Fine, 27-year-old ex-New York Times reporter Jayson Blair has a very long history of fabrication and plagiarism. For example, 36 of the 73 articles he wrote since he arrived at the Times’s prestigious National Desk in late 2002 contain errors, many of which are brazen and outrageous. He made up quotes, pretended to be places he wasn’t, and generally wrote fiction.
So I have two questions:
1) Given his history — he had been warned in 2002 when he was still on the NY Times Metropolitan Desk for playing loose with the facts (one editor said in an email that Blair should be taken out of the paper entirely) — how did he end up as a national reporter mere months later?
My answer: Affirmative action almost certainly played a role. As Mickey Kaus points out, the Times’s Howell Raines was bragging to the National Association of Black Journalists about the Times’s affirmative action program, and specifically mentioning Blair, while Blair was already in hot water for making up stuff.
2) What took so long? I mean, the guy pretended to talk to people he hadn’t spoken with, said he was places that he wasn’t at, with people he wasn’t with, and so on. As any online journalist will tell you, you’ll be skinned very quickly for that sort of thing online. So why did no-one notice that Blair’s Times stories were so awry?
Some people did notice, but not enough apparently. You start to wonder if people read the paper critically. After all, Blair lied about being at the house of Michael and Martha Gardner as they listened to war missives while their son was fighting in Iraq — yet the parents clipped the article and thanked the Times for the piece.