Jayson Blair: Human pseudo event

Posted: May 22, 2003 12:00 AM

In a recent interview with the New York Observer, an unrepentant Jayson Blair taunted his former employer the New York Times for not catching his journalistic frauds sooner while also slamming the venerable paper as racist. Blair said, "both racial preferences and racism played a role" in the 27-year-old's brief and tumultuous career at the Times. While "there are senior managers at The New York Times who want African-American reporters to succeed ... there are hundreds of white junior managers who resent that and don't," he explained.

The disgraced journalist also said he has a collection of anecdotes chronicling various racial improprieties at the paper. Who knows if he is telling the truth? It is clear from the interview that Blair was not so concerned with corporate race-related policies than with trying to convince people he is smart: "I don't understand why I am the bumbling affirmative action hire when Stephen Glass is this brilliant whiz kid, when from my perspective - and I know I shouldn't be saying this - I fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism." Glass is the former New Republic reporter who was fired for fabricating entire stories. ".yet somehow I'm (an) affirmative action hire. They're all so smart, but I was sitting right under their noses fooling them. If they're all so brilliant and I'm such an affirmative action hire, how come they didn't catch me?"

Having finally been caught, Blair is now doing what most deposed Americans do - offering first-person confessionals on the media circuit. And if he can't quite bring himself to admit wrongdoing, he can at the very least offer a nice redemptive song about personal ambition, vanity, drugs, alcohol and the questionable racial politics at work inside the New York Times. He's already promoting the narrative: "I was under a lot of pressure. I was black at the New York Times, which is something that hurts you as much as it helps you. I certainly have health problems, which probably led to me having to kill Jayson Blair, the journalist. . So Jayson Blair the human being could live, Jayson Blair the journalist had to die."

Blair has hired an agent to tout his story of redemption all over town. A book deal is in the works. Maybe a movie will follow. It doesn't matter. Like Blair's fabricated New York Times stories, his life story is little more than a pseudo event - a desperate attempt to shock people into paying attention. One final ruse before the 27-year-old fades thankfully into obscurity.