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Jayson Blair: Offering His Views On Making Up News (Dinosaur Media DeathWatch™)
NPR ^ | November 6, 2009 | David Folkenflik

Posted on 11/06/2009 4:56:16 AM PST by abb

The historic campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., has offered instruction in journalism for well over a century — but probably never quite like this.

On Friday, the twice-yearly Washington and Lee Journalism Ethics Institute will hear from its latest keynote speaker: Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who triggered the greatest scandal in the newspaper's history.

"Getting Jayson Blair obviously was a departure," says Edward Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee.

Indeed. The keynote address is typically reserved for people like Lowell Bergman or Toni Locy, journalists who withstood pressure from zealous prosecutors or corporate heavies.

This time, Wasserman says he found inspiration in a newspaper account of Blair's new career as a life coach for people who, like Blair, suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.

Blair hasn't talked much in public about his own wrong-doing — not since he did a media tour in early 2004 for his memoir, Burning Down My Master's House. The book started with an admission of deceit but spent much energy pointing fingers at his colleagues for their own behavior.

Wasserman says the Times culture was dysfunctional, but that Blair cannot avoid his own responsibility.

"He has an interesting tightrope he needs to walk, between owning up to his own wrong-doing, and using his own example to illuminate larger problems that we might learn something from," Wasserman says.

Blair fabricated quotes, people and events and plagiarized the work of others. In the process, he demolished the building blocks of good journalism and eroded the trust many people had in the nation's leading newspaper. The Times was ultimately forced to retract dozens of stories and oust its top two editors.

The examples are numerous and painful. For instance, Blair conjured up interviews with fictional veterans of the Iraq war and he invented a videotaped confession in the Washington, D.C., sniper case. There was no such video.

It all helps explain why six years ago, at the age of 27, Jayson Blair was for a time considered the single greatest threat to American journalism.

I asked other several prominent journalists what they thought of inviting Blair to the media ethics conference, which will draw leading news professionals as well as students.

Several reacted positively. "Hey, banks hire safecrackers and Internet firms hire hackers to help them with security, don't they?" Doyle McManus, the most recent past Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, asked in an e-mail. "If Mr. Blair's purpose is to tell editors, 'Here's how I got away with it; here's what to guard against,' then he could do a real service."

In an interview with NPR, Blair himself offers much the same justification. "We see it in journalism all the time," Blair says. "When we report stories we don't just want to talk to people who did the right thing. We want to talk to people who did the wrong thing."

During our conversation, Blair seems sincere, compelling, and even contrite. But how much stock can you put in what's said by someone best known for lying?

Count Kelly McBride among the skeptics. She teaches media ethics at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. McBride says Blair is a case study in epic dishonesty, not good intentions gone awry. Each fraudulent story served his ambition, she says.

"None of the stories that he was trying to accomplish when he committed his crimes of journalism were the type of stories that change the way we understand who we are, or expose any sort of great wrong-doing or any flaws in our society that need to be addressed," McBride says.

A spokeswoman for the Times did not return a call seeking comment for this story. Jonathan Landman, a senior Times editor who internally challenged Blair's reporting, replied mischievously when asked for his thoughts: "I have no thoughts whatsoever on any subject. I've renounced thinking."

Blair tells his story this way:

As a high school student in suburban Virginia, Blair says, he was impressed by the power of a newspaper article to help a young woman get needed medical care.

"I began, you know, wanting, to comfort the afflicted and search for the truth," Blair says.

He attended the University of Maryland's journalism school, became editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, and won coveted internships at The Boston Globe. But Blair says he soon became convinced the only way to have a true impact was to reach The New York Times. He left Maryland early to take an extending reporting intern position in 1999 that soon led to a full-time position.

"Once I was at the best newspaper, I needed to have the best beat," Blair says now. "Once I had a better beat, I needed to have an even better one. And somewhere in that climbing, I lost sight of, sort of, my moral and ethical underpinnings."

In our interview, Blair rejected accounts that he first invented quotations and sources back in college. My own reporting on the topic included on-the-record recollections of his Maryland peers pointing to several such incidents.

Instead, Blair says his first lapse was right after the September 2001 attacks. He says he made up a name for someone who wouldn't identify himself.

"I remember crossing that line and telling myself, 'Man, I am not going to do that again. Tomorrow, I'm going back on the side of angels and I'm going to, you know, do things the way they are supposed to be done.'"

Blair says he is responsible for his decisions. But he also says his behavior was influenced by depression and by bipolar disorder. And he says the drug use and the alcohol didn't help.

"At every moment of potential weakness, or where I felt I couldn't do something ... it was so much easier to jump back over the ethical line," he says.

Blair says he's now clean and sober. He says he's receiving successful treatment for his mental illnesses. Blair started free support groups for others with similar struggles. He now works at a psychiatric outpatient clinic in Virginia. Its director, Michael Oberschneider, told me Blair has been utterly reliable and a true boon for many clients there.

Still, given his record, I had to ask Blair why faculty members, journalists and students assembled for a conference on media ethics should believe what he had to say.

Blair gave a half-laugh and said they should listen, ask questions and form their own opinions.

"It's up to them," he said.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: dbm; jaysonblair; newspapers; nytimes
Of interest to our group.
1 posted on 11/06/2009 4:56:18 AM PST by abb
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To: 04-Bravo; aimhigh; andyandval; Arizona Carolyn; backhoe; Bahbah; bert; bilhosty; Caipirabob; ...

ping


2 posted on 11/06/2009 4:57:00 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb
...it's a wonder he hasn't opened up a government sponsored school yet.....
3 posted on 11/06/2009 4:57:54 AM PST by Doogle (USAF.68-73..8th TFW Ubon Thailand..never store a threat you should have eliminated))
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To: abb
Blair says he soon became convinced the only way to have a true impact was to reach The New York Times.

He played a key role in destroying his Idol.

4 posted on 11/06/2009 5:09:17 AM PST by iowamark (certified by Michael Steele as "ugly and incendiary")
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To: iowamark
Blair says he soon became convinced the only way to have a true impact was to reach The New York Times.

He played a key role in destroying his Idol.

Then he did have a true impact. LOL

5 posted on 11/06/2009 5:13:21 AM PST by org.whodat (Vote: Chuck De Vore in 2012.)
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To: abb

The Journalism paradigm has shifted from “Who, what, where, when,” to “Fake but accurate”.

Of course, “accurate” is a euphemism for “politically correct”.


6 posted on 11/06/2009 5:17:41 AM PST by Westbrook (Having more children does not divide your love, it multiplies it.)
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To: abb

http://steveouting.com/2009/11/05/so-what-exactly-is-newspaper-web-premium-content-please-tell-me/
So what exactly is newspaper web ‘premium’ content? Please tell me

http://www.newspaperdeathwatch.com/
East Valley Tribune to Shut Down


7 posted on 11/06/2009 5:28:27 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb
During our conversation, Blair seems sincere, compelling, and even contrite. But how much stock can you put in what's said by someone best known for lying?

Like Democrats?

IMO, Blair was ambitious and desired attention and admiration, much like many others. Yet, he was too lazy to do the real leg work necessary for the job and the facts often weren't sexy enough for a good story so he would wing it. The more successful he was the easier it became. Fiction became fact.

All the other excuses of alcohol, drugs, bipolar disorder etc., are just further attempts not to own up to that so the lie continues.

8 posted on 11/06/2009 5:48:54 AM PST by Mind-numbed Robot (Not all that needs to be done needs to be done by the government)
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To: abb

Given his record, I had to ask Pinch why faculty members, journalists and students assembled for a conference on media ethics should believe what he had to say.

The New York Nymph gave a half-laugh and said they should listen, not ask questions and never form their own opinions.

"It's up to us to make up all the news that's fit to print," he said.

9 posted on 11/06/2009 5:54:47 AM PST by Zakeet (Central Park Zoo vs. White House -- one has an African Lion -- other has a lyin' African)
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To: abb

Wow, this is almost as weird as having Spitzer give a speech about ethics ... oh, wait.


10 posted on 11/06/2009 5:55:09 AM PST by Jackson57
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To: abb
Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who triggered the greatest scandal in the newspaper's history.

Anyone who thinks that Blair's silly fabrications are a greater scandal than Walter Duranty's Pulitzer-winning coverup of the Holodomor is a fool.

11 posted on 11/06/2009 6:06:27 AM PST by Sloth (For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of the International Olympic Committee.)
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To: abb

In line with Robert Toricelli being a Corzine campaign adviser.


12 posted on 11/06/2009 6:09:43 AM PST by Carley (OBAMA IS A MALEVOLENT FORCE IN THE WORLD)
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To: abb

“Getting Jayson Blair obviously was a departure,”

The departure was ackowledging that Blair was fabricating news, which the NYT has mastered.


13 posted on 11/06/2009 6:12:02 AM PST by Spok
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To: abb
On Friday, the twice-yearly Washington and Lee Journalism Ethics Institute will hear from its latest keynote speaker: Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who triggered the greatest scandal in the newspaper's history.

Something to ponder: would the Washington And Lee Journalism Ethics Institute ever ask Rush Limbaugh to speak?

14 posted on 11/06/2009 6:20:10 AM PST by Tribune7 (I am Joe Wilson!)
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To: Zakeet

15 posted on 11/06/2009 6:36:39 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/05/murdoch-pay-wall-anti-trust
Murdoch’s plan for web pay walls ‘raises questions of anti-trust law’

http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/
Chicago news co-op starts on a shoestring


16 posted on 11/06/2009 6:42:37 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb
"'Getting Jayson Blair obviously was a departure,' says Edward Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee...Wasserman says the Times culture was dysfunctional, but that Blair cannot avoid his own responsibility."

LOL!!

I suspect they don't know it, quite yet; but, they really are finished. Kaput.

17 posted on 11/06/2009 6:49:17 AM PST by Landru (Forget the pebble Grasshopper, just leave.)
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To: abb

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-05/crunch-time-for-time-warner/full/
Crunch Time for Time Warner

http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=173027
Brill: Most Users Won’t Notice as Sites Start Testing Paid Content


18 posted on 11/06/2009 6:52:46 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb
"But the vast majority of users will not notice anything, said Steven Brill."

Steven Brill?
Same shill behind the (now defunct) Brill's Content rag, spawned of the ignoble Clintigula era??

LOL
>click<

19 posted on 11/06/2009 7:11:01 AM PST by Landru (Forget the pebble Grasshopper, just leave.)
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To: Landru

That be him.


20 posted on 11/06/2009 7:12:00 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb
"That be him."

Too late. Can't respond. Already hung up. LOL

{~thanks, my friend. thought the odor a familiar one. ;^) }

21 posted on 11/06/2009 7:21:51 AM PST by Landru (Forget the pebble Grasshopper, just leave.)
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To: Doogle
...it's a wonder he hasn't opened up a government sponsored school yet.....

Interesting idea - he does fit the model of the perfect propagandists - somewhat talented wordsmith with no conscience...

22 posted on 11/06/2009 7:40:10 AM PST by GOPJ (Liberals: idiots who think Goliath is speaking "truth to power" when taking to David...)
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To: abb; weegee; an amused spectator; Liz

23 posted on 11/06/2009 8:03:22 AM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: abb
I asked other several prominent journalists what they thought of inviting Blair to the media ethics conference, which will draw leading news professionals as well as students.
Several reacted positively.

Presumably "several" others reacted negatively. Why don't we hear from them in this piece?

24 posted on 11/06/2009 9:03:40 AM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: martin_fierro
Presumably "several" others reacted negatively. Why don't we hear from them in this piece?

Deaf mutes?

25 posted on 11/06/2009 10:19:01 AM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: abb

I’m surprised that Blair hasn’t claimed that he suffered from WPPTSS..Washington Post Traumatic Stress Snydrome..


26 posted on 11/06/2009 10:37:09 AM PST by ken5050 (Save the Earth!!!!! It's the ONLY planet with chocolate!)
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To: abb

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=amB_3AY7nxEI
Manchester United-Chelsea Play Spells Pirate Fight for Murdoch

http://www.newser.com/newser-myths.aspx
6 Myths About Newser

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/conde_nast_hires_crisis_intervention_vidC9EqwxH7SDfX7Ym9k5L
Condé Nast hires crisis intervention expert

http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/fnc/could_glenn_beck_take_over_oprahs_syndicated_slot_142450.asp
Could Glenn Beck Take Over Oprah’s Syndicated Slot?

http://carta.info/17734/jarvis-keynote-medientage/
Jeff Jarvis: The Future of Journalism is an entrepreneurial, collaborative Process


27 posted on 11/06/2009 1:50:51 PM PST by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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