5 March update: Jayson's assistant has just been in touch asking me to link to his official site which has just gone live at www.jayson-blair.com. From a quick review, it looks as though the media is indeed going to give him a significant amount of publicity for the book - while no doubt at the same time going on about how appalling it all it is.
According to the site, it's NBC's Today show on Monday morning; CNN's Larry King Live on Tuesday; Fox TV, Wednesday; ABC, Thursday; then various New York radio and TV shows on the Friday and weekend; then Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Basically, an entire month of publicity. It will be interesting to see what routine he settles into after a few interviews.
The site makes first mention of the race issue, which is clearly a fundamental part of it all but has so far been judiciously ignored. Fortunately, the clear slave reference of the title and cover have steered clear of making out that he was a slave or treated as a slave while at The Times and the house mentioned in the title is rather weakly dodged by arguing that the book is "Jayson Blair's quest to determine, among other things, who is the master of one's own house".
Instead, the slave issue comes up as "Blair retraces his family history back to the era of slavery and makes some startling discoveries, including the fact that he is not only the descendant of slaves but white slave owners as well". This is something many black Americans feel very strongly about, although it does seem somewhat of a cop-out considering who he is and why the book will be bought.
The brief description of his undiagnosed manic-depressive psychosis (bipolar affective disorder) holds true and would certainly explain a number of his actions, especially tied in with drug abuse - in his case alcohol and cocaine.
Of course what we don't yet know is if the book is any good. Blair is clearly a talented writer but writing a book is a world away from writing news articles or features. With a book, there are simply so many words that is it very easy to exhaust yourself if you apply the same rules as news journalism, or worse, become too self-indulgent if you relax too much.
There is one review on the site at the moment from Publisher's Weekly which gives tantalising details about Blair spilling the beans on The New York Times. Most salacious is the statement that The Times' reporters were known to be particularly vulnerable to offers of sex for mentions in the paper.
Is that likely to be true? In this author's experience, no. National newspapers just don't work like that. That's not to say there aren't a couple of very entertaining, but non-reflective, tales about Times reporters being swayed by the pleasures of the flesh - but then why should journalism be different to any other profession?
The other accusations may be big news to people outside the media but won't raise a single eyebrow to people within. "Getting it right was not as important as getting it fast," he writes. Star reporters put their names to stories written by others. Reporters fudged datelines. Yeah, and?
But there you go. We'll have to see if the book is liable to stand up after the initial rush and buzz and hype has died down this time next month. And that can only be done by reading it. If you want to read an autographed copy by the way, you need only send Jayson an email asking him for one. I wonder how much he values his signature at? Check out the site for more details.
1 Jun 2004: A belated update on the ongoing NYT woes