Originally created 05/16/03

The damage they've done



With an explosion of "news" outlets that exhibit varying degrees of ethical restraints, it's getting more and more difficult to believe this, but the Jayson Blairs are a huge exception. An embarrassing, horrifying, ink-curdling, quasi-psychotic exception.

Few of us, if any, who have spent the entirety of our work lives in the news business have ever run across anyone with anything close to the sociopathic ethics of this disgraced former New York Times reporter accused of making up stories and quotes and faking datelines and travels.

Quite to the contrary.

Nearly to a person, the thousands of bright young people who flock to the news business each year have high morals and an intense passion for truth and accuracy and justice in human affairs.

They're not in this business to make a quick buck, or to make a name for themselves by making up sensational hogwash. They're in it because they love to write, to learn, to report, to explore the human condition and to meet people.

They're a joy to be around. They put extra bounce in your step with the gleam in their excitable eyes. They care deeply about nearly everything under the sun. Yet they'd walk barefoot on broken glass to uphold the ideal of objectivity in reporting. The chronicling of modern history couldn't be in better hands.

And you'd be astonished - and proud - at how these young warriors of journalism seek precision and perfection. They're not alone. Their editors run around thumping the industry bible - The Associated Press Stylebook - which seeks to be a roadmap to consistency, clarity and correctness.

Are there standards? You better believe it. And those standards are relentlessly pursued, as editors spend their days reading and re-reading and tweaking and questioning stories before they ever see the light of day on your driveway. Is this the right word? Is that sentence fair? Is that how that's spelled? Is there another angle to the story?

These and other questions are asked endlessly - not in every media outlet today, to be sure, but certainly in every reputable newsroom in America.

Don't let the Jayson Blairs fool you. He is a complete moron, an unbridled imbecile. When he could have been galavanting around the world on someone else's dime, sipping experiences and logging adventures most of us can only dream of, this idiot was apparently fabricating quotes and interviews in his Bronx apartment. The man's an absolute lunkhead!

And what a silver-platter, Joe-Millionaire opportunity this loon was handed. Here's a young 20-something who didn't even finish college, and he's invited to report for what used to be considered the nation's newspaper of record. He threw it all away.

Of course, in a well-intended campaign to diversify its staff, The Times may have reached down too far - and held Blair up too long. To many, it looks for all the world as if his frauds and foibles were tolerated far beyond any other explanation.

What a terrible shame. What damage he and his negligent editors have done to the image of both affirmative action and journalism.

His should not be the only head to roll at The New York Times. This proud, honorable profession - its credibility as vulnerable as a log cabin on a termite mound - deserves no less.