Jonah Goldberg

Did this "journalistic fraud" exceed the Pulitzer-winning deception of Walter Duranty, the Times correspondent who explicitly lied about Stalin's purges and forced famines? How about correspondent Herbert Matthews, who promised the world that the rebel-leader Fidel Castro wasn't a communist, even as Castro slaughtered innocents and struck deals with the Soviets?

There's nothing wrong with admitting that this Blair fiasco is a big deal, but no one died because of anything Blair wrote. It seems the egos of a few execs are on par with the deaths of millions.

And speaking of the execs, their apologies come across as buying absolution on the cheap. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the Times' publisher, insists that this was all Blair's doing and that no one should "demonize" senior management.

OK, but can we blame them? Apparently so, because a reported backlash in the newsroom forced Sulzberger, Executive Editor Howell Raines, and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, to admit personal responsibility for the disaster in a memo to the staff the Monday after the story broke. Funny how they couldn't find room for that admission in the original 7,000 word apologia.

There's really so much more. Time and again the newspaper insists that Blair's race had nothing to do with this fiasco, angrily denying even the suggestion that diversity might come at the price of quality.

But when Raines addressed the National Association of Black Journalists in 2001, he specifically bragged about Blair's blackness, adding, "This campaign (for diversity) has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse." So excellence does take a back seat to diversity at the Times.

The Times is caught in a catch-22. As Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute explains, by "denying that the Blair fiasco hinges on race, the Times has left itself open to a far more serious charge: that winking at journalistic blunders is standard Times practice."

In other words, if Blair wasn't cut slack for being black, such slackness is standard policy. Numerous Times' veterans say in the past even a few minor errors would have cost a young reporter his job.

Actually, I doubt that this is entirely about race. Cynthia Cotts of The Village Voice and others suggest that Raines has hired a new generation of sycophantic youngsters who cut corners and kiss-up.

It's certainly true that white reporters have committed similar frauds. But by refusing to cover the Blair story with even an ounce of an open mind to the race angle, the Times perpetuates its reputation for allowing political agendas to drive its coverage - even coverage of itself. Alas, we'll have to leave it there, with so many more aisles of goodies to go.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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