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February 22, 2024

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Blair to Blame, not Times editors

Though Jayson Blair lost his job when he resigned from The New York Times on May 1, his now infamous body of work for the paper will do more to hurt The Times than to hurt himself.

As Blair uses the spotlight to negotiate book and movie deals, the paper is taking much of the heat. Now The Times’ status as one of the nation’s most trusted papers is being questioned.

The New York Times’ committment to accuracy is still strong. The Blair scandal seems to be evidence suggesting only a lack of communication between editors at The Times — it doesn’t suggest disregard for accuracy.

Some of his mistakes were difficult to find. In a piece on Pfc. Jessica Lynch, he described tobacco fields and cattle visible from her family’s front porch: Neither were there. Of course, the family didn’t call to point out the error, and few editors would place phone calls asking about cattle.

Other mistakes — more serious ones — sprang from poor communication among editors.

Blair, 27, changed positions frequently, serving under many editors.

The problem: When one editor would hone in on Blair’s falsehoods, others were not told.

When Blair became a nation reporter in October, it took till January for someone to reveal Blair’s penchant for falsehood to Jim Roberts, nation editor for The Times. Roberts told The Times that, afterward, he simply forgot to tell those under him.

Nick Fox, who oversaw coverage of the D.C. Sniper murders, also knew none of Blair’s inaccuracy track record, which became longer as he wrote false reports on those events.

Since October, 36 of Blair’s 73 stories were dubbed as accurate by a Times investigative committee. They’ve also found several inaccurate articles over his four-year career at The Times.

Blair’s mistakes are unforgivable, but those made by editors at The Times are not.

At such a large paper– with 375 reporters — communication is difficult. The Times recognized the problem in their 14,000-word exposé on Blair.

Not only have they recognized the problem, they are also working to ensure it won’t happen again. According to reports on cnn.com, the paper is investigating the work of several other reporters. Times Spokesperson Catherine Mathis said what they have gathered on other reporters has not warranted action, according to the Web site.

Though The Times let lies slip, they made mistakes they intend to fix. They didn’t lie. Blair lied. Now he’s gone. And The Times isn’t tolerating others like him — they still deserve their reputable reputation.

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