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Jewish World Review June 3, 2003 / 3 Sivan, 5763

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Liars can make money | If you're going to commit a crime in journalism, it had better be a big one. As soon as the story of Jayson Blair broke I called my agent and said, "If Blair is asking for a six-figure advance for his book on how he committed fiction as a reporter for the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post, what can you get for mine?"

"What have you got to sell?" he asked.

"All my columns are fiction. I make up every word."

"The difference is that everything Blair wrote, his editors believed was true. He is peddling his book on the basis that he pulled the wool over everyone's eyes."

I protested, "I make things up, too. If you could get me a large enough advance I'll even give you an exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein."

He said, "It is not just that everything you write is invented, but Blair is also offering to tell how race played a part in his cheating, and he is offering to write about his drug addiction and depression. You can't raise the issue of race because it doesn't play a role in your journalistic life. You were never on drugs, were you?"

"Only those I got as prescriptions from the drugstore at outrageous prices," I said.

"Nobody is interested in that kind of drug abuse," he replied.

"I could use my depression to get the sympathy of the reader. I could say that my editors let me get away with murder because I was snorting cocaine."

He said, "That doesn't sell books. You can't write a book about plagiarism unless you can produce articles that you stole and used as your own."

I could see $500,000 dollars falling through the cracks.

"I could say I hated everyone in the Washington Post newsroom and stealing was my way of getting even with them."

"Nobody cares how you got along with other journalists. There is always strife in the newsroom. Blair says everyone at the Times was an Ivy Leaguer and a snob. He has a right to call them snobs, but you don't."

I could not be dissuaded. I said, "I can see it now. I write a best-selling mea culpa book and I appear on the 'Today' show with Katie Couric. Then I make a movie starring Jack Nicholson and then a TV series."

My agent said, "Don't get your hopes up. If Blair's book doesn't sell, then it will be very tough for other reporters who invent stories to sell theirs."

"It will sell. Look at the success of Stephen Glass, who plagiarized dozens of articles. The more he said he was a chronic liar, the more the public was curious about him. He even was asked to go on '60 Minutes' and tell everyone what a big fibster he was. His book is up front in every store and he's on a national book tour."

My agent said, "All right. I'll make a few calls. Will you continue making things up so you won't embarrass me?"

I said, "Of course. What kind of plagiarist do you think I am?"

I'm still waiting to hear from a publisher, but I have my hopes up. To prove I mean business, this column was lifted from the Gettysburg Address.

Welcome to the world of new journalism.

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Art Buchwald's latest book is "We'll Laugh again." To commnt on his column click here.

05/30/03: Spam the Greatest Generation
05/28/03: The Democratic solution
05/09/03: Suits on television
04/30/03: Americo-Shaft Airlines
04/22/03: More time with the kids
04/03/03: Rebuilding Baghdad
03/25/03: The Five Saddam Husseins
03/04/03: Tax free defense
02/27/03: Yelling at the TV
02/20/03: The fight for duct tape
02/14/03: Losing your identity
02/05/03: Whose reality is it?
01/17/03: Foreign Affairs for Dummies
01/15/03: No-news stories
01/13/03: The last pill
01/08/03: Come fly with me
12/20/02: Snooping for America
12/13/02: Give 'til it hurts
12/06/02: Pre-nursery is rough
11/20/02: The Princess and the butler
11/15/02: Preaching democracy
11/04/02: The blame game
10/30/02: The threat of golf
10/11/02: The wives of Hidden Valley
10/04/02: Will the real Saddam stand up?
10/01/02: To shred or not to shred
09/20/02: Plea-bargaining crime
09/17/02: Jack and Jane
09/12/02: Signing books is half the fun
09/10/02: To lose one's center
09/05/02: Moot court
08/29/02: I spy-you-spy
08/27/02: No smoking --- I love you
08/23/02: Ashes to ashes
08/14/02: Wall Street good news
08/09/02: Things in my attic
08/01/02: Damage control
08/01/02: Another icon
07/30/02: Draft all the lawyers
07/25/02: House for rent
07/23/02: Doin' time
07/19/02: The loophole game
07/16/02: Money as a game
07/11/02: Just desserts
07/02/02: So you want to win?
06/19/02: Homeland security parking
06/13/02: The Accused
06/11/02: Don't let them know
06/06/02: The FBI changes its ways
06/04/02: RED ALERT
05/28/02: Malice On Purpose: I'm scared!
05/23/02: Barbie Doll
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?
05/19/02: White collar prisons
05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

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