22 August update: The Jayson Blair saga definitely looks as though it has stuck. His name is slowly becoming synonymous with deception in a way that Stephen Glass can only dream. Who is Stephen Glass? He's another journalist that fabricated stories for The New Republic. No one had ever heard of him, or even The New Republic, but thanks to the Blair mess, he has been rather heavily promoting himself. And the film about his lying that has just been made (presumably extremely quickly) called Shattered Glass (clever that).
So what? Well, it was nationwide news at the end of July (in the States anyway) that Jayson Blair had got another job - writing for Esquire. He was to write a review of the film. A very clever way of drumming up free publicity, you have to admit. But then it was big news again when Esquire dropped the plan and Blair's commission. The reason given was that once it became known that Blair was going to write it, the element of surprise had been lost. That, of course, is utter bullshit. The editor was quoted talking about the plan. Plus, having Blair's review would have hugely boosted circulation. If anyone's got any sense, they will sign Blair up instead.
Which begs the question: why kill the commission? Where did the pressure come from? Or was it all just a bunch of cobblers in the first place? The other question is: what is Blair doing at the moment? How is he surviving? Since the very notion that he may write an article is news, it's fair to assume that he's not knocking out the stories. How is the poor sod surviving?
Possibly off the advance of a book which he is clearly going to write. And that probably means I'll be hearing from some big publishing house that insists I hand over this domain or suffer the consequences. I can only request that they review my (numerous) stories on Internet domains and talk to me rather to threaten.
The Washington Post is still unable to control its joy at the New York Times' downfall. Here by the way is a lengthy piece on Jayson's childhood on the Post. Other than that, ex-Times managing editor Gerald Boyd spoke about the affair for the first time at the National Association of Black Journalists.
You'd think this would have been big news. Black managing editor forced to quit over black reporter's lies talking for the first time at a black journalists meeting. Just that sentence alone is enough to make an American newspaper editor's brain swell and bubble. How on earth do you cover that without facing accusations from every which way that you are racist? Well, the answer is: you can't. So most decided to pretend it never happened. Of course the intelligent thing to do is to just write an objective and fair piece like what newspapers are supposed to be made up of.
Anyway, Boyd's speech was exactly what you would expect - which is very disappointing as he could really have made a strong point on race if he'd decided to. It was time to have a hard look at the situation and see what lessons could be learnt etc etc blah blah blah. The Times management didn't realise that Blair was in the state he was until right at the end; it is "absolutely untrue" that Blair got special treatment because he was black (something that in all probability is a complete lie). You see, Boyd hardly ever had any contact with Blair. Which is rather odd since he had a fair few lead stories.
Then there was some American pseudo-philosophical claptrap: "There is a lesson here that we should all well heed... We should never lose sight to take time to make sure we're communicating with each other." Ah bless. Cue violins and crying, happy mothers, and the end of the film, you all know this bit works. And if you weren't choking on your own sentimentality, there was more: "I want you all to know I will spend the rest of my career doing everything I can to make sure we all grow and learn from this."
You have to wonder whether he was up to the job as a newspaper managing editor when Boyd comes out with crap like this. Newspapermen are not tarts-with-hearts - they are cynical, vicious, cunning and wordly. And if they were anything else, newspapers would be terrible.
All these lies and weak-willed plays are pretty nauseating but possibly most irritating was numerous media reports with variations on the assertion that the Blair saga won't stop talented black journalists from making their way in newspapers. Well, of course it bloody won't. How would that work? Plus of course, all of the reports conveniently fail to address the real issue - and this is of pro-discrimination.
America's race problems are certainly not helped by people skirting round the issues and not saying what they mean. The only people that do are racist white buffoons or ridiculous black men claiming that racism is to blame for everything that isn't right in their lives.
As for pro-discrimination, I think you can make a pretty damning argument that it will never work and is counter-productive. You'd think the Jayson Blair episode would have sparked some more and more intelligent debate on the issue. Not yet it hasn't. We shall see if one of these "lessons" that everyone seems so keen on learning will include a more effective method of discussing race.
1 Jun 2004: A belated update on the ongoing NYT woes