L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 224, May 18, 2003
YOU CAN'T WIN?
Making It Up As They Go Along ...
Special to TLE
The New York Times fires a young reporter for lack of sophistication in manipulating the news.
On May 11, The New York Times set aside an astonishing amount of space four full pages to launch what may turn out to be an extended nostra culpa on a one-man epidemic of "widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent(ing) a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the news newspaper."
The squad of five reporters and two researchers here refer to the shenanigans of 27-year-old Timesman Jayson Blair, a young man who indicated he had graduated from the University of Maryland when in fact he never did (no one at The Times actually checked, for those of you who have been wondering whether it's worthwhile to "polish up" your resumes), and who for years was reprimanded by Times editors for factual errors in stories which they characterized as "sloppy" even advised to relocate to a smaller newspaper where he might learn to get his facts straight.
Yet curiously, young Blair was not only retained on the staff of what is arguably the nation's most competitive newspaper, but advanced to more and more challenging and demanding "plum" assignments, till he finally ended by "making stuff up" about such major stories as the Washington D.C. sniper case and the reactions of American families to the loss of their loved ones in the late Iraq War, even going so far as to claim in print that he had visited those military families in homes as far away as West Virginia and Texas, when in fact he was merely "phoning in" these stories from his apartment in New York.
I have a number of friends and college classmates who have worked for the Gray Lady of Times Square. Though my acquaintance with that socialist-dominated enterprise which still arrogantly characterizes itself as the nation's "paper of record" is thus blessedly second-hand, I have a pretty good familiarity with how many times a young reporter without young Mr. Blair's sole distinguishing exemption can "screw up" before he is asked to leave, or at best find himself "sent down to the minors" to learn the trade in a smaller daily owned by the same parent corporation, in some capital of cosmopolitan mirth and merriment like Lakeland, Fla.; Spartanburg, S.C.; or metropolitan Thibodaux, Louisiana home of the Daily Comet.
And the answer is: Once or twice.
Yet the May 11 epic by Times reporters Dan Barry, David Barstow, et al. presents an eye-popping catalog of "one more chances" extended to young Mr. Blair which expands until the reader wonders if he's watching some kind of latter-day Marx Brothers enterprise "A Night in the Newsroom," with Gerald M. Boyd taking up the role of the dowdy but unflappable Margaret Dumont.
Blair got things wrong. He pretended to be writing stories from places he never went. He fudged expense vouchers in order to pretend he'd been in Montgomery County, Md. to cover the D.C. sniper arrests (when in fact the Starbuck's whose receipt he submitted was in Brooklyn.)
As it turns out, this kind of stuff went on for years. Editor Jerry Gray warned Blair his work was sloppy. Metro Editor Joyce Purnick took him out to lunch and advised him to "go learn the business" at a smaller paper.
Jonathan Landman, who succeeded Ms. Purnick as Metro editor, castigated young Blair for his "extraordinarily high" correction rate, forwarding the memo to other senior editors with a note that "There's big trouble here I want you both to be aware of." Metro editor Landman actually wrote his cohorts in April, 2002, that they somehow had to "stop Jayson from writing for The Times. Right now."
Yet the young man was allowed to take brief leaves of absence to get his head straight, and promptly return ... to even juicier and more prestigious assignments.
Why was Blair given so many chances? The Times reporters go through a pantomime of pulling their hair out as they supposedly search for an answer. After all, as the sainted A.M. Rosenthal, former Times executive editor, is quoted as advising, "When you're wrong in this profession, there is only one thing for you to do, and that is to get right as fast as you can."
Yet astonishingly, The Times is still lying about the roots of this case massively and systematically. No one who reads the May 11 story can fail to figure out why Jayson Blair was given chance after chance after chance even transferred to the Washington bureau without anyone warning his new editors that he'd received a couple of two-week leaves of absence to seek counseling or treatment for incompetence, laziness, lying, and just generally being a nut case.
(There was no need to warn the Washington bureau editors, because "We do not stigmatize people for seeking help," explained executive editor Howell Raines. Let us note in passing that deafness and diabetes are well-known disabilities through which sufferers may be encouraged to persevere. Pathological lying is a brand new addition to the list.)
Yet the staffers of the glorious Times, so anxious to "get right," are reduced to answering this question only through the backhanded mechanism of quoting their superiors as they vociferously deny what's obvious.
Jayson Blair, son of a schoolteacher and a government official (like Kip Kinkel, like so many of our recent government-schoolyard snipers) was hired, kept on, promoted, and thrown into waters far over his head, because ...
A PURELY COSMETIC 'DIVERSITY'
"Mr. Blair's Times supervisors and Maryland professors emphasize that he earned his internship at The Times because of glowing recommendations and a remarkable work history," Messrs. Barry, Barstow, et al. report ... "not because he was black."
"Mr. Boyd, who is now managing editor, the second-highest-ranking newsroom executive," and black, "said last week that the decision to advance Mr. Blair had not been based on race."
Nonsense. "The Times offered him a slot in the internship program that was then being used to help the newspaper diversify its newsroom," the reporters manage to slip in. At the time Blair was promoted, the publisher and the executive editor had made clear the company's "commitment to diversity" "and rightly so" Mr. Landman told the reporters.
But, at The Times as in most of the guilt-ridden socialist left, "diversity" is only a code word.
Was the internship program used to bring into the newsroom more gun owners (who might have a differing view from the editorial board on one of the nation's most divisive issues), more fundamentalist Christians opposed to abortion (offering a divergent view on the nation's other most divisive issue), more militia members, more Reagan Republicans, more Libertarians, more property-rights advocates, more folks who agree with Gordon Phillips and John Kotmair and Irwin Schiff that current law requires no American to pay a federal income tax on his in-country wages?
Of course not. The monochrome leftist Times doesn't seek any "diversity" of political views. When it says it seeks "diversity," it means it's hunting for a few more highly visible "Puerto Rican and house Negro" faces assuming they're of the proper collectivist persuasion to grace the front window.
What we're seeing here is the classic patronizing racism of the liberals' New Plantation. No one said it aloud, but when the tweedy, isolated and coddled old white men of The Times said young Mr. Blair had promise, they meant "... for a Negro." When they gave him chance after chance after he was caught in errors and offenses which would have sent any white aspirant packing four times over, what they really meant to say albeit never aloud was "What do you expect of a Negro? We can't very well let this one go; he's clearly the best of a sorry lot."
The Times now pretends to be donning the hair shirt, flagellating itself and asking "How could this happen?" But anyone really asking that question might start by looking for patterns. Have any other major "Politically Correct" American newspaper faced similar scandals in recent years? ...
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