New York Times Controversy

What is the race component of the Jayson Blair story?

He is the young reporter at The New York Times who made things up. Sometimes it sounds like he spent his three years at the newspaper making everything up — making up people, making up quotes, making up where he was when he wrote the story... plus lifting parts of other people's stories to make up for the parts he couldn't simply make up.

Blair is black. Does that mean all black reporters make things up? No. A thousand times no. Not even a chance.

But the race component of the Blair story is there, and it is present in the form of what his bosses didn't do. His bosses didn't dump him when there was plenty of evidence that they should have.

Maybe they hesitated because he's black, and because they desperately wanted to have a young and black star reporter. In that sense, they may have been willing to let Blair slide where others would have been given the bounce.

Is it bad to want to help young reporters, white or black? No.

Is it bad to want to help a young reporter who is black, to want to help a group of people who have systematically been kept out in the past because of their race? No, it's not bad.

But that desire shouldn't go so far as to overlook bad things. Blair's bosses should not have been so invested in him because of his race. That'd be true in any other situation, black or white.

Bob Herbert at The New York Times is worried the Blair story is smudging the reputation of black reporters. It's not. It has thoroughly stained the reputation of the black reporter's white bosses, who let it all happen.

That's My Word.

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