Sunday, May 11, 2003


Look, I'm not a journalist (ask this guy for that angle -- he's got a good post here), so I can't judge whether affirmative action was the driving issue here (although it bears noting that the article falls all over itself saying it's not).

But from an everyday standpoint, the institutional safeguards were pathetic. The deliberate oversights were worse. The whole thing reeks of either a soft internal culture (unlikely) or treating the fellow with kid gloves (much more likely). Either way, in my profession, we'd get in oodles of trouble for doing this, and rightfully so. The Times makes a great show of how unseriously they're taking this with excerpts like this:

For all the pain resonating through the Times newsroom, the hurt may be more acute in places like Bethesda, Md., where one of Mr. Blair's fabricated articles described American soldiers injured in combat. The puzzlement is deeper, too, in places like Marmet, W. Va., where a woman named Glenda Nelson learned that Mr. Blair had quoted her in a news article, even though she had never spoken to anyone from The Times.

"The New York Times," she said. "You would expect more out of that." [...]

Mr. Raines, who referred to the Blair episode as a "terrible mistake," said that in addition to correcting the record so badly corrupted by Mr. Blair, he planned to assign a task force of newsroom employees to identify lessons for the newspaper. He repeatedly quoted a lesson he said he learned long ago from A. M. Rosenthal, a former executive editor.

"When you're wrong in this profession, there is only one thing to do," he said. "And that is get right as fast as you can."

For now, the atmosphere pervading the newsroom is that of an estranged relative's protracted wake. Employees accept the condolences of callers. They discuss what they might have done differently. They find comfort in gallows humor. And, of course, they talk endlessly about how Jayson could have done this.
What happens, I wonder, if the panel suggests eliminating the "diversity" program? Or is it allowed to do that?


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