The other emblematic embarrassment of the Times in the Raines era was the paper's blustering, super-biased crusade against the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters golf tournament, for not having female members. So it didn't take long for anyone following the Blair fiasco to suspect that Sulzberger, Raines and Boyd -- the Identity-Politics Police -- let the scandal deepen to give a celebrated minority staffer a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh chance.
National Public Radio's Melissa Block ended an interview with Raines by producing a fascinating quote from Raines speaking before the 2001 convention of the National Association of Black Journalists: "You specifically mentioned Jayson Blair as an example of the Times spotting and hiring the best and brightest reporters on their way up. You said, "This campaign has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse.'" He clearly left the impression that quotas came before quality.
Reporters usually love pouncing on a question that a cornered source won't answer. Raines sidestepped this final question on NPR. Raines sidestepped this (also final) question on PBS's "NewsHour," too. It still needs an answer.
No one should buy the NABJ press release's assumption that conservatives think this calls into question the general reliability of black journalists. No one outside David Duke's loony orbit believes that. Obviously, hundreds of other black journalists could have done a better job for Raines than Blair did.
But it's clear that Blair's meteoric rise -- a young man who didn't even graduate from the University of Maryland, who went from humble internships to the national desk in four years -- was not following the average career trajectory of an American reporter. Many journalists work their whole lives dreaming of someday joining the New York Times. It's time to ask whether Blair would have ever been promoted into the position where he caused maximum damage if race wasn't a factor in his career.
Another real diversity problem remains unaddressed by the Times: the utter lack of conservative reporters. It hasn't changed since John Corry recalled in his book My Times that he knew of only one other Reagan voter in the entire Times newsroom. That's a diversity the Times will probably never embrace. Who cares if the Times newsroom "looks like America" if they all think like Howell Raines?
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