4 March update: Jayson's book is due out on Saturday (it being Thursday today) but it has already generated a bit of steam when The New York Times decided to review it before the embargoed date for the media.
It claims that it didn't break any agreement and it was no more than a "news assistant" that was sent an early copy from Amazon, hence no agreement to break. A little disingenuous perhaps, but it is true that Amazon has sent out copies already (mine has already been sent in the post - although unless I want to pay $38 carriage, I won't get it in the UK for over a week).
Of course, The Times knew only too well that there was a media embargo but why look a gift horse in the mouth? It was given a week's clearance to get its retaliation in first. And so the paper's review unsurprisingly concentrates on Jayson admitting: "I lied and I lied, and then I lied some more". It leads the first para with the fact that Blair was "fuelled by ambition, cocaine and alcohol abuse and an undiagnosed condition of manic depression".
No attempt is made to see whether The Times might be to blame of course and a good chunk of the story consists of the paper's editors putting their side of things. New executive editor Bill Keller for example says: "The author is an admitted fabricator. The book pretends to be a mea culpa but ends up spewing imaginary blame in all directions."
So far, so diverted. And then this guff from an official spokeswoman: "The events of last spring were deeply painful to The Times and its staff. In the days and weeks that followed, we completed a comprehensive examination of our journalistic and newsroom practices to determine what steps needed to be taken to address the issues raised. As a result, we have changed many news policies and strengthened our hiring, training and development practices, which we believe better serve our staff and our readers."
See? Everything's fine now after all.
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz - who kicked off the whole thing in the first place - was none too pleased about The Times stealing his thunder. His hands were also tied so he was reduced to using only the details The Times had revealed to kick the paper as hard as he could.
There wasn't much he could do, and rather unfortunately had to rely on the book's publisher Michael Viner to get all heated about it. Viner can't be described as exactly a pillar of society, so it looks as though The New York Times has won the first round.
Lord only knows what will happen starting Friday evening. It is interested to note that race has barely been mentioned yet. The title of the book and Blair's recent rants have all pointed to playing the race card. Has he backed down from that route in the book or are the mainstream media hoping to avoid the issue altogether because they know they can't win either way?
Only time will tell. And, of course, once I get my copy, I'll do a review not only of the book but a review of the reviews. I think we can expect to find certain ugly biases popping their heads up very soon.
1 Jun 2004: A belated update on the ongoing NYT woes