's good that Judith Miller is leaving the New York Times -- but the paper is showing a petty lack of professionalism in its handling of her departure.

A couple weeks ago, the Times unleashed Maureen Dowd to flog Miller in Dowd's column, beginning with the instantly infamous (and patently insincere) line, "I"ve always liked Judy Miller..."

Miller was understandably pissed that the newspaper had allowed one of its columnists to attack her, and asked to write an op-ed piece in response. An unusual request -- but then, siccing Maureen Dowd on one of your own reporters isn't exactly business as usual.

As the paper reports today, "the Times refused that demand - Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page, said, 'We don't use the Op-Ed page for back and forth between one part of the paper and another.'"

No. Apparently, they use it to allow one writer to slag another, without granting the object of the abuse equal opportunity to defend herself.

Instead, the Times has "allowed" Miller to publish a letter. Which, while it puts the lie to the "we don't allow back and forths" defense, clearly has a lesser impact than a Times' op-ed; it's a diminishing platform. And, in that sense, it's bad journalism. Once the paper allowed Dowd to use her space to attack another employee -- a mistake in the first place -- it had an obligation to give Miller equal time.

Why does this matter? Because such defensive behavior is not just about Judy Miller, it's an example of how the Times treats anyone who feels they've been maligned by the paper of record -- arrogantly and unfairly. (Just try to get a correction from the paper.)

This time, it's Judith Miller. Next time, it could be you.