Jewish World Review May 15, 2003 / 13 Iyar, 5763
Grey turns to grim at Times
The dark times at The New York Times grow
darker. Just days after the paper flagellates itself with a front-page story
admitting that it repeatedly published fabricated stories full of plagiarism
and other journalistic sleight-of-hand from a 27-year-old con-man reporter
whom the editors of the Slippery Rock Herald would have apprehended, the
indispensable Drudge Report announces that "at least two more NY Times
reporters are being investigated for possible journalistic irregularities."
Drudge, one of modern American journalism's prodigies (and
naturally a fellow objurgated by establishment journalists everywhere), goes
on to reproduce a memo from the Times' editors calling all "news room
colleagues" to "an open forum."
Apparently, the sufferings of The New York Times will continue
for a while. CNN.com reports that the newspaper's con-man reporter, Jayson
Blair, is under investigation by the U. S. Attorney's Office. Precisely what
the corpus delicti might be is still unclear, but CNN reports, "Federal
officials publicly criticized a front-page, exclusive article of Blair's
that said the U.S. attorney had forced investigators to end their
questioning of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad just as he was ready to
Yes, it seems that young Blair was sent down to Washington to
cover the delicate prosecution of a very important news story, despite his
shoddy record at the newspaper. In its tortured revelations about Blair the
other day, the Times admits that over three and a half years his editors had
made 50 corrections in his work.
Anyone familiar with reporters from the Times knows that they
are among the best in the business, and as I noted during the Three Week
War, the quality of writing in the paper is often superb. I put the paper's
John Burns in a class with World War II's Ernie Pyle. But investigative
reporters such as Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta are first-rate also.
Imagine how these fine journalists must have suffered working
alongside such an obvious fraud as Blair. The real culprits in this scandal
are the editors, or at least some of the editors. I have heard of them
repeatedly bottling up fine reportage that they did not want revealed to
their readers, particularly during the Clinton scandals. Now we know they
promoted at least one obvious huckster, and Drudge suggests more will be
Even in its self-flagellatory report on Blair, the Times was
disingenuous, suggesting that such misbehavior had not been uncovered
before. I have been keeping a file on journalistic (and scholarly) hoaxers
and plagiarists for years. The file is several inches thick. This sort of
misbehavior is more rampant today than at any time in modern journalism.
Moreover, not all the fabricators and plagiarists once caught
are exiled from the media as they should be. One still sees the plagiarist
Mike Barnicle and fellow plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin figuring
prominently in the media. And the Times should have come clean about other
instances of fabrication and plagiarism in its pages.
I have in hand the February 2002 expose of one Michael Finkel ,
a contributor to the New York Times Magazine , who fabricated a story about
a poor Ivory Coast laborer. Finkel was fired. Then there was the
incomparable escapade of the Times star reporter and Boston bureau chief,
Fox Butterfield. In 1991, he reported on a speech plagiarized by a Boston
University scholar. Amazingly, in reporting the scholar's plagiarism,
Butterfield himself plagiarized from the Boston Globe. He was given a
one-week suspension. I do look forward to Drudge's further reports on the
Times gone bad.
Yet there is hope. Earlier this week, I attended the annual
dinner of the Phillips Foundation, where that foundation gives fellowships
to young journalists intent on doing important journalistic work. Eight
fellowships were given. All recipients struck me as capable and promising,
and there was one young man from The New York Times. Not only that, but he
is the very same age as the fallen Blair, 27.
Mike Porath is a producer for The New York Times on the Web.
Having traveled the world, backpack slung from his shoulders, reporter's
notebook in hand, he returned to these shores with a plan to write about
Saudi Arabia and a problem he saw there that breeds terrorism. According to
his thesis, Saudi Arabia despite its wealth fails "to prepare its youth for
a world in which tolerance and innovation are necessary for economic
Now thanks to the generosity of the Phillips Foundation, he will
have $50,000 to write about it. Possibly in a year or so, the revitalized
Times will publish his reportage.
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JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Creators Syndicate