Jewish World Review May 15, 2003 / 13 Iyar, 5763

Bob Tyrrell

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‘Grey’ turns to grim at Times | The dark times at The New York Times grow darker. Just days after the paper flagellates itself with a front-page story admitting that it repeatedly published fabricated stories full of plagiarism and other journalistic sleight-of-hand from a 27-year-old con-man reporter whom the editors of the Slippery Rock Herald would have apprehended, the indispensable Drudge Report announces that "at least two more NY Times reporters are being investigated for possible journalistic irregularities."

Drudge, one of modern American journalism's prodigies (and naturally a fellow objurgated by establishment journalists everywhere), goes on to reproduce a memo from the Times' editors calling all "news room colleagues" to "an open forum."

Apparently, the sufferings of The New York Times will continue for a while. reports that the newspaper's con-man reporter, Jayson Blair, is under investigation by the U. S. Attorney's Office. Precisely what the corpus delicti might be is still unclear, but CNN reports, "Federal officials publicly criticized a front-page, exclusive article of Blair's that said the U.S. attorney had forced investigators to end their questioning of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad just as he was ready to confess."

Yes, it seems that young Blair was sent down to Washington to cover the delicate prosecution of a very important news story, despite his shoddy record at the newspaper. In its tortured revelations about Blair the other day, the Times admits that over three and a half years his editors had made 50 corrections in his work.

Anyone familiar with reporters from the Times knows that they are among the best in the business, and as I noted during the Three Week War, the quality of writing in the paper is often superb. I put the paper's John Burns in a class with World War II's Ernie Pyle. But investigative reporters such as Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta are first-rate also.

Imagine how these fine journalists must have suffered working alongside such an obvious fraud as Blair. The real culprits in this scandal are the editors, or at least some of the editors. I have heard of them repeatedly bottling up fine reportage that they did not want revealed to their readers, particularly during the Clinton scandals. Now we know they promoted at least one obvious huckster, and Drudge suggests more will be exposed.

Even in its self-flagellatory report on Blair, the Times was disingenuous, suggesting that such misbehavior had not been uncovered before. I have been keeping a file on journalistic (and scholarly) hoaxers and plagiarists for years. The file is several inches thick. This sort of misbehavior is more rampant today than at any time in modern journalism.

Moreover, not all the fabricators and plagiarists once caught are exiled from the media as they should be. One still sees the plagiarist Mike Barnicle and fellow plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin figuring prominently in the media. And the Times should have come clean about other instances of fabrication and plagiarism in its pages.

I have in hand the February 2002 expose of one Michael Finkel , a contributor to the New York Times Magazine , who fabricated a story about a poor Ivory Coast laborer. Finkel was fired. Then there was the incomparable escapade of the Times star reporter and Boston bureau chief, Fox Butterfield. In 1991, he reported on a speech plagiarized by a Boston University scholar. Amazingly, in reporting the scholar's plagiarism, Butterfield himself plagiarized from the Boston Globe. He was given a one-week suspension. I do look forward to Drudge's further reports on the Times gone bad.

Yet there is hope. Earlier this week, I attended the annual dinner of the Phillips Foundation, where that foundation gives fellowships to young journalists intent on doing important journalistic work. Eight fellowships were given. All recipients struck me as capable and promising, and there was one young man from The New York Times. Not only that, but he is the very same age as the fallen Blair, 27.

Mike Porath is a producer for The New York Times on the Web. Having traveled the world, backpack slung from his shoulders, reporter's notebook in hand, he returned to these shores with a plan to write about Saudi Arabia and a problem he saw there that breeds terrorism. According to his thesis, Saudi Arabia despite its wealth fails "to prepare its youth for a world in which tolerance and innovation are necessary for economic growth."

Now thanks to the generosity of the Phillips Foundation, he will have $50,000 to write about it. Possibly in a year or so, the revitalized Times will publish his reportage.

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JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.

05/08/03: The only intellectual force in Western history to gain moral superiority by being wrong
05/01/03: Dinning with Tom Wolfe: More lessons in nusual aspects of American life, hitherto ignored
04/28/03: Ambuscade at scholarly frontier
04/21/03: Stars in search of a galaxy
04/10/03: Baghdad Bob and Tom Daschle
03/31/03: When the media itself becomes the story
03/20/03: Revealed! Estrada is a gifted linguist -- a Japanese-American fluent in Spanish
03/14/03: Genuinely in charge
03/10/03: Stalin and Saddam
03/05/03: They just cannot stomach a protracted alliance with the Bushies
02/25/03: Identity gridlock
02/18/03: People calling Dean a fruitcake are underestimating his political savvy
02/13/03: The new political establishment
01/30/03: The time is now
01/27/03: Witnessing self-love by people completely incapable of self-criticism
01/21/03: Of course our kiddies are depressed
01/13/03: Why is it that Official Washington still believes that a tax reduction means a revenue reduction?
01/02/03: Missing Moi
12/27/02: The grizzled and menacing-looking senator in Confederate drag is a Dem
12/24/02: Uprooting Christianity in the Holy Land
12/20/02: Under fire, Lott showed an ignobleness that is embarrassing
11/26/02: Bartley's enemies have been routed
11/14/02: Clarence Thomas and the segregationist Mississippi sheriff
11/07/02: I muffed up
10/31/02: Is the American university turning its back on change, on progress?
10/24/02: So why aren't the Dems buoyant?
10/17/02: Mourning the loss of the "yellow-belly"
10/10/02: American politics at its most ignominious
10/03/02: A man above the law, a bully
09/26/02: Is Bob Greene a victim of an anti-Clinton backlash?
09/19/02: I knew Mafiosi and
09/12/02: Chickens and poseurs
09/05/02: Sympathizing with the Europols
08/29/02: 9-11 did not change us forever
08/22/02: Public persons frivoling with serious matters
08/15/02: Beachcombing among the fat of the land
08/08/02: They pave the way for corruption, not personal responsibility
08/01/02: Believing the unbelievable
07/25/02: The congressional posse comitatus
07/18/02: Cosmopolitan Arab fashion
07/11/02: What the prez actually knows
07/04/02: The vindication of a truly original thinker
06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
06/20/02: To say that they were ordinary is not to slight them
06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
03/15/02: No role for Paul Volcker in Enron: the movie
03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
02/21/02: Mike Tyson: Made for Washington?
02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies . Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
01/24/02: Hucksters will move on to make their next marks
01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
11/15/01: America's quagmire and other certainties
11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
08/31/01: Arafat's terrorists have created their own hell
08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
08/16/01: They claim to be doing so much good
08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
07/31/01: Blinded by success?
07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The G-dphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy

© 2001, Creators Syndicate