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The Blair Watch Project - 14 Unanswered Questions in 'NY Times' Jayson Blair Probe
editorandpublisher.com ^ | May 12, 2003 | Greg Mitchell

Posted on 05/12/2003 12:04:52 PM PDT by newgeezer

While thorough and, some might say, courageous, the mammoth report in yesterday's New York Times on the Jayson Blair scandal left many questions unanswered, most notably: How did he really get away with his evil ways for so long? But there were at least 14 other issues, big and small, left unresolved by the Times' investigators, to whit:

Size matters? As a student journalist and intern "the short and ubiquitous Mr. Blair stood out," according to the Times' report. This begs the question, how "short" does one have to be to stand out?

Race matters?Times' supervisors emphasized that Blair earned an internship at the paper in 1998 "because of glowing recommendations and a remarkable work history, not because he is black." But then, in the very next sentence, we learn: "The Times offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom."

Who knew the Times was that wacky? "There are many eccentric people here, but they've earned it," Jerry Gray, an editor, informed Blair in 1999.

Maybe he should try the "Cheez Doodle Defense"? Another editor, Charles Strum, said, "I told him [Blair] that he needed to find a different way to nourish himself than drinking scotch, smoking cigarettes and buying Cheez Doodles from the vending machine."

A surefire way to get promoted at the Times? "Mr. Blair continued to make mistakes, requiring more corrections, more explanations, more lectures about the importance of accuracy. Many newsroom colleagues say he also did brazen things, including delighting in showing around copies of confidential Times documents, running up company expenses from a bar around the corner, and taking company cars for extended periods, racking up parking tickets. ...In January 2001, Mr. Blair was promoted to full-time reporter...."

Maybe they want to correct that? About midway through the Times' opus we are told, "When considered overall, Mr. Blair's correction rate at The Times was within acceptable limits." However, a few sentences later, the report quotes a January 2002 evaluation of Blair by Jonathan Landman, metropolitan editor, noting that his correction rate was "extraordinarily high by the standards of the paper."

Does stop mean go at the Times? In April 2002, we learn, Landman sent a two-sentence e-mail to newsroom administrators: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now." This plea would go unheeded for more than a year.

Stop him before he kills again. A few months later, when Blair got briefly shuttled to the sports department, Landman recalls warning the sports editor, "If you take Jayson, be careful." Maybe the sports editor thought Landman meant "be careful to stock the vending machine in the sports department with Cheez Doodles." In any case, Blair was soon promoted to covering the top U.S. story of the time -- the D.C. area sniper shootings.

Sock it to him? After weeks of corrections and complaints about Blair's coverage of the sniper shootings, Jim Roberts, national editor, was finally warned about his "record of inaccuracy" and that he needed to be watched. Roberts, of course, did not pass this warning on to his deputies. "It got socked in the back of my head," he explained last week.

License to thrill. By this time, other Times editors had managed to form their own assessments of Mr. Blair's work. Apparently they considered him "a sloppy writer who was often difficult to track down and at times even elusive about his whereabouts." On a more positive note, "he seemed eager and energetic." Did it occur to anyone that eagerness and energy might be precisely the two qualities you would NOT want in a sloppy writer who no one can ever find?

Blanket pardon? On an expense report filed this past Janaury, Blair said he bought blankets at a Marshalls store in Washington. A check of the receipt (much) later showed that the purchase was made at a Marshalls in Brooklyn. Forget the geographic obfuscation -- does Times policy allow employees to put in for household items?

Overstatement of the year? "Man, you really get around," a fellow reporter e-mailed Blair this spring.

Why wouldn't they card him? "Mr. Blair did not have a company credit card," the Times report revealed, but "the reasons are unclear." Wait a minute, the Times investigators can trace the purchase of blankets to a store in Brooklyn but can't explain why Blair did not have a company credit card?

And who, disguised as Clark Kent... Between October and April, Blair filed articles from 20 cities in six states but did not submit a single receipt for a hotel room, rental car or airplane tickets.

