Accuracy in Media

Former New York Times managing editor Gerald Boyd who died three years ago from cancer takes a swipe at his former employer on the Jayson Blair scandal in a new book that is set to be released on Feb. 1.

From The New York Observer

In two weeks, a memoir by Gerald Boyd, the former managing editor of The New York Times who was forced out of the paper along with executive editor Howell Raines in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, will be published by the small, Chicago-based publisher Lawrence Hill Books. Boyd died three years ago from cancer, but before his death, he had written two drafts of his book. Instead of letting them sit in a drawer, his wife, journalist Robin Stone, put the two together, did some editing and created My Times in Black and White. It will hit bookstores on Feb. 1.

These days, there are far more current and pressing scandals in print media than Jayson Blair. Yet the memoir is sure to make something of a stir at the Times tower on Eighth Avenue.

While much of the book is given over to autobiography and Boyd’s thoughts on race and journalism, he did write at length on the 2003 scandal, and defended himself and a career at The Times that went up in flames in a matter of weeks. Most notably, he wrote openly about the animosity he felt for the paper’s current culture editor, Jon Landman.

In the book, Boyd accuses Mr. Landman of being a bully-smug, aggressive, a master of office politics-and one of the primary enemies that celebrated his ouster. According to Boyd, Mr. Landman was a man of no “decency and integrity.” 

“Metro had few minorities among its top editors, and many journalists of color found [Mr. Landman] impossible to stomach,” writes Boyd at one point, without elaborating on that claim. 

In the time during the Blair scandal, Mr. Landman was lionized, mostly because of an email he sent to two editors a year before Mr. Blair resigned that said: “We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now.”

Boyd did not care for the plaudits. 

“In the newsroom, Landman, as author of the ‘stop Jayson from writing’ memo, was a hero. He was benefiting from revisionist history that I had seen the note and ignored it. No one disputed the falsehood, especially not Landman,” he writes.

In his writing, Boyd also distanced himself from Mr. Blair. He wrote that they would bump into each other for smoke breaks, and that he encouraged Mr. Blair now and then. But he disputed any “mentoring” relationship, or friendship. He blamed the perception that they were closer than they actually were on race. In the book, Boyd also wrote that he felt betrayed by current executive editor Bill Keller when Howell Raines informed him that Mr. Keller was trying to derail his career. 

“[Keller] said that no matter whom Sulzberger picked as executive editor, under no circumstances should [Gerald Boyd] become managing editor. Under no circumstances.”

We reached out to both Mr. Landman and Mr. Keller for reaction.

Mr. Landman said, “Nobody should forget that Gerald left a wife and son and many friends who cherish his memory, which I am not about to smudge with a posthumous quarrel. The last word is his.”

Mr. Keller said, “Like a lot of things one hears second- or third-hand, this is inaccurate. I’m sorry that Gerald believed it and was hurt by it.”

It sounds as if Boyd was unrepentant when he died for his role in the scandal.  Maybe he didn’t know Blair that well but as the managing editor he still had the responsibility to make sure Blair’s work was actually true.  For that he does deserve to share the blame and his ouster as well as Keller’s was only choice the Times truly had.

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