Accuracy in Media

The New York Times has published a story on former reporter Jayson Blair’s dozens of fraudulent stories. But the story plays down the likelihood that Blair was given the rope to hang himself because he was part of a diversity or affirmative action program at the newspaper. The Times reports that its 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 says 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 told to be more accurate when he came back. “By last October,” the paper says, “the newspaper’s top two editors ? who said they believed that Mr. Blair had turned his life and work around ? had guided him to the understaffed national desk, where he was assigned to help cover the Washington sniper case.” Those were executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd. But Blair’s erroneous coverage continued until the San Antonio Express-News raised questions about his plagiarizing.

The Times said, “The investigation suggests several reasons Mr. Blair’s deceits went undetected for so long: a failure of communication among senior editors; few complaints from the subjects of his articles; his savviness and his ingenious ways of covering his tracks. Most of all, no one saw his carelessness as a sign that he was capable of systematic fraud.”

Notice the failure to consider that Blair, who is black, benefited from a double-standard. Paul D. Colford in the New York Daily News reported that Boyd, who is black, said, “It’s not an issue about diversity, but about a reporter who had issues that allowed him to deceive.” However, the Times itself admitted that it “offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom.” A Times editor said he objected to promoting Blair to the position of reporter but that Boyd and Raines wanted it done for the sake of diversity.

On top of this, the Times says that Blair flashed around confidential Times documents, ran up company expenses from a bar, and took company cars “for extended periods, racking up parking tickets.” He was kept on until the disaster got too big and he had attracted too much outside publicity. He’s now said to be in a hospital working out his problems. Some speculate it’s drug-related.

The New York Times has also had a policy of hiring and promoting open homosexuals. Being black or gay may have trumped the commitment to good journalism. And the Times is not alone in pursuing such a course. No wonder more and more people are turning away from the liberal media. The Times may never recover from this scandal. Other papers with diversity programs could suffer the same fate.




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