Source: Editor & Publisher Online


Greg Mitchell (gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com) is the editor of E&P.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; US: New York
KEYWORDS: howellraines; jaysonblair; mediafraud; newyorktimes; plagiarism; thenewyorktimes

1 posted on 05/12/2003 12:04:52 PM PDT by newgeezer
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To: biblewonk
ping
2 posted on 05/12/2003 12:05:17 PM PDT by newgeezer (Admit it; Amendment XIX is very much to blame.)
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To: newgeezer
He crossed the line of outright plagiarism, and chiseled on his expense account.

In short he embarrassed and stole from his boss.

Had he just stuck with making up stories, he would have never been brought to account.

3 posted on 05/12/2003 12:10:46 PM PDT by Salman
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To: newgeezer
Thanks for posting this!
4 posted on 05/12/2003 12:12:00 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: Timesink
FYI
5 posted on 05/12/2003 12:12:31 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: Grampa Dave
It would appear that the NYT wants to portray Jayson Blair as a loose cannon who just happened to be rolling around their decks for years, even in lead stories, and it certainly wasn't his managers' fault that nobody worried enough about his known blunders. Nothing to see here, Jayson's been fired and totally discredited, there's no one else to discredit, move along.
6 posted on 05/12/2003 12:20:19 PM PDT by xJones
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To: Grampa Dave
BTW, in reading my #6, please understand that Jayson is a total fraud, but he should have been tossed, or at least marginalized years ago. Why the self-vaunted NYT didn't do so is the real problem, and I'm glad to see them getting nailed by many for it.
7 posted on 05/12/2003 12:23:37 PM PDT by xJones
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To: xJones
Yep, Blair was just an abnormal and unusual loose canyon roaming around lying for years.

What got him fired was his plagerizing not his lying. He was dumb enough to plagerize and get caught.

You and I know that if the Slimes fired every lying reporter, editor, publisher and oped writer at the NY Slimes, they would only have blank paper with a few ads, no stories.
8 posted on 05/12/2003 12:26:19 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: xJones
I understood where you were coming from.
9 posted on 05/12/2003 12:27:00 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: Grampa Dave
I'm not "outraged" because I suspect many journalists do not much different than this guy.

What struck me was the great space and ardor given by the NY Times to this guy. Even gave his picture so everybody will know him by face. I've read about such incidents before, usually they're treated with an apology and retraction.

This guy was "exposed" with trumpets blaring. I thought it was distasteful and was wondering if there are ulterior motives or emotions involved.

10 posted on 05/12/2003 12:31:43 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: newgeezer
Why didn't the people in charge do something before now on his Blair? Landman pointed out problems with Blair and his work but no one believed him. In fact Blair received promotions instead when his work was already substandard. Since Blair's supervisor was black, as was Blair, why didn't the supervisor do something about the problem early one? Was it because of the "racial diversity" issue that Blair was given free rein for so long?
11 posted on 05/12/2003 12:32:22 PM PDT by lilylangtree
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To: newgeezer
How does someone who drops out of college in his senior year become someone who 'stands out'? Could it be that the only thing that stood out was the color of his skin, and merit or qualifications never entered into the equation?
12 posted on 05/12/2003 12:35:20 PM PDT by OldFriend (without the brave, there would be no land of the free)
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To: Grampa Dave
You and I know that if the Slimes fired every lying reporter, editor, publisher and oped writer at the NY Slimes, they would only have blank paper with a few ads, no stories.

I agree with you Grampa. Is anyone really surprised by this paper?

13 posted on 05/12/2003 12:45:48 PM PDT by WellsFargo94
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To: WellsFargo94
Since their out rageous articles, opeds and editorials helped to elect the Clintoon twice and to keep him in office, nothing from the Slimes suprises me.

