May 25, 2003

GLORIOUS HOWELL

Morag Fraser praises Howell Raines for giving ďa straight account of why he had favoured Jayson BlairĒ and asks why we all canít be so decent in admitting our errors:

The NY Times case is instructive. Executive editor Howell Raines had to front a meeting of the journalists, some 375 or so of them who make up the editorial staff of what is now the most famous newspaper in the world. He had to explain how one of their colleagues, 27-year-old reporter Jayson Blair, could have got away with journalism's equivalent of fraud and professional treason - fabricating stories, quotations, sources and falsifying datelines over a four-year period ...

The reason? A failure of communication? Yes, admitted Howell Raines. Haughty, perhaps even arrogant management style? A possibility, and something to be addressed. Over-eagerness to give a young black journalist a chance in the first place and too many second chances? Yes.

It was a huge blow to the reputation of the 152-year-old newspaper. But the blow was taken on the front. Howell Raines gave a straight account of why he had favoured Jayson Blair. Agree or disagree, you could at least comprehend what he was about. You could also understand, from what he said, just how complex and historically fraught race relations in the US still are.

But the NYT (and Raines) at first denied that race was an issue; a meeting with staff was arranged partly because staff were unhappy that Raines hadnít been sufficiently direct or clear on the Blair debacle. Fraser is spinning spin.

UPDATE. The Bunyip has more on the Mogog woman.

Posted by Tim Blair at May 25, 2003 03:55 PM
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