I’ll be awol for a little while this AM, but I wanted to get a plac-holder in on this Jayson Blair story. Andrew Sullivan has lots of great stuff on this story as he is fast becoming the I.F. Stone of anti-Times muckraking. My only objection with Andrew’s approach is that he concentrates almost all of his ire on Howell Raines, his white whale. One gets the sense that if Raines quit, Sullivan would be content. That’s cool, it’s nice to set reasonable goals. But the trouble with the Times is bigger than just one man. Let me also say that the Times is the best paper in the country and it’s silly to deny that. But, as can happen with all successful institutions, it is a maddening hothouse of biases, obsessions and, most of all, arrogance. Howell Raines may be steering the ship but, from my perspective, the course is set. The Blair swell could knock Raines overboard, but I would be shocked if a new skipper changed the direction dramatically. The idea, for example, that the Times will come out of this with anything but a “renewed committment to diversity” is unfathomable to me (indeed, I predict right now that if not those exact words then something extremely close will be the result of their “lessons learned” commission.). Anyway, I have more to say, but I’ve got to finish this other thing. Here’s what I had to say on CNN yesterday about the whole thing:
Look, well, first of all, this 7,000-word phone book of an apology is a pinata. You can bash it from any angle and bear some reward. But I’ll pick one.
They say that this is the low point in their 154-year history. Some guy making up quotes, you know, is a bad story, but this is the newspaper that put the Holocaust on the jump pages. This is the newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for a guy who said that Stalin didn’t do anything wrong in the 1930s and ’40s.
This is a newspaper that — this apology is so self-serving, it is like a serial killer getting caught stealing a loaf of bread and saying it’s the worst thing they’ve ever done.
And they’re trying to put all the blame on this one guy and exempt all the executives for the culture that they’ve bred over there. It is an outrage.