A few takes on the Jayson Blair mess
Bob Herbert has a good column in today's Times ("Truth, Lies and Subtext"):
I've seen schmoozers, snoozers and high-powered losers in every venue I've been in. Most of these rogues, scoundrels and miscreants were white because most of the staffers in America's mainstream newsrooms are white. What I haven't seen in all these years was the suggestion that any of these individuals fouled up — or were put into positions where they could foul up — because they were white.and
Mr. Blair was a first-class head case who was given a golden opportunity and responded by spreading seeds of betrayal every place he went. He betrayed his readers. He betrayed his profession. He betrayed the editors who hired and promoted him. But there was no racial component to that betrayal, any more than there was a racial component to the many betrayals of Mike Barnicle, a columnist who was forced to resign from The Boston Globe in 1998 after years of complaints about his work.As Mr. Herbert sums it up: "the problem with American newsrooms is too little diversity, not too much" and "discrimination in the newsroom — in hiring, in the quality of assignments and in promotions — is a much more pervasive problem than Jayson Blair's aberrant behavior."
Although Mr. Barnicle is white, his journalistic sins have generally — and properly — been seen as the sins of an individual.
But the folks who delight in attacking anything black, or anything designed to help blacks, have pounced on the Blair story as evidence that there is something inherently wrong with The Times's effort to diversify its newsroom, and beyond that, with the very idea of a commitment to diversity or affirmative action anywhere.
Dan Kennedy at the Boston Phoenix has an interesting take as well--he disagrees that it had nothing at all to do with race, but emphasizes that the leniency given to white guys like Mike Barnicle and Stephen Glass had just as much to do with race and is more common. He is also much more critical of the leadership at the times, as you can guess from the piece's title: "Raines’s folly: The Jayson Blair scandal reveals some unflattering truths about the Times' hard-driving editor."