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Posted: 5/8/2003 12:48:28 AM EDT
[url]http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27658-2003May7.html[/url]
By Howard Kurtz Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, May 8, 2003; Page C01 Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who resigned last week after plagiarizing a story about a woman whose son died in Iraq, never talked to two other soldiers' parents he quoted in separate articles, the parents said in interviews this week. The Rev. Tandy Sloan, an associate minister at a Cleveland church whose son was killed in Iraq, said he did not meet or speak to Blair, despite the fact that the reporter published his comments and described him at a church service. "The article he wrote was totally erroneous," Sloan said. "He hadn't talked to me. He fabricated the whole story, is basically what he did." Gregory Lynch, the father of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the former POW who was rescued by U.S. forces, said Blair "was never at my house and never spoke to me." Blair had begun a story in March -- datelined Palestine, W.Va. -- by writing that Lynch "choked up as he stood on his porch here overlooking the tobacco fields and cattle pastures, and declared that he remained optimistic." No tobacco fields or cows can be seen from the house, Lynch said, only a couple of chickens. An attorney in the Washington sniper case quoted by Blair also said he never spoke to the reporter. And Pete Mahoney, associate athletic director at Kent State University, said a quote that Blair attributed to him in December was "very embarrassing," and although the reporter had left a message for him, "I never had a chance to talk to him." These accounts indicate that the story that prompted Blair's resignation, far from being an isolated incident, was part of a pattern in which the 27-year-old reporter repeatedly fabricated material for Times stories. Times Executive Editor Howell Raines said yesterday that it was "a maddening situation when you have someone who violates professional ethics. It's really stricken all of us." He said he has five reporters and three editors investigating Blair's stories over the past four years, which included 50 corrections, by reinterviewing sources and examining travel and phone records. Raines said he has "serious doubts -- and that's an understatement" that Blair visited some of the cities he claimed to be writing from. "I wish we had caught it earlier, but we didn't," Raines said. "Frankly, no newspaper in the world is set up to monitor for cheats and fabricators." Jonathan Landman, the paper's metropolitan editor, said Blair was hired as part of an intermediate reporter program in 1999, after a summer internship the year before, and that the paper had been aware of his substandard record. An editor at the Boston Globe, where Blair had previously interned, told the Times that Blair's work had been good but that he had "very sharp elbows and was not liked by the other interns," Raines said. At the Times, he said, Blair "became a very popular and well-liked figure among his peers." From 1998 to 2000, Raines said, Blair's annual correction rate ranged from 5 to 6.3 percent -- high enough to bring explicit warnings that he had to improve. Blair graduated from the apprentice program in 2001. Still, Landman said, he wrote Blair an "unusually long, unusually detailed" letter early last year that "gave a great deal of attention to his corrections and his erratic behavior -- not showing up, being unreachable." Landman said he also told Blair in a letter one year ago that, "in essence, your job is to learn to do things right. The idea was to slow him down and make him focus on accuracy," even if he wrote only one brief story a week. But there were more problems. Blair's correction rate shot up to 16 percent in an eight-month period beginning shortly before Sept. 11, 2001, when Blair lost a relative in the attack on the Pentagon. Raines said he entered the employee assistance program for several weeks. In April 2002, Raines said, Blair was told by letter that he was in "an employment-threatening situation." But eventually "there was a great deal of improvement," Landman said, and Blair's correction rate over the past eight months declined to 1.9 percent. "What we didn't know was that he was developing another problem we didn't know about, a problem of plagiarism and deception," Raines said. Blair quit over his April 26 profile of Juanita Anguiano of Los Fresnos, Tex., the mother of a missing soldier who later died in Iraq. Blair had lifted quotes and details about her home from the San Antonio Express-News, and Anguiano later told Times editors that she had never spoken to Blair. In the Cleveland case, Blair appeared to lift substantial material from a story by Washington Post reporter Tamara Jones. In a March 29 report, Jones described the Historic Greater Friendship Baptist Church as being unusually "packed" for a Wednesday night, its worshipers including "genteel ladies pressed hat brim to hat brim," "a tattooed biker in studded leather and chains," "a police dispatcher in uniform," "a soldier in battle dress uniform" and a man "in an elegant gray suit and tie."
