Skip to comments.Why the Big Payoff for Tainting Journalism?
Posted on 12/05/2003 12:02:34 PM PST by Bernard Marx
Strupp Disgusted With Blair Publicity Machine
Guess what? I lied. I made up quotes for my E&P stories all year. Stole stories from others, and pretended to be places I wasn't. Remember the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference that I wrote about last spring? Never went to New Orleans -- I can't get into all that jazz. I covered the whole thing by cell phone, from my house in New Jersey. That feature on women publishers that included conversations with a dozen executives? Hah! Never talked to any of them. I made it all up. I even faked the photos.
So can I have my half-a-million-dollar book deal now? And my spot on prime-time television being interviewed by ratings gluttons who masquerade as journalists, so the whole nation can hear about how I did it? Funny, I didn't know people rationalizing their laziness, lack of respect for others, and need for pity were interesting, but I guess that is the state of news in 2003.
It also seems to be the way to get famous in journalism these days. For Jayson Blair, at least. This embarrassment to our profession, as well as human decency, can't seem to go away quietly. Not only did we have to live through his temporary shaming of The New York Times, which created an unfair black eye for all journalists, but we are going to have to hear him talk about it again and again. Why is this worthy of reward, not only in the form of attention, but in a lucrative book contract?
I asked Michael Viner, president of New Millenium Audio & Press of Beverly Hills, which is publishing in March Blair's scribblings as Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at The New York Times. The title has a not-so-subtle reference to slavery, which further reduces Blair's decency quotient, as if that is possible. Anyone who rose to the job that he did at the nation's most prominent paper has real nerve trying to come off like some kind of victim. If anything, some might say Blair's color helped him, while his disgusting acts have enslaved the rest of us who must put up with their effect.
Viner made no bones about the fact that Blair's actions were wrong, but defended his company's decision to reward him with a contract -- which will reportedly pay at least $500,000 -- claiming he is not the first person to make out like a bandit after behaving badly. "They all have an equal right to be published," Viner said. "If you are suggesting that someone who had a problem should not be allowed to write a book, then much of the industry would have to change its modus operandi." Obviously Viner would. He is best known, as a publisher, for books by or about such luminaries as Heidi Fleiss, Faye Resnick, and Lyle Menendez.What I'm suggesting is that a lying dog like Blair should not be trusted to tell the truth in a book for which he is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars when his despicable acts involved lying in print in the first place. Viner contends that the book will be straightforward and truthful because it is undergoing twice as much fact-checking as most of the books he publishes.
"It is being double-vetted," Viner claimed. "He (Blair) is anxious that there be no mistakes in it." That is a laugh, considering this scammer didn't seem to give a damn about mistakes during his last day job. But I guess when you deceive on purpose, it is not technically a mistake, because that was the purpose all along.
Viner said he fell in love with Blair's style and talent after reading a chapter of the book in September. "It was just knockout writing," Viner recalled. "As a publisher, that is what you look for." He contends that the book already has 200,000 advance orders, the most in New Millenium's five-year history.
Well that's good enough for me. As long as it makes money and entertains readers, who cares if the writer has no credibility? Maybe all newspapers should adopt that approach. They'd save a lot of money on travel expenses and phone bills. Reporters wouldn't have to call anyone for facts, just make sure the writing is good.
But Blair and New Millenium are only two of the culprits in this episode. Those who will give Blair his spotlight, such as Larry King, Katie Couric and others, are to be blamed as well. Don't they care that this guy has knifed their own profession in the back? It used to be that reporters wrote books that expanded on great stories they had covered, the most notable being All The President's Men. Now it seems that a reporter can only get a book deal if he or she is one who commits the misdeeds.
I hope anyone who reads the book or watches Blair on any of these talk shows remembers why he is there. Not because he is famous, but because he is infamous, which the dictionary defines as "having a bad reputation, notorious, or scandalous."
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is associate editor for E&P.
Mr. Strupp seems to blame Blair and his (current) publisher but appears to let Howell Raines and the other liberal elitists at the NYT off the hook completely. This is what passes for "introspection" in media circles. If the mainstream media didn't hype low-lifes like Heidi Fleiss, Faye Resnick and Lyle Menendez and milk them for ratings and circulation figures, he wouldn't have much to write about. Add in corporate "affirmative action" for selected minority groups who are allowed perks and promotions others with better qualifications are denied, and you have a bunch of navel-gazing twits ready to be rolled by people like Blair, Janet Cooke and their ilk. It's not that they're black or women -- there are plenty of qualified people in those groups -- but the liberal blind spot that puts "progressive religion" ahead of common sense.
It's sad that E&P, which is supposed to act as a media gadfly and point out shortcomings, can't or won't see reality. Of course the author would have to say some mean things about the NYT which is probably about as bad as taking Karl Marx's name in vain.
Or did he mean to say that he knew that he was hired for purposes of a quota, formal or informal, rather than his raw talent, and so he purposely made up his stories to get back at the racist bastards?
Or was it that a black man can't get a fair shake in this country, so he purposely made up his stories to get back at the racist bastards?
Whatever the reason, it is clear to me that Blair felt that the NYT is a bunch of racist bastards.
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