What does surprise me is how they get by their lies and DNC news letters and hate GW articles posing as news.
14 posted on 05/12/2003 12:48:09 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: xJones
Why would Jayson drop out of journalism school during his senior year?
15 posted on 05/12/2003 1:17:00 PM PDT by uncitizen (Beware fertilizer salesmen and lawyers: they'll both try to sell you a load of crap)
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To: newgeezer

The Blair Witch Hunt Project


16 posted on 05/12/2003 1:20:50 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
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To: newgeezer
If you look at a newspaper as a manufacturing operation (which a it is), then the NYT has a serious problem with quality control. If they manufactured widgets instead of newspapers there would be a swarm of lawyers surrounding the place with fists full of product liability lawsuits.
17 posted on 05/12/2003 1:35:20 PM PDT by randog
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To: lilylangtree
No one did anything because the word was out that Raines & Sulzberger were backing "the kid."

My favorite passage in the Times article was the admission that all the restaurants he went to when he was "covering" the D.C. sniper case were actually in Brooklyn. According to the Times, an "administrative assistant" was the only one who checked his expense form. That's right! It was the secretary's fault! I'm sorry, I've worked in corporate office for over 30 years, and all expense reports are signed off by the employee's supervisor. The Times is still lying.
18 posted on 05/12/2003 1:45:48 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: Shermy
There are definatley ulterior motives involved. This, while true, was essentially a hit piece. The object, to make him, the ultimate loose cannon, who can only lie, and thus anything he says, can not be believed. The Times just took a huge shot on credibility, they have to make it look like they are saints, and just had one sinner, who they tried to help. If he turns around and sues them, for any other reason, or talks about why he managed to keep his job, or how he was hired, or even the fact, that his qualifications were not up to par, but he beneffited from the affirmative action programs there, no one will believe him, and hopefully, after the way the Times wacked him, he'll never work in media again. If he sues, the jury pool is poisioned, if he wants to work somewhere else, its next to impossible, if he says other writers were lying too, you can't be sure if he's lying again, or speaking the truth. This article was good in destroying this guy, the Times kind of went for over kill here, and came after him with both guns blazing, and they're still getting ready to reload.
19 posted on 05/12/2003 1:48:02 PM PDT by Sonny M ("oderint dum metuant")
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To: uncitizen
Why would Jayson drop out of journalism school during his senior year?

I don't know, and net searching numerous sites only turns up the fact that he did leave in his senior year. The "why" isn't stated, and only a liar and/or a NYT reporter could give you "facts". :)

20 posted on 05/12/2003 2:01:27 PM PDT by xJones
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To: Paleo Conservative
What's your point? Sounds like you think Blair is some sort of victim.
21 posted on 05/12/2003 2:07:17 PM PDT by newgeezer (Taglinesmaysettleduringshipment.)
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To: xJones
Why the self-vaunted NYT didn't do so is the real problem

Actually, the paper and writer who exposed Blair -- with indisputable printed evidence of plagiarism -- did the NYT a favor. They were able to fire Blair cleanly and with cause, and thus avoid a messy "racist" lawsuit and a significant dent on their liberal mantra of "inclusiveness."

They now think they can mend the credibility damage by a true-confessions strategy: they were victimized by Blair, as all these printed falsehoods were unique to Blair, and have never occurred in any other article by any other writer printed in the NYT. Meanwhile, they should be congratulated on their tolerant, patient, painstaking efforts to reform this "minority" employee.

And that's the truth (if you're gullible enough to believe it).

I do wonder if they might go too far, though. Blair is a loose cannon, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him sue the Times on the pretext that they were too lenient, and therefore violated his civil right to be trained as a competent reporter.

22 posted on 05/12/2003 2:07:25 PM PDT by browardchad
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To: newgeezer
I did a bit of googling to see what sorts of things Blair had been doing while he edited the Diamondback, the daily at the University of Maryland. I discovered the following that he coauthored on March 31, 1997:

Homophobia: Shocking but not Surprising (Special three-part article): Dorm abuse a reality, not a report; Strict policy does not deter harassment; Gay, lesbian and bisexual residents learn to cope in hostile environment: Campus senate to delay sexual policy decision; Kirwan appoints commission in response to LGBSFA report on sexual orientation.

link

Any wonder the management of the NY Times would have been interested in him?

