Washington Post was ambivalent about Jayson Blair story at first

The Washington Post

Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia writes that when he discovered New York Times reporter Jayson Blair had plagiarized from a San Antonio Express-News article, “I called the national desk at The Post and suggested we write about what appeared to be an egregious case of plagiarism.” He “didn’t relish the idea of doing a gotcha piece about another journalist. For years, I felt so conflicted about the events that took place on that reporting trip that I seldom mentioned my small, early role in what became a major scandal.”

Roig-Franzia says the Post’s first reaction was “Meh.” After he met with Macarena Hernandez, who wrote the Express-News story, he decided to try again:

I made another call, and this time my editor, Daniel LeDuc — who also felt strongly that The Post should write about the plagiarism — took printouts of the two stories directly to Leonard Downie Jr., the paper’s executive editor. Downie left no doubt: The Post should jump on it.

The Post’s media reporter, Howard Kurtz — now a Fox News host — would quickly expose Blair as one of the most brazen fabulists in the history of journalism — a serial plagiarist and falsifier. He’d written stories from his Brooklyn apartment but topped them with far-off datelines; he’d quoted people he didn’t interview and he’d lifted the work of others. A chain of events was set in motion by Kurtz’s excellent reporting that eventually climaxed in the resignations of the top two Times editors: Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd.

A documentary about Blair, “A Fragile Trust,” airs Monday night on PBS. Blair told Richard Prince last year “I probably won’t watch it for years,” a stance that has not apparently softened in intervening months, according to his Twitter account:

Related: Jayson Blair ‘probably won’t watch’ documentary about him

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  • canardnoir

    And it’s sad to see the WaPost now going the way of so many other declining newspapers, since balanced reporting is no longer a requisite for most national forms of so-called journalism.

  • canardnoir

    The so-called management of many media outlets just like for their incorrect reporting problems to quietly go away. Often running a single sentence under Corrections & Amplifications near the masthead, but more often simply overlooking the matter, of course that’s depending upon the reporter at fault.

    Then you have the cases involving a fromer member of management at a Scripps outlet that recently admitted to his own racial discrimination within their equal opportunity hiring process (and a violation of federal law, should that matter to anyone), and another privately owned rag whose editor used her press pass to circumvent a disaster checkpoint during Hurricane Katrina, so that she could “rescue” two friends and their dog.

    Plagiarism is such a minor media offense, that I’m really surprised that many remembered him. But certainly those who forgot or never paid much attention to the national media, must have later hired him, because credibility has really become such a minor ethical trait to be touted by most journalism candidates that most news outlets never even consider it…

  • buckguy

    It’s funny to think of Kurtz as an actual reporter rather than as a highly compromised hack. OTOH, this probably was a good way of stunting the career of someone he viewed as a competitor in his rise within the paper.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Thanks Stephanie. I didn’t do a good job of setting up the story for people unfamiliar with it. I’ve added some IDs to the lede. –Andrew