Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Article excerpt

LYING KING RETURNS

Why is Jayson Blair seeing a big payoff after tainting journalism?

Guess what? I lied. I made up quotes for my E&P stories all year. Stole stories from others, and pretended to be places I wasn't. Remember the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference that I wrote about last spring? Never went to New Orleans -- I can't get into all that jazz. I covered the whole thing by cell phone, from my house in New Jersey. That feature on women publishers that included conversations with a dozen executives? Hah! Never talked to any of them. I made it all up. I even faked the photos.

So can I have my half-a-million-dollar book deal now? And my spot on prime-time television being interviewed by ratings gluttons who masquerade as journalists, so the whole nation can hear about how I did it? Funny, I didn't know people rationalizing their laziness, lack of respect for others, and need for pity were interesting, but I guess that is the state of news in 2003.

It also seems to be the way to get famous in journalism these days. For Jayson Blair, at least. This embarrassment to our profession, as well as human decency, can't seem to go away quietly. Not only did we have to live through his temporary shaming of The New York Times, which created an unfair black eye for all journalists, but we are going to have to hear him talk about it again and again. Why is this worthy of reward, not only in the form of attention, but in a lucrative book contract?

I asked Michael Viner, president of New Millenium Audio & Press of Beverly Hills, which is publishing in March Blair's scribblings as Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at The New York Times. The title has a not-so-subtle reference to slavery, which further reduces Blair's decency quotient, as if that is possible. Anyone who rose to the job that he did at the nation's most prominent paper has real nerve trying to come off like some kind of victim. If anything, some might say Blair's color helped him, while his disgusting acts have enslaved the rest of us who must put up with their effect.

Viner made no bones about the fact that Blair's actions were wrong, but defended his company's decision to reward him with a contract -- which will reportedly pay at least $500,000 -- claiming he is not the first person to make out like a bandit after behaving badly.

"They all have an equal right to be published," Viner said. …

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