Jayson Blair (search), the former New York Times reporter who is to veracity in journalism what Janet Jackson is to good taste in half-time shows, will soon be publishing a book.
It will tell of his experiences at the Times, and explain them and analyze them and, it is believed, blame others in addition to himself for all the misdeeds. Non-fiction, supposedly.
His publisher, Michael Viner, sugggests that Blair has grown contrite in the wake of the scandal he created---so much so that he wants to give a portion of the proceeds of his book to charity. In fact, Viner says that Blair wants to establish a scholarship fund at the University of Maryland, his alma mater, for aspiring journalists.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Says Viner: “It will be up to [Blair] what the amount will be. But it will be enough for more than one scholarship. He did not want to promote [the scholarship idea] and make it a promotional device, he just wanted to do it.”
But the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism (search) at the University of Maryland, does not want him to do it.
The dean, Tom Kunkel, is quoted in the Washington Post as follows: “Obviously we’d never take such ill-gotten money; no journalism school would ever be interested in profiting from such crimes against journalism. We didn’t appreciate the suggestion, and we’ve made that position very clear to the publisher.”
Geez, Tom, lighten up, willya! A Jayson Blair journalism scholarship is a great idea. In fact, it suggests a whole new category of great ideas: celebrity atonement by endowment.
A few suggestions:
The Pete Rose (search) Scholarship: The former major league baseball player and current autograph-for-pay provider donates a percentage of the profits from his new book to Gamblers’ Anonymous. Although five will get you 10 Rose doesn’t go for the idea.
The Jerry Springer (search) Scholarship: The former king of trash TV and current king of trash TV hands over some of the money from his syndicated talk show to the college or university of his choice. It is used to encourage communications majors to produce programs about the origins of genome research, the philosophical differences between Kant and Rousseau, and Jesuitical influences on morality over the eons. Pre-op transsexuals are encouraged to apply.
The Monica Lewinsky (search) Scholarship: The former presidential paramour (and current I’m-happy-to-say-I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-she’s-doing-these-days) antes up some of the proceeds from her ill-gotten fame to establish a new sex education curriculum in the public schools. Among the lessons: When you’re in the presence of so august a personage as the president of the United States, keep your mouth shut.
The Britney Spears (search) Scholarship: The former singer and present singer-sex object endows a chair at one of New York’s prestigious institutes for the study of fashion. Among the lessons: The square footage of fabric for a teenage girl’s dress should always exceed the square footage of fabric for a bichon frise’s sweater.
The Frank Gifford (search) Scholarship: The former football player and current recipient of Kathy Lee Gifford’s largesse creates a course in marital fidelity. Among the lessons: The more famous you are, the more monogamous you should be. It might not be as much fun as promiscuity, but constancy each day keeps the tabloids away.
And finally, The O.J. Simpson (search) Community Betterment Award: The former football player and present golfer and pursuer of his wife’s real killer coughs up the money for a shelter for abused wives. For the safety of all, however, he is not allowed to attend the opening.
But all of these benefactions, not just the last, would make our communities better. They would be news, big news, good news---and if the guy who won the first annual Jayson Blair Journalism Scholarship at the University of Maryland covered the stories for the campus paper, they’d make even more fascinating reading!
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. He is the author of several books, including The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol (Temple University Press, 2003).