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Updates - 12 February 2004


12 February update: It's a month until Jayson Blair's book is due (6 March) and the PR effort has begun. What is so terrible is that despite what all (good) journalists say and feel about Jayson Blair, in the cheap modern media world, they will fight each other to get an "exclusive"on something he is desperate to push at the time he wants to push it.

Blair's publisher - the far-from-white Michael Viner - has embarked on a campaign of misinformation in order to create a buzz around the book. "The person he is most critical of is himself," Mr Viner is quoted as saying. "It is not an excuse book. The tone is not what so many of these books do, which is excuse their actions."

Clearly Mr Viner realises that want people want is for Jayson Blair to flagellate himself publicly, beg forgiveness, but not forget to throw in a few juicy details about how he conned these arrogant newspapermen. He also is wisely avoiding the race issue, leaving that particular hornets' nest for Jayson to stir up.

According to Viner, Jayson will appear all over the TV the day before publication. NBC's Dateline for starters, plus "Today" the next morning. Also Larry King Live on CNN. It would seem though that while TV has no scruples, the print media does not look so kindly on someone benefitting from undermining and laughing at their profession.

Mr Viner claims Variety is running an extract from the book, but Variety itself isn't so certain. As for the extremely suspicious six-figure advance that Blair has apparently received (we believe a false figure leaked by Viner himself), now it would appear that Jayson has decided to give some away to charity and maybe provide a scholarship to the University of Maryland, where he went.

Such nonsense should be roundly ignored but you can bet you will hear about it endlessly in the next few weeks. But so far, so good. For Blair and the PR machine at least. Why have people lost the ability to turn off and walk away if they don't like something, as opposed to tuning in to growing excitedly incensed?

But enough nonsense regarding Jayson - here's some regarding Gerald Boyd, the black former managing editor of the Times that was forced to resign for his part in the affair. Mr Boyd, as well as taking on a non-teaching role at Columbia, is to write a weekly syndicated column that will, so we hear, "pull back curtains on newsrooms and help readers understand how journalistic decisions are made".

God we hope not. If Mr Boyd seriously thinks he can make a column like that last more a few weeks then his judgement really is as bad as his critics claim. What people in all professions don't tend to realise is that the rest of the world - and certainly the general public - do not give a monkey's how your system works or what the buzz words are, or the stresses, strains and tensions that exist.

Not only will a column as suggested bore the life out of anyone but journalists, it will very soon begin to annoy journalists themselves because in explaining journalistic decisions on breaking stories, Mr Boyd will have to guess at what info the editors had at their fingertips and what other pressures they were under at the same time. Unless you are there, you cannot do anything but approximate. And why would anyone who knows how the system works want to read a column of guesswork?

Plus of course, the journalism behind a story is only interesting every now and again - certainly not weekly. We can only hope that Mr Boyd falls back on - and is able to tell well - interesting anecdotes from his time at the Times.

"Did I ever tell you the time when this young black reporter came to me and said that the Washington sniper was ready to confess but the police had cocked it up? Oh, we did laugh. Course I lost my job..."


1 Jun 2004: A belated update on the ongoing NYT woes
12 Mar 2004: A review of the New York Times' upcoming book review
5 Mar 2004:
Jayson Blair's official site goes live; media frenzy begins; book details start coming out
4 Mar 2004: The New York Times runs a spoiler story on Jayson's book
12 Feb 2004: Misinformation campaign begins; Gerald Boyd threatens to bore with new media column
7 Dec 2003: Book details, including controversial slavery cover, released; real slave poster draws comparison
12 Nov 2003: Jayson goes quiet but Boyd goes academic and Stephen Glass makes the most of it; the Times hires an Ombudsman
13 Sep 2003: Blair book details come out, ends up with black sheep Michael Viner and a suspicious high reported advance; film said to be in making
22 Aug 2003: Blair's first foray back into journalism is still-born; his childhood however is detailed in length; Boyd fails miserably to address race issue
12 Jun 2003: It dawns on The Times that it's tell-all approach may not have been the best approach after all
5 Jun 2003: Boyd goes, leaving a lot of questions unanswered
May 2003: The start of it all