Jayson Blair speaks

Jayson Blair speaks
: Andrew Kirtzman of WCBS TV in New York (and formerly of the NY Daily News) gets an interview with Jayson Blair following the resignations of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd at the New York Times. Kirtzman did a good job; he’s tough on Blair and the station gave him time to let it roll. Excerpts:

Blair: I’m sorry and I never meant to hurt anyone…

Kirtzman: Why did you do it?

Blair: It’s a complicated human tragedy and that’s the part that’s been lost in all this talk about race and the New York Times.

Kirtzman: What is the human tragedy?

Blair: Like I said before, it’s very complicated… It’ has to do with my own weaknesses, my struggles with substance abuse, my own struggles with mental illness…

Blair: [I] deferred my own wants for what journalism professors wanted… I lost my compass….

Kirtzman: [Asks about the anger of black Times reporters]

Blair: I made plenty of mistakes. I don’t think it’s my responsibility, though, that other people made this a story about racial preference….

Blair: I have no animosity toward Gerarld and Howell. Neither of them helped me more than they helped any other reporter and neither of them harmed me. People have a lot of different agendas in this situation and I feel that some people used my mistakes and deceptions… to attack other people…

Blair: I said a lot of things since this started that I wish I could have taken back… Some of my comments with the New York Observer were cruel and I thought were hurtful… I should have waited to have some time to reflect before I talked…

Blair: I certainly understand that I played a significant role in the problems the Times is having right now… I would hope that the media would give them an opportunity to take care of [this] inside the family…

Kirtzman: [Asks about his book proposal with the “incendiary title” Burning Down My Master’s House]. [Some people will say…] you screwed over the New York Times. You lied in stories. You caused the meltdown of a great institution. You caused the editor to leave…. Now you’re cashing in… This guy’s bad news. Are you an opportunist?…

Blair: I’m truly sorry for my actions and what they’ve done… I was in a cycle of self-destruction that… I never intended to hurt anyone else…

It’s shocking and downright frightening that one person could bring down the leades of the leading newspaper in America. Of course, Blair didn’t do it himself, as I say below: Raines and Boyd contributed to their own downfalls and the newsroom pushed them down that hill. But whether you like and respect Raines or don’t it’s still sobering and troubling that one lying sack of steaming shit — and, yes, that’s just what he is; he is worse than the worst of Worldcom or Enron or Anderson because he betrayed the sacred trust of all the people — it’s still scary that this one guy could cause such a fall from such a height.

For all the whooping over the fall of Raines, I fear that this is going to be very bad for the news business for it is going to make news safer and more boring and thus less compelling and thus less read.

Jayson Blair did far more than bring down the House of Howell. He had an impact on the news business that we cannot even begin to measure.

: Roger L. Simon started a game: If you ran the Times, whom would you hire for the op-ed page? He starts the bidding with Hitch, who seems to be the leader at the clubhouse turn.

: Farai Chideya at AlterNet says of the news business:

Unfortunately, the business right now resembles a herd of sheep. Many editors assign pieces more to impress their fellow editors than to serve the needs of the public. When I read the pile-on of attack pieces about the New York Times, I hear a distant baaa.

  • he is worse than the worst of Worldcom or Enron or Anderson because he betrayed the sacred trust of all the people
    wrong, wrong, wrong. Jeff, you’re showing an atypical bout of media-centrism here. The Ken Lays, the Worldcoms of this world cost people their pensions, denied them the fruits of their livelihoods. Blair cost two rich guys their jobs, worst case. It’s not even close to being worse. Thousands of people who really feel the financial impact of all the corporate malfeasance are a significantly greater burden than a few more people being skeptical of one newspaper.
    Especially since nobody outside of the media business cares about Blair.

  • No, Anil, you’re wrong. You’re singing Money makes the world go around.
    Enron, Worldcom, Anderson were companies brought down by greed. That’s the world’s second-oldest story. Happens all the time. Yes, that affected many stockholders and employees but they were the only ones really affected.
    In the case of the Times, one man managed to “melt down” a great institution and affect all of journalism, which is vital to democracy and free speech and the rights of every citizen.
    Worldcom brought us bandwidth. The Times brings us the information that feeds a democracy.
    I’m surprised you’re thinking so small.

