Saturday, May 10, 2003

Sunday's New York Times contains a stunning article about how 27-year-old reporter Jayson Blair frequently fabricated articles during his five year career with the newspaper. Blair used reports from wire services, photos from the paper's internal archives, and telephone interviews to create the impression that he was traveling around the mid-Atlantic region reporting stories, while in reality he was camped out at his home in New York. Remarkably, despite a history of known accuracy problems and the fact that Blair's expense reports didn't match his supposed work assignments, no one at the Times caught on to the depth of the deception until another paper lodged a plagiarism complaint. Since then, a team assembled by the paper has found significant problems with 36 of the 73 articles the reporter wrote since last October, including major stories about the DC sniper and the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

I find this amazing from many angles. I have trouble understanding the thought process that would make someone behave this way. And it's hard to imagine how a young reporter could pull this off in such a way as to not arouse suspicion from his editors or others at the paper. I wonder if there is a cultural bias where editors assume that someone good enough to work at the Times must be an accurate reporter. Plus, I'm amazed that members of the public who were misquoted in the paper or who obviously knew that the reporter was lying failed to contact the newspaper and let it know about these problems.

Thanks to The Last Page for the link.

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