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Thursday, May 15, 2003

 

It's About Trust...


Much is being made of the Jayson Blair fiasco at the New York Times. A number of conservative commentators are trying to turn it into a referendum on affirmative action, stating the only reason Blair was kept on and promoted despite warnings from lower-level editors was the color of his skin. Frankly, I think there's a whole lot more to it than simply race.

It has to do with trust.

The mainstream media has long placed itself upon a pedestal of accuracy and fairness. The Times was long regarded as "the paper of record," simply beyond even accusation of bias or inaccuracy. Yet now comes to light a Times reporter who fabricated not merely one, but some three dozen news stories during his tenure. The paper quite rightly dispensed with Blair's services, yet the top management seems frighteningly unapologetic about the whole affair. A large meeting held yesterday with reporters and newsroom staff seemed to be filled with Enron-esque obfuscations, denials and regrets for being caught.

Yet the larger issue now is trust. How many other reporters - of any race - are there at the Times with a similar record of plagiarism and outright fabrication of stories? How many other "rising stars" in the Times newsroom are being given free passes to write bilious nonsense in the guise of news? How many stories the Times have published were no more than the fanciful imaginations of the writer?

A bigger, almost unasked question lies behind the scandal: If it can happen at the Times, where else can it be happening?

"Today's report confirms that, despite White House scare tactics, Social Security remains sound for decades to come.."

-? Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) upon hearing reports that the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds will go bankrupt even earlier than predicted.

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