  • Herb

    Wait a minute! Jason Blair was not a single man who brought down a major institution. This would never have happened in a properly managed operation. To start with, he would have been confronted long before he could precipitate such damage. And when he was exposed, the staff would have rallied to support the management rather than break out in open rebellion. The structure collapsed not because Blair gave it a push, but because it was thoroughly rotten.

  • I’m sorry, but I cannot even express the magnitude of your arrogance and self-importance when you make the statement that the Blair/Raines scandal is worse than Enron.
    Do you even understand that with Enron, many, many, many, hard-working, unsuspecting peoples lives were literally ruined? RUINED.
    You compare that to the fact that a corrupted liberal institution was given a tiny measure of commupance after years and years of lies, veiled agendas, and politically correct over-kill. And that this commupance was nothing more than the purging of three of the worst examples of what the paper has come to represent?
    If anything, “the people” as you call them, are much, much better off now that the NY Times office has been purged of these hacks. Meanwhile, those hundreds and hundreds of peoples lives who were literally RUINED by Enron (not to mention Adelphia, WorldCom, and several others), are still exactly who they are.
    And when you say, “…all the people…”, what you really mean is, all the people in the media industry living in Manhattan who have blogs where they talk about other blogs all day.
    This is by far the biggest example so far of exactly what is wrong with big popular blogs.

  • Herb: That’s just the kind of wholesale destruction I’m complaining about: The entire New York Times is “thoroughly rotten”? Bullshit, my friend, bullshit. Take a reporter at random — no, I’ll select Jim Dwyer — and read his reporting on 9.11 and from Iraq and tell me that he didn’t contribute to your knowledge and your sense of what is going on and to the good of us all. The Times is filled with Dwyers. It is also filled with arrogance. But it is not filled with rot.
    Jason: I’m not weighing the scandals so much as I am weighing the men. Bernie Ebbers is a garden-variety greedy ass and I actually don’t think he tried to destroy Worldcom because he’s greedy and he lost bigtime, too. Jayson Blair tried to destroy not just the Times but his profession. He tips the scale.

  • No one put a gun to Enron and worldcom employees heads and said: put all your eggs in one basket or else. They were just as greedy and shortsighted as their bosses, and guess what? They lost, and rightly so. Everybody knows (or is supposed to know) that you never, ever no matter what invest all your money in one company or even one sector. that is a rule of life. If you break a rule of life, you lose eventually.
    As for the media: I can’t imagine it getting and LESS compelling than it already is. Some brilliant reporters aside, don’t people think The Times is so great because The Times kept telling them how great they were? The Times fiasco will have many more great outcomes for readers than bad ones.

  • Rachel Cohen

    Blair is as dumb as a sack of hammers. His big interview and he blows it on some local station? Why would Okrah or Baba Wawa call him now?

  • How is a man who’s major crime was to break a trust be worse than men who’s crime was to destroy an economy? Because Blair also happens to have a problem with drugs? Since those who are responsible for Enron have no problems with drugs or alcohol (at least not publicly know) that makes them less evil? Or is it possible that because you are a journalist you are simply angry that he made you look bad by association, and how dare him!? I agree with Anil, your biased priorities seem to be showing. The appearance of arrogance is not becoming on you. Oh, that and you are coming across in the manner that you yourself state was Raines’ undoing.

  • Herb

    Yes, my last sentence was too sweeping. I didn’t mean to condemn the whole NYT, only to say that that if the management had not been so inept, one person could not possibly have been so destructive.

  • John Anderson

    Er, uh… As I’ve understood it, Mr. Blair was repeatedly called on the carpet by his immediate supervisors, then it turned into a red carpet to better assignments by intervention from on high. The Raines resignation, which only a few weeks ago his boss said would not be accepted if offered, was forced by the rest of the staff taking advantage of the situation to revolt against his “Apres moi, la d