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

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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