Blair Fiasco Unfairly Taints Blacks in U.S. Newsrooms
Byline: Adrienne T. Washington, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A colleague at The Washington Times reminded me that I once had an occasion to reprimand Jayson Blair, the much-maligned reporter for the New York Times charged with plagiarism, among other offenses.
It seems that the young Mr. Blair was seated in The Washington Times' newsroom with his feet propped up on a desk and he was leaning back. He was "just chillin,' " as they say.
Imagine my horror. Here was this young, black University of Maryland intern, who was doing a brief stint for the journalism school's Capital News Service, seated in the midst of a conservative medium, yet he was acting as if he were John F. Kennedy Jr. and had it made in the shade. I would have none of that slacker image. Not here. Not that day.
In no uncertain terms, I told the child (to me) that I had better not ever walk into the newsroom and see him looking like a caricature of Steppin' Fetchit gone fishin'. I sternly suggested that he'd best "get busy," or at least look like he was attempting to earn his keep to get ahead. Read the news wires, if nothing else.
As I had done countless times with other cub reporters, I started into my old-school speech: "You know 'we' have to be twice as good and run twice as fast just to keep up."
Excuse the ebonics, but "we" be the generation of pioneering blacks whose elders refused to allow us to use excuses, even about acknowledged racism, when breaking through former color barriers. So what? they said about prejudicial treatment. Find a way to fight it and go around it to get to your goal. I instilled the same "keep your eyes on the prize" philosophy in my children and my charges.
Yes, a double standard will always exist in American culture. We see it played out even with this exploding embarrassment of press plagiarism, which the careless Mr. Blair mainly brought upon himself.
But it would be less than honest to put the full blame for this debacle totally on Mr. Blair's bent shoulders. Where were his editors? The New York Times' editors were woefully remiss in their duties not only to their staff, but more importantly to their readers, as the gatekeepers of the news.
As I've always said: The best writer needs an even better editor.
The First Amendment grants the Fourth Estate freedoms not expressly endowed to any other industry in this country. It is therefore the solemn oath of every member of the press to uphold the standards set forth by the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics to honor our awesome responsibility to keep the public informed so they can make the best decisions about their governance.
This is not to excuse Mr. Blair in any way. He was wrong. Indeed, being in this business is like being in a pressure cooker and we play a daily game of "Beat the Clock. …