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Tuesday, May 13, 2003
OK, one more thing on the Jayson Blair fiasco.
The plagiarism and deceit of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair is an affront to journalism. He disgraced an honorable profession that already suffers a credibility problem. His actions have distressed the great many journalists who go to pains every day to uphold the lofty ideals of their chosen craft. Make no mistake: Blair’s editors fell asleep at the switch, allowing him to abuse his authority and responsibility.
But why can’t Blair just be one severely troubled guy who did outrageous things? Why are some people using him as an example of the evils of commitment to diversity? Why is it that when white reporters commit similar acts of outrageous fraud, no one in the establishment media launches breathy social commentaries about the continued existence of white privilege and entitlement in the newsroom?
Because these commentators are almost all white, of course, and they had to fight for their jobs, so there's no such thing as white privilege. Whereas black people just get given cushy jobs. Howard Raines himself is well known for his regular trips to Harlem, where he will wander the streets, stopping random young black people wearing glasses and saying, "Hey, you look black--would you like to work for the New York Times?"
Let's do a quick index.
Number of white journalists listed who have been caught in big lies in recent years: 5 (Ruth Shalit, Stephen Glass, Mike Barnicle, Raad Cawthon, Michael Finkel)
Number of their employers who were accused of lax fact-checking because they were white: 0
Number of black journalists caught in big lies in recent years: 3 (Jayson Blair, Patricia Smith, Janet Cooke)
Number of their employers who were accused of lax fact-checking because they were black: 2
Where Mike Barnicle (white) is working now: MSNBC
What Stephen Glass (white) just got paid for movie rights to his book: an obscene amount
What Janet Cooke (black) was doing, as of last check: "selling make-up for $6 an hour at a department store in Kalamazoo, Mich., and eating cereal for dinner."
UPDATE: OK, gotta get Neal Pollack in here somehow.