The Washington Post article in which Blair's lying was exposed for the first time
[What follows is the entire Washington Post's article published on 29 April 2003 on the paper's website- the first article about the emerging Jayson Blair affair. It was reproduced the next day in the paper's printed edition with the headline "New York Times Story Gives Texas Paper Sense of Deja Vu".
The article can be accessed on the paper's website here. The article is The Washington Post's copyright but is published here in full. As with other articles on this site, I ask publishers to recognise the historical value of having their work readily accessible in one place. This site seeks no commercial gain, only to serve as a resource for the future.
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29 April, 2003
N.Y. Times Article Bears Similarities to Texas Paper's
Allegation Comes on Heels of Similiar Incident in Sports Column
by Howard Kurtz
When he saw the New York Times piece about a Texas woman whose soldier son was missing in Iraq, says Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, "I proceeded to read what I thought was our own story again."
The similarities – from the descriptions of Juanita Anguiano's house to the comments about her son, Edward, whose body was found this week – were so great that Rivard sent the Times a letter of complaint yesterday. "It's a story I'd be embarrassed to have my byline on if it were me," Rivard said.
On April 18, Express-News reporter Macarena Hernandez wrote: "So the single mother, a teacher's aide, points to the ceiling fan he installed in her small living room. She points to the pinstriped couches, the tennis bracelet still in its red velvet case and the Martha Stewart patio furniture, all gifts from her first born and only son. . . . 'I wish I could talk to a mother who is in the same shoes as I am who has her son missing in action. It's very hard,' said Anguiano, who speaks haltingly."
On April 26, a story by Times reporter Jayson Blair began: "Juanita Anguiano points proudly to the pinstriped couches, the tennis bracelet in its red case and the Martha Stewart furniture out on the patio. . . . 'I wish I could talk to a mother who is in the same shoes as I am, who has her son missing in action,' Ms. Anguiano said."
In another part of her story, Hernandez wrote: "Sleep these days only comes with a pill. . . . She said she has moments when she can picture her son in some Iraqi village, like the ones she has seen on TV, surrounded by a herd of animals and the Iraqis he has befriended."
Blair's Times story said: "At moments, Ms. Anguiano says, she can picture her son in an Iraqi village, like the ones she has seen on television, surrounded by animals and the Iraqi people he has befriended. . . . She said that while she still might have hope, sleep these days came only in the form of a pill that the doctors gave her."
Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said only that the paper is "looking into it" and that every staff member receives an integrity statement and a pamphlet on journalistic ethics. Blair said he could not comment.
Times staffers say Blair was tired and has admitted making mistakes, including mixing up a quote that Anguiano gave the Express-News and a paragraph from the Texas paper's story with his own notes. Anguiano could not be reached.
"It's pretty damning, I think," Rivard said. "It's not quite plagiarism, nor is it as simple as an error of non-attribution. It's definitely a problem of presenting previously published material without an appropriate acknowledgment."
Hernandez said she and Blair were interns together at the Times in 1998. When she saw Blair's story, "I was shocked. I thought, 'Oh my God, this sounds like me.'‚"
She said she was particularly surprised at the similarity of the quotes because Anguiano, who was exhausted, "doesn't speak in eloquent, long, thoughtful sentences. You kind of have to talk to her for a while to get that kind of quote."
Rivard, who subscribes to the Times news service, said that "when I think about the vast sums of money we spend on the New York Times, I thought we can at least count on an occasional acknowledgment from the Times for the good work that we do."
This is the second such controversy in recent days for the Times. On Sunday, an editor's note said that sports columnist Ira Berkow, writing about former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, "should have acknowledged that a central quotation from the coach appeared three days earlier in an article by Bonnie DeSimone of the Chicago Tribune and that several other passages closely reflected her words."
A first draft of the Feb. 12 column credited DeSimone's piece for an anecdote in which Smith told a former North Carolina governor: "The death penalty makes us all murderers." But, the editor's note said, Berkow's supervisors told him to check the harsh quote with Smith, which he did. "Editors then deleted the attribution to Ms. DeSimone's article, though Times policy ordinarily calls for crediting news that originates exclusively elsewhere."
There were other similarities.
The Tribune: "Sports figures, while often active in charitable causes, generally avoid taking sides in divisive, emotional national debates such as the one concerning the death penalty."
The Times: "Sports figures are often reluctant, at best, to go public with potentially divisive national issues, even when the issue is a matter of life and death."
Berkow, a 22-year Times veteran, said he was "disturbed" by the editor's note because "I didn't think it was plagiarism." He did a number of interviews, including one with Smith, and "I thought I made my contribution apart from Bonnie DeSimone."
While an editor deleted his attribution to DeSimone, Berkow said, "I take full responsibility. I should have made sure her name was in it because she inspired the column."
Dan McGrath, the Tribune's associate managing editor for sports, said the paper sent the Times a letter of complaint after thinking it over for weeks. "We certainly didn't take any pleasure in it, but there were a couple of paragraphs that were too close for comfort," he said.
Charges of unauthorized borrowing have plagued a number of publications in recent years, including Business Week, the Baltimore Sun, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the Indianapolis Star, the Sacramento Bee and, as Rivard readily acknowledged, the Express-News. In 2000, Rivard reprimanded his sports editor for lifting four paragraphs from a Fort Worth Star-Telegram column about Tiger Woods.