Accuracy in Media

The Jayson Blair/New York Times scandal represents the impact of the insidious push for “diversity” in the media. Blair, considered a “promising” and “talented” black reporter, was a living example of the importance that the major media attach to “diversity” in the newsroom over accuracy and objectivity in the journalistic product. The case shows the inevitable result of affirmative-action programs and quotas that lower standards and compromise integrity. Such programs are widespread in the media and academic institutions and may accelerate in the years ahead with the approval of the Supreme Court.

Knowing that his race gave him a clear advantage over others, Blair not only fabricated and plagiarized material in dozens of stories over a period of years without being caught, but reportedly ripped off the Times financially through credit card fraud while developing a cocaine habit and drinking problem. His scandalous behavior got too brazen to ignore and he was finally forced to resign. But he may have the last laugh, having reportedly hired an agent to help him make a million dollars with a book explaining how it was all done.

One critical aspect of the scandal, which has been ignored by the major media, is how, in the name of “diversity,” major news organizations are continuing to pour tens of thousands of dollars into a radical black journalism organization, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), which created the circumstances under which someone like Blair can prosper.

The NABJ gave a standing ovation to black racist Louis Farrakhan at its 1996 convention after he accused NABJ members of being “slaves” of the white media.

The NABJ also demonstrated its extremist agenda when members booed and jeered a prominent black conservative at its 2002 convention.

The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson was participating in a debate over financial reparations for blacks with Michael E. Dyson, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, who blamed whites “for the high incarceration rate of black males” and other problems and received “thunderous applause,” Peterson told Jon Dougherty of WorldNetDaily. When Peterson said that blacks need a moral approach, including “two-parent households with good fathers leading them,” and not reparations, the crowd erupted into “boos and laughter.”

Incredibly, the media pay for the privilege of recruiting from the ranks of the NABJ. “Diamond Level” ($50,000-$99,000) contributors to the NABJ’s upcoming August 6-10 convention in Dallas include CNN, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Time Warner Cable. “Bronze Level” ($10,000-$14,000) contributors include C-SPAN, ESPN, Scripps Howard, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today.

Ironically, one of the “super workshops” at the convention is sponsored by the Times and features reporters from the Times and the Boston Globe (a Times property), who are supposed to address the questions, “What does it take to work for a big city newspaper?” and “?how can I soar and not sink?” Jayson Blair’s book may answer these questions.

Paying Homage

Times chairman (then-deputy publisher) Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. spoke to the NABJ in 1991, declaring diversity was “our cause.”

National Public Radio’s Melissa Block disclosed that Times executive editor Howell Raines spoke to the NABJ in 2001 and specifically mentioned Blair as an example of the Times commitment to diversity. “This campaign has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse,” Raines said.

Blair mentor, Times managing editor Gerald Boyd, who is black, was nominated by Blair as NABJ “Journalist of the Year.” He won the award in 2001, and a scholarship in his name was established by the NABJ for black students. It was Boyd and Raines, with Sulzberger’s apparent backing, who promoted Blair to the position of national reporter because they wanted to diversify the newsroom. A guilt-ridden white liberal, Raines has said that, as a “white man from Alabama,” he probably gave Blair one too many chances to succeed.

Another fact-largely ignored in all of the coverage of the scandal-is that the same kind of minority internship program that brought Blair to the Times is in effect at major newspapers around the country. Bobbie Bowman, the diversity director for the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), told us that 100 major newspapers have special internship programs for minorities.

ASNE, which represents the editors of 850 daily newspapers in the U.S., says its primary mission since 1978 has been “increasing diversity in U.S. newspaper newsrooms?”

ASNE figures show that the Washington Post, which has published some highly revealing articles about the Blair scandal, actually has a “better” record on diversity than the Times. ASNE says 20.8 percent of its newsroom employees are members of minority groups, while the Times percentage was 17.1 percent. No wonder the Times was in a rush to promote Blair.

The Post had its own scandal back in 1981, when it was revealed that a black Post reporter, Janet Cooke, made up a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict, that won her a Pulitzer Prize.

The figures about the Times, Post and other news organizations are included in elaborate charts and graphs produced by ASNE that track the hiring of minorities, with the ultimate goal of achieving “parity” in the newsroom. ASNE says “parity” means that “the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide [should be] equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025.” Since minorities make up 31 percent of the U.S. population, papers like the Times and Post still have a long way to go. ASNE establishes “diversity benchmarks” or quotas for minority hiring for the nation’s newspapers at three-year intervals.

