A Note On Integrity and Journalism: Wed, Jul 02 2003 Posted: 10:38 EST (1538 GMT)
EDITORIAL -- Recent saturation coverage of the turmoil at the New York Times has reminded us all not only of the fragility of the bond of trust that exists between a newspaper and its readers, but also of just how myopic and staggeringly self-fascinated the news media really is.
In addition to the Times' own 14,000 words of navel gazing, a quick search of the database on the phrase "Jayson Blair" returns over 61,200 articles.
Unfortunately, while voluminous much of this commentary hits well wide of the mark.
Yes, it is true that Mr Blair invented a tobacco field behind the West Virginia home of Private Jessica Lynch. There is of course no tobacco field behind the Lynch home. In fact tobacco isn't actually grown much of anywhere in West Virginia (hence its secession from planter dominated Virginia in 1861).
Of course since even 14,000 words later no one else at the Times seems to have picked up on this last fact, it is a little unfair to expect that Mr Blair would have done so under a tight deadline from his apartment in Brooklyn.
The larger point here however, and the one missed by most of the navel-gazers, is that Mr Blair's omissions and inventions were for the most part venal.
It is not after all as if he repeated wild and unsubstantiated claims that Private Lynch had been captured in hand-to-hand combat following a valiant last stand in the desert. Nor did he invent a heroic rescue tale more or less from whole cloth.
No. There was no Monkey Fishing in Mr Blair's world: just self-assembling patio furniture and plausible if invented quotes.
Indeed, although Mr Blair's writing contained more than the ocassional error, his correction rate was not in fact substantially higher than the paper's average. Which is to say that although largely plagiarized, Mr Blair's articles were about as genuinely informative as the typical, originally reported news story.
And therein lies the true tragedy of this entire and wildly over-reported ordeal.