Jewish World Review June 3, 2003 / 3 Sivan, 5763
Liars can make money
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | 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.
Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
05/30/03: Spam the Greatest Generation