Wednesday, May 14, 2003

New York Times to meet about Jayson Blair has posted the undated purported text of a memo to New York Times staff calling a meeting for today over the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal.

The text reads:

Open forum

Howell, Gerald and Arthur request that you join your newsroom colleagues at an open forum at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, to discuss the Jayson Blair matter and anything else you might have on your mind. The meeting will be held at the Loew's Astor Theater, the moviehouse just behind The Times on 44th Street at Broadway, across from Carmine's. Doors open at 2:15 p.m.

Please be sure to bring your Times i.d. card. No one will be admitted to the theater without their Times i.d.

You will be able to ask questions from the floor, or write them on cards that will be distributed at the door. In addition, we have set up an email address -- -- where you can send questions, either in advance of the session or afterward.

On Wednesday morning, we will send out a separate email advising correspondents and bureaus outside New York how they may dial into the forum and listen to the session. Unfortunately, because of the short time available to set up the forum, people listening from a remote location will not be able to ask live questions. You may, however, avail yourself of the email address above. If you get questions to us before 2 p.m. EDT tomorrow, we will put them into the hopper. Otherwise, they will be answered later.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

New York Times on Jayson Blair scandal

The lead of the front-page story of today's New York Times, Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception:

A staff reporter for The New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found. The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.

It's an earth-shaking admission from what is widely regarded as the gold standard of print journalism, the U.S.A.'s newspaper of record -- and, by extension, some would argue, the world's.

The article continues:

The reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not....

In an inquiry focused on correcting the record and explaining how such fraud could have been sustained within the ranks of The Times, the Times journalists have so far uncovered new problems in at least 36 of the 73 articles Mr. Blair wrote since he started getting national reporting assignments late last October....

Mr. Blair, who has resigned from the paper, was a reporter at The Times for nearly four years, and he was prolific. Spot checks of the more than 600 articles he wrote before October have found other apparent fabrications, and that inquiry continues. The Times is asking readers to report any additional falsehoods in Mr. Blair's work; the e-mail address is

Eye-wideningly shocking stuff, worthy of outrage.

It's admirable that the Times would so painstakingly and publicly attempt to correct the facts and inform its readers of the deception they were subjected to... but it also rings a little hollow.

"How such fraud could have been sustained within the ranks of the Times" should be reasonably simple for those investigating to answer:

a. Blair's editors were so sloppy, careless, lazy or incompetent that they missed glaring errors and problems that an editor at a student paper would have caught.

b. Blair's editors and colleagues either knew or suspected that there was a problem, and for some reason dismissed it as inconsequential or wilfully turned a blind eye.

c. Blair was such a genius mastermind who was so much more intelligent than his editors and colleagues that he was able to convincingly deceive them for almost four years without raising a single staffer's eyebrow ... until he so blatantly plagiarized a story that his fraud was exposed.

Since options A and C are highly unlikely, that leaves B: Blair was permitted to continue to work at the Times in spite of known or suspected transgressions.

If that's the case, the Times has much more serious problems to deal with. One of them will be regaining readers' trust.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Welcome to JBlog

JBlog is a Web log (blog) about the intersection of journalism and blogging.

I've watched the blogging phenomenon since it emerged in the late '90s. At first I dismissed it as nothing more than a new name for what people had been doing on the Web since its inception: creating personal pages of links and maintaining online diaries. The only difference seemed to be that it opened Web publishing to people who didn't have much (if any) ability to create a Web page. By and large, I was right. There appeared to be an inordinate number of teenage girls who blogged, and they wrote about the things teenage girls tend to write about. I didn't put much stock in it. Then something happened.

Along with the growing ranks of personal blogs, professionals and experts in various fields -- mostly scientific and computer-related -- began keeping blogs. So did businessmen and advertising executives and, eventually, journalists.

Blogs have become an Internet and pop culture phenomenon. Part fact, part personal narrative, part link, and maybe a few other things, blogs have broken big stories and become so influential that they can and have spurred journalists to pick up on stories that might have been ignored (as was the case with racially-tinged comments by U.S. politician Trent Lott). They help keep journalists accurate and honest by fact-checking their reports. Blogs have also given people an inside look at life and events in places where journalists can't or don't or won't go.

Some of the questions all of this raises:

Is blogging is journalism or something else? With more journalists hopping on the blogging bandwagon, how do they address legal issues that may arise? Where does the journalist end and the blogger begin? As a journalist, what rights does your employing news organization have over what you blog?

And as blogging becomes increasingly popular among journalists (especially American journalists), why haven't journalists in the number-two most-wired country in the world (Canada; South Korea is number one) followed suit?

Those are some of questions I hope to explore here. I hope you'll explore them with me.