23 posted on 05/12/2003 2:07:27 PM PDT by aristeides
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To: xJones; uncitizen; Cincinatus' Wife
Cincinatus' wife said on another thread that Blair left the University of Maryland when the NY Times offered him a job. Apparently she heard someone from the University of Maryland who appeared on a local radio show this morning.
24 posted on 05/12/2003 2:09:58 PM PDT by aristeides
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To: aristeides
Any wonder the management of the NY Times would have been interested in him?

None whatsoever. I wonder if USA Today or any of the other Gannett rags also had offers on the table.

25 posted on 05/12/2003 2:34:23 PM PDT by newgeezer (Admit it; Amendment XIX is very much to blame.)
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To: aristeides
I bow to the higher Googlemeister. Also from your link:

Column linked to ERC office: Search: Engineering Research Center office aide says author wishes to remain anonymous. October 20, 1998 Jayson Blair.

Neither the 1997 or 1998 listing indicates that Blair is gay, but rather (he married in his twenties) it would indicate that he already knew which side to "butter" for advancement in the liberal media, particularly in such bastions as the NYT, and understood the value of anonymous sources.

26 posted on 05/12/2003 3:02:35 PM PDT by xJones
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To: newgeezer
BTTT
27 posted on 05/12/2003 3:15:34 PM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: aristeides
Cincinatus' wife said on another thread that Blair left the University of Maryland when the NY Times offered him a job. Apparently she heard someone from the University of Maryland who appeared on a local radio show this morning.

Arrgh, the sin of going away, coming back, and then completing a post like #26.

But it still doesn't make sense. The NYT offered him a job, without a degree? They accepted his bio about his University of Maryland degree and subsequent graduate work with no checking? And these people are supposedly the premier news reporters in America? They couldn't smell a fraud for years as bad as Blair?

The NYT does have real problems, and no wonder they're spinning like mad, trying to pretend that Blair was just a loose cannon that rolled in one unsuspecting day. Only, that alibi won't wash, and all of their collegues know it.

28 posted on 05/12/2003 3:16:32 PM PDT by xJones
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To: xJones
Mike Savage asked the better question (paraphrased): "why would the NYT hire a college dropout when a college graduate would likely be more reliable, persistent, and a harder worker?"
29 posted on 05/12/2003 6:15:40 PM PDT by uncitizen (Beware fertilizer salesmen and lawyers: they'll both try to sell you a load of crap)
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To: newgeezer
According to Newsday, the NY Times is starting to admit some culpability in this. No doubt due to the pressure from FR (grin)

http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-bznyt0513,0,6672883.story?coll=ny-business-headlines


By James T. Madore
Staff Writer

May 12, 2003, 8:46 PM EDT

Top brass at The New York Times Monday took responsibility for the plagiarism case that has damaged their paper's reputation and caused other news organizations to search their archives for problematic stories by the same reporter at the center of the scandal.

In a memo to employees, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd also pledged to restore a system of checks and balances that could have prevented falsehoods from getting into the paper. A breakdown in communications among editors allowed reporter Jayson Blair to fabricate information in his coverage of national events despite a track record over several years of factual errors in local stories, according to a Times investigation made public Sunday in a front-page article.

"While we deplore Jayson's conduct, we also recognize that, however difficult it may be, it is the responsibility of the Times, its publisher, its executive editor and its managing editor to protect that bond of trust [with readers] and prevent such occurrences or, at the very least, uncover them rapidly,” said the memo from Sulzberger. "In the case of Jayson Blair, our organizational safeguards and our individual responses were insufficient. Howell, Gerald and I accept responsibility for that.”

The top executives also said they would "accept responsibility for thoroughly analyzing this incident and then designing and monitoring improved safeguards that will discourage a repetition of this problem.”

The memo came a day after Sulzberger was quoted in the Times as saying Blair was solely to blame for the plagiarism episode, which Sulzberger described as "a low point” in the paper's 152-year history. "The person who did this is Jayson Blair,” Sulzberger said in Sunday's edition. "Let's not begin to demonize our executives – either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher.”