The White Problem

A recent Ford Foundation-funded study on this matter, Diversity Disconnects, urged the media to redouble their efforts to protect the interests of minorities, including American Muslims and Arabs said to have been unfairly singled out for scrutiny after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Conducted by Dr. Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, a former Los Angeles Times journalist who is now a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the study also urged a renewed focus on diversity in journalism education, in order to counter “the dominance of whiteness.” It criticized William McGowan’s best-selling book, Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism (Encounter Books, 2001), for “its tendency to overlook the power of whiteliness.”

The problem of “whiteness” or “whiteliness,” in the context of journalism, refers to the journalistic approach that emphasizes gathering and reporting the news without fear or favor. But the new journalism that puts a premium on diversity emphasizes the feelings and concerns of minorities, homosexuals, and feminists, so as not to offend them.

Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly offended them when the Washington Post quoted him as joking about black youths stealing hubcaps at a Washington fundraising event. This remark was considered an unfair stereotype. On another occasion, the Times published an article about a controversy generated when O’Reilly used the term “wetback” in talking about illegal aliens.

The use of the term “illegal alien” has itself been largely abandoned by journalists at the Times and other papers because it is considered offensive. The more common term these days is “undocumented immigrant.” It is considered less offensive but it is obviously less accurate as well.

Get Whitey Journalism

Another example of this trend was documented in our 2003 AIM Report #1 about the firing of an editor by Blethen Maine Newspapers who allowed the publication of a column critical of black Somalis moving to Maine, going on welfare, and possibly posing a terrorist threat. The paper is one of six owned by the Blethen family, which is committed to “diver-sity” in news coverage and hiring. But diversity obviously doesn’t extend to publishing conservative views, even by members of the community the paper is supposed to serve, which might offend minorities.

The same AIM Report also explored how the major media seized upon Senator Trent Lott’s praise for Senator Strom Thurmond, a former segregationist, in an ultimately successful effort to force Lott from his position as Senate Majority Leader. The implication of the coverage was that Lott was a racist. His subsequent embrace of affirmative action wasn’t enough to save him.

By contrast, the Rev. Al Sharpton, a radical black activist and convicted liar in the Tawana Brawley rape-hoax case, has been treated largely with kid gloves by the media and his fellow contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many stories don’t even mention that Sharpton was ordered to pay financial damages to former Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones for claiming he was among a group of white men who had raped Brawley.

More recently, Sharpton surfaced in a 19-year-old FBI surveillance tape discussing a drug deal. Sharpton called the tape a smear and sued HBO for airing it.

The Times, which refers to him simply as “The Rev. Al Sharpton of New York,” saves its venom for figures such as W.W. “Hootie” Johnson, the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, who believes his private organization ought to retain the right to decide its own membership rules. Currently, the club excludes female members. The Times campaign against the club, and the paper’s strident opposition to the liberation of Iraq, were examined in the 2003 AIM Report #10. The Blair scandal is but another example of the liberal ideology that grips this paper.

The scandal might have been avoided if Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. had read McGowan’s book documenting how “diversity” is the corrupting influence that leads to double standards, quotas, and inaccurate and misleading coverage. The Times never reviewed the book because Book Review editor Chip McGrath said it was too critical of the Times! But it accurately captured what was then happening at the paper in the Jayson Blair case.

In a May 13, 2002, Media Monitor radio broadcast, Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid urged the paper to review the book, saying that it would give readers “more information about how the Times and other media color the news to benefit special interest groups,” including politically powerful black-militant and homosexual-rights organizations.

In the March/April 2003 issue of The American Spectator, Boston University Professor Peter Wood explains how diversity “bids us to think of America not as a single society unified by the shared ideals of individual freedom and equality before the law, but as divided up into separate groups-on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex, for starters. Diversity is also a political doctrine, asserting that some groups deserve compensatory privileges, as redress for benefits they have historically been denied.”

The latest such group is the “transgendered community” of people who have sex-change operations or dress as members of the opposite sex. So-called “transgender activists”- men in dresses-were on Capitol Hill on May 19 asking members of Congress to sign a pledge of “nondiscrimination” against their movement.

Professor Wood wonders if necrophiles might be the next group to demand special rights and get special recognition.

Roots Of The Scandal

The “scandal behind the scandal” in the Blair case has been described by Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity: “Blair was likely benefiting from double, lowered standards before he came to the Times. In the late 1990s, when Blair was attending the University of Maryland, the median SAT verbal score of black enrollees was 60 points lower there than the median white score, and the SAT math score gap was 110 points. The four-year graduation rate for blacks was only 45 percent, versus 66 percent for whites?”

Clegg says that racial preferences are in effect at academic institutions across the country, with blacks having a far greater probability of admission than do similarly qualified whites at a large variety of schools.

