RACE AND THE NEW YORK
RACE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are writing and linking like crazy on the role that race played in the Jayson Blair affair. And it now appears that even Howell Raines admits race may have played an unconscious role in Blair’s swift ascension through the Times ranks: “Our paper has ...
RACE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are writing and linking like crazy on the role that race played in the Jayson Blair affair. And it now appears that even Howell Raines admits race may have played an unconscious role in Blair's swift ascension through the Times ranks:
RACE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are writing and linking like crazy on the role that race played in the Jayson Blair affair. And it now appears that even Howell Raines admits race may have played an unconscious role in Blair’s swift ascension through the Times ranks:
“Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter,” Mr. Raines said. “I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities.” “Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?” he added, a moment later. “Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes.”
Two other must-read essays on this topic. The first is Eric Boehlert’s discussion in Salon — it’s worth seeing the ads to get to it. The piece does a nice job of pointing out the combustible mix of elements — Blair’s ability to schmooze, Raines’ management style, and yes, race — that led to the scandal. Here’s the money quote:
Times metro editor Jonathan Landman, who tried to warn fellow editors at the paper about Blair’s increasingly erratic behavior, says the truth lies somewhere in the middle. “There are two conventional wisdoms out there [about the Blair scandal],” he says, but “neither one of them is right. It’s not a morality play about race and affirmative action, as some would like to suggest, and it’s not a story that has nothing to do with race. Race was one factor among many in a subtle interplay.”
Read the whole thing — and, if you’re wondering where Boehlert is coming from, read his previous Raines piece from last December. The other must-read today is Don Wycliff’s Chicago Tribune essay. Wycliff is the Trib’s public editor, an ex-Timesman, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. The key grafs:
Almost as depressing as reading the Times’ voluminous account of l’affaire Blair has been reading the e-mail traffic for the last week or so on the National Association of Black Journalists’ listserve. Much of the discussion has been near-apoplectic in character, as members fulminate, agonize and hand-wring over the uses to which they fear the Blair case will be and is being put by opponents of newsroom diversity. Indeed, the NABJ itself issued a statement Friday that said in part, “While Jayson Blair is black, his race has nothing to do with allegations of misconduct.” Not only is that false; it’s foolish. Almost as foolish as the notion that Blair’s behavior somehow demonstrates the bankruptcy of the entire effort to diversify the staffs of America’s newsrooms. Gerald Boyd, managing editor of the Times and the first black person ever to ascend to so lofty a position at that newspaper, was quoted in Sunday’s story as saying Blair’s promotion to the status of full-time reporter was not based on race. With all due respect–and I have genuine respect and admiration for Gerald Boyd–that does not ring true. On the strength of the Times’ own description, Blair’s work record to that point was marginal at best. Only something extra–like the hope that he might contribute to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s noble goal of a more diverse newsroom–could have justified his promotion. Nothing, I’m afraid, could have justified subsequent decisions to assign Blair to major news stories like the D.C.-area sniper case and the war in Iraq–stories on which he lied, cheated and stole his way to front-page treatment and those “attaboys” from the bosses that every reporter covets. This is a kid who should have been on the night shift, learning the basics.
A closing note. Those readers suspecting me of schadenfreude are mistaken. Well, OK, I experienced about five minutes of it reading the story on Sunday. And yes, I like to critique the Times coverage of foreign affairs from time to time. However, I also link to it a fair amount. Compared to any other American paper — with the partial exception of the Christian Science Monitor — their international coverage simply covers more ground than anyone else. The Times gets more criticism than any other paper because it’s more widely read than any other paper.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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