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Link Posted: 5/8/2003 12:48:59 AM EDT
Blair's April 7 story, under a Cleveland dateline, described the "Historical" Greater Friendship Baptist Church this way: "The church was packed, something congregants say is unusual for any weekday night. Women in ornate hats were surrounded by police officers and soldiers, bikers and elegant men in suits and ties." In The Post, Jones quoted Sloan as saying from the pulpit that "we still have hope, hope hasn't gone anywhere." He said of his son, Brandon, who was then missing in Iraq, "I'm all right. Brandon is all right. But the question is, but the question is -- are you all right?" In an interview in his home, Sloan told Jones that "the natural inclination is toward resentment, bitterness, even hatred." In Blair's Times piece, Sloan was quoted as saying: "We still have hope. Hope hasn't gone anywhere." And: "I'm all right. Brandon is all right. But the question is, are you all right?" And: "The natural inclination is toward resentment, bitterness, even hatred." Blair also appeared to lift a passage from the previous day's New York Daily News, which quoted Sloan as saying of his son: "His thinking to join the Army was altruistic in a sense that he was bettering his own self while serving his country." Blair's piece contains the identical quote. Blair further quoted Sloan as saying he was in a "holding pattern" -- a comment that appeared March 26 in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Sloan said this week that he "would have remembered" meeting Blair, who he said mistakenly described him as the church's pastor. The minister was particularly upset with a passage in which Blair wrote that "he stared at his Bible. But he was not reading its verses; he was gazing at a photograph inside, of his son at graduation from basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C." Sloan said there was no such photo in the Bible. Blair "portrayed me as being angry, totally distraught. Crying in my Bible, zoned out." He called it "a terrible, terrible" story. The Times ran a brief correction three days later, saying the suburb where Sloan lived was Bedford Heights, not Bedford Hills. Jones said that although she didn't like being "ripped off . . . what's really upsetting to me is that to disrespect and misrepresent these families at this time in their lives is really sickening." In the West Virginia story, Blair described Gregory Lynch as appearing "distracted" on his porch, and his wife with "red and watery" eyes. Lynch said he is convinced that the reporter was never in Palestine. He told Jones this week that the family kept careful track of journalists who called for interviews or showed up at the house and that "I went back and checked my paperwork and his name wasn't there." Lynch said he is angry about Blair's reporting. "I knew it was all bogus," he said. Blair's work on the Washington sniper case also has been widely criticized, and Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan yesterday described his reporting as "way off base." After a Dec. 22 article, attributed to unnamed "investigators," that detailed alleged evidence against teenage sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, Horan said he "called a press conference just to try to slow down the local media that were picking up that thing and running with it." Horan said he didn't know whether Blair was being misled by sources or "making some guesses," but that "60 percent of the stuff he was saying in that article was absolutely wrong." In a March 3 piece, Blair reported that Malvo had made a "videotaped confession." Horan said there is no such videotape. Raines said his national editor contacted Horan after the news conference, but the prosecutor would not detail what was wrong with Blair's story for fear of damaging the case against Malvo. "That's not to make an excuse," Raines said, but the resulting "gridlock" made it impossible to run a correction. On April 29, Blair quoted one of Malvo's attorneys, Michael Arif, as saying the defense team had not been given any information about a pending ruling. "I did not speak to him. I didn't see him," Arif said. On the day of the hearing, "Jayson Blair was not there." In fact, Arif said, he didn't know what Blair looked like until The Washington Post published his picture last week. Blair, a former editor of the University of Maryland's student paper and a freelance reporter for The Post in 1996 and 1997, boasted to the City Paper about his scoops last fall. "The Post got beat in their own backyard, and I can understand why they would have sore feelings," he said. The City Paper has apologized to The Post for what it calls its "dreadful judgment" in assessing the sniper coverage. Blair, who has bragged of being one of the youngest reporters hired by the Times, has expressed regret in a letter to the paper and said he is seeking counseling for "recurring personal problems." Landman, the metro editor, said that watching Blair self-destruct has been "brutal," and he wondered whether he should have held him back for more remedial work. "Can I go so far as to say that he wouldn't have done something horrible? Of course not." In his final letter to Blair in January, Landman wrote: "We'll be watching, cheering and biting our fingernails in the grandstand. We're rooting for you."
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How many more of these are out there-and how do we catch them?
Link Posted: 5/8/2003 4:21:01 AM EDT
Times Executive Editor Howell Raines said yesterday that it was "a maddening situation when you have someone who violates professional ethics
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I get mad every time I read the TIMES.
Link Posted: 5/8/2003 2:58:13 PM EDT
Again? Didn't they fire someone about six months ago for the same type of thing? The editor admitted that they basically don't do any fact checking before printing, and promised that would change.z
Link Posted: 5/8/2003 3:41:30 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/8/2003 3:42:23 PM EDT by NE223]
Times Executive Editor Howell Raines said yesterday that it was "a maddening situation when you have someone who violates professional ethics. It's really stricken all of us." He said he has [b]five reporters and three editors investigating Blair's stories over the past four years, which included 50 corrections, by reinterviewing sources and examining travel and phone records.[/b]
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A little late for this stuff now. This guy's name needs to be sent to every newspaper, news bureau, radio and tv station in the country. There is no way this POS should ever work in journalism again.
Link Posted: 5/8/2003 5:55:01 PM EDT
Aren't all of the Times' stories made up? As far as I can tell, they never have any connection to reality. [url]http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/610rshcr.asp[/url]
Link Posted: 5/8/2003 6:03:16 PM EDT
Originally Posted By ckapsl: Aren't all of the Times' stories made up? As far as I can tell, they never have any connection to reality. [url]http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/610rshcr.asp[/url]
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...or said another way...A major news media firm lieing? Well, shuh!
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