Those who worked their way through the four-page recitation of what Jayson Blair did came only, toward the end of the story, to the question that immediately came instantly to the inquirer's mind. It was: Did he get away with it because he is an African-American? Answer: We don't really know.
And the reason we do not is that Mr. Blair is a polished con man. Anyone born Jason who became Jayson entered the world with a little swagger. Any suggestion that affirmative action was responsible for his appointment goes instantly away. A blind reading of his dispatches would see nothing in them to suggest the amateur, let alone an incompetent. He wrote fluently and with an eye for detail, even when it proved that the detail was fiction of his own imagination. Indeed, the filigree established