Blair himself came to the Times without graduating from the University of Maryland, which is now reviewing his work there. Journalism School Dean Thomas Kunkel said the university plans to check 30 articles that he wrote in 1995 as a reporter for the Capital News Service, a wire service staffed by journalism students. Blair later became editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper.

Not surprisingly, the NABJ has issued a release categorically rejecting the notion that the Blair incident “reflects poorly on the Times’ efforts to diversify its newsroom?” It also declared that race had nothing to do with the cases of white journalists who fabricated or plagiarized material.

But the NABJ ignored the fact that blacks, not whites, benefit from affirmative action and diversity programs. Whites can be as dishonest as blacks, but the point is that standards are being manipulated to benefit the latter.

Phony Research

Former sports broadcaster Keith Olbermann, host of the MSNBC Countdown program, used his own questionable “research” in an effort to absolve affirmative action of any blame in the scandal. In an interview of NABJ President Condace Pressley, he said, “There have been references today to the color of Mr. Blair’s skin. There was even an article, a column in the New York Times about this subject. We did a little research. Of the last ten prominent journalists who faked something, or plagiarized something, or got fired for things like that-from Stephen Glass in the New Republic to these two yahoos in Salt Lake City two weeks ago-six white men and one white woman. So when somebody says of Jayson Blair, ‘there’s affirmative action for you,’ you know you are hearing an ignorant person speak?”

But how did “research” showing that seven out of ten media frauds are white have any bearing on why Blair got away with his deceit?

Even if Olbermann were correct, that would still mean that three out of ten cases were non-white. That’s more than the minority percentage in the news business, which now stands at 12 percent. So Olbermann may have proven the point he was trying to rebut.

Pressley, who thanked Olbermann for his “research,” said that Blair’s problems clearly had nothing to do with his race or affirmative action.

But Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is one of many liberals who have concluded that race was a critical factor. Explaining how and why Blair was promoted, Cohen said, “The answer appears to be precisely what the Times denies: favoritism based on race. Blair is black, and the Times, like other media organizations, is intent on achieving diversity. Sometimes this noble and essential goal comes down to a parody of affirmative action. That seems to be the case with Blair.”

The Facts

The Times itself reported that its own inquiry “establishes that various editors and reporters expressed misgivings about Mr. Blair’s reporting skills, maturity and behavior during his five-year journey from raw intern to reporter on national news events.” The paper said that metropolitan editor Jonathan Landman had sent an e-mail message to newsroom administrators that said Blair wasn’t competent and that he had to go. That was in April 2002-a year before the scandal finally forced his resignation.

Blair got a leave from the paper for personal reasons at one point and was told to be more accurate when he came back and was put on the national desk by Raines and Boyd. But Blair’s erroneous coverage continued until the San Antonio Express-News raised questions about his plagiarizing and the scandal got too big too ignore.

Raines himself was quoted in the Times as saying, “I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities.” Raines asked, “Does that mean I personally favored Jayson? Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes.”

The “white man from Alabama” remark may also help explain how Boyd rose quickly in the ranks, becoming managing editor under Raines. The liberal Newswatch, a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism of the San Francisco State University Journalism Department, has called Boyd’s promotion at the paper a “milestone in journalism diversity.”

Boyd has also been helpful to the homosexual cause at the Times.

Homosexuals have long been out of the closet at the paper and, according to reporter Richard Burke, they frequently constitute three-quarters of those on the staff who determine the paper’s front-page content. The Times is among the media companies extending “domestic partner benefits” to “homosexual couples.” Another is the Washington Post Company.

Seventy-one newspapers, including the Times and Post, now print announcements of same-sex “unions” as if they were the equivalent of legitimate and legal marriages of men and women.

The Times decided to publish these announcements after Gerald Boyd met with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which said that he “indicated to us we had made compelling arguments about the need for the paper to reflect the growing and visible trend of same-sex unions.”

Boyd is so committed to “diversity” that he had accepted the laughable “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity” award at Wayne State University. Thomas, a graduate of the institution, has a reputation as a partisan liberal journalist. Accepting the award, she attacked President Bush’s opposition to racial preferences in college admissions. She said, “I think affirmative action is needed in this country.”

The New York Times agreed, running an editorial on December 19, 2002, endorsing the minority preferences in admissions used by the University of Michigan in a landmark case now before the Supreme Court.

A court decision in favor of the university will guarantee more reverse discrimination against whites, inevitably leading to more Jayson Blair-type scandals in journalism and other professions.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or letters of your own choosing to ASNE President Peter Bhatia, Rep. Henry Hyde, and White House political adviser Karl Rove.

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