Journalism experts Monday praised Times management for clarifying its role in the debacle that has rocked one of the nation's most influential papers. Still, the experts said the No. 3 daily must quickly back up the apology with corrective actions.

Paul Levinson, chairman of the communication and media studies department at Fordham University, said, "Now at least they are taking responsibility but I think there need to be actions to go along with those words.”

Blair, 27, could not be reached to comment Monday. On May 1, he resigned after editors confronted him with charges by the San Antonio Express-News that he stole information from one of its articles. A Times probe found fabrications in at least 36 of the 73 stories Blair wrote from October 2000 through last month.

The Virginia native joined the Times in 1998 as a summer intern and subsequently was hired as a beginning reporter. Previously, he had worked as an intern at the Boston Globe and contributed stories to the Washington Post while a student at the University of Maryland.

Thomas Kunkel, dean of Maryland's journalism school, Monday announced plans for a review of the 30 articles Blair wrote in 1995 for the school's Capital News Service.

The Globe also said it was investigating possible falsehoods in several of the 85 stories Blair authored during two internships. The paper, which is owned by The New York Times Co., began scrutinizing Blair's work after the Washington Post reported last week that he had stolen material from the Post for a Globe article about Washington's mayor.

Editor Martin Baron was quoted as saying, "The Globe has found a limited number of stories with problems. We will continue our inquiry, and meantime we will also examine our internal procedures

30 posted on 05/12/2003 6:49:24 PM PDT by Drango (There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those that understand binaries, and those that don't.)
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To: newgeezer
I think this is by far the best example of why the Supreme Court should come down on the side of the Government in the US vs UofMichigan admissions policy. Giving underqualified students points for race is exactly what the NY Times did by hiring an unqualified reporter to advance diversity. This is the result.
31 posted on 05/12/2003 8:19:33 PM PDT by cabbieguy (eye suport publik edukashun)
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To: martin_fierro; reformed_democrat; Loyalist; =Intervention=; PianoMan; GOPJ; Miss Marple; Tamsey; ...

Schadenfreude

This is the New York Times Schadenfreude Ping List. Freepmail me to be added or dropped.


32 posted on 05/13/2003 2:42:52 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: newgeezer
"I told him [Blair] that he needed to find a different way to nourish himself than drinking scotch, smoking cigarettes and buying Cheez Doodles from the vending machine."

"Barkeep! Another bottle of Pinch (Sulsberger) scotch for my young friend Jayson!"

(I know, I'm milking it. So sue me.) <|:)~

33 posted on 05/13/2003 2:56:14 AM PDT by martin_fierro (A v v n c v l v s M a x i m v s)
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To: cabbieguy
I think this is by far the best example of why the Supreme Court should come down on the side of the Government in the US vs UofMichigan admissions policy.

No, this is the best example.

34 posted on 05/13/2003 2:59:02 AM PDT by martin_fierro (A v v n c v l v s M a x i m v s)
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To: martin_fierro
I agree, your example is by far more a more outrageous example of this quest for diversity out of control.
35 posted on 05/13/2003 4:25:40 AM PDT by cabbieguy (eye suport publik edukashun)
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To: miss marmelstein
No kidding! Thanks for making that point. The details are going to kill them. The more they try to absolve themselves with a flood of stories (or lengthy ones), the stupider they will look.
36 posted on 05/18/2003 5:54:59 PM PDT by sine_nomine (Protect the poorest of the poor - the unborn.)
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To: Paleo Conservative
For the most thorough story yet on this mope, see:

The Jayson Blair Story: At the New York Times, the Spin Cycle Never Stops

37 posted on 05/23/2003 2:54:13 PM PDT by mrustow (no tag)
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To: newgeezer
The Blair's actions were rational to him, if he has "black entitlement personality disorder." How many slaves, thrown overboard and eaten by sharks, does his wrongdoing really make up for? Wasn't this really just a kind of personal reparations operation?
38 posted on 07/08/2003 1:00:51 AM PDT by 185JHP ( Down South, where the hogs have jowls...)
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