Monday, March 08, 2004

Just saving you the time

Slate reads Jayson Blair's book so you don't have to. A couple of tidbits to get you there:
Page 69-73: Blair reflects on the June 2003 resignations of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, the top two editors at the New York Times: "I was no more responsible for their resignations than Gavrilo Princip, the man who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, was responsible for starting World War I. I knew the groundwork for their resignations had been set long before I began fabricating stories, but it was hard, as the catalyst, not to take responsibility for the entire situation."

Page 253: Blair describes the Times' "dateline toe-touch" policy, in which writers report a story from afar and then travel to the scene to scoop up a dateline. (It's his most damning description of Times' practices.) After a series of "toe-touches," Blair gives in to a greater crime: the "dateline no-touch" policy, in which he submits datelines from cities he never visited.
This part makes me laugh. What's the difference, reporting wise, between a toe-touch and a no-touch? Both are as disingenuous to the reader; but one is disingenuous to the employer.
Page 165: Blair admits to spending between $500 and $1,000 per week on cocaine. When he needs money, he sells his stash at a profit to fellow "coke fiends" at the Times. He declares, "Call her by any name: Star-Spangled Powder, the All-American drug, blow, bouncing powder, or Carrie—cocaine was the woman for me."
That, truly, is atrocious writing.
Page 202: Blair says that he "performed, or received, a sexual favor for drugs." He offers few details as to the former.

Page 257: Blair strolls through the Times newsroom wearing a Persian head wrap and fake fur, with a Kermit the Frog doll balancing on one shoulder. He says later, "Perhaps I was crying out for attention."

Page 136-38: Blair says public relations officers will trade sex for mentions in Times news stories. Blair himself takes home a 23-year-old flack from an Internet company. At a critical moment in the evening, she asks him for a favor. Her company's name winds up in many of Blair's stories.
I'm glad I read the synopsis, but I'm not sad to miss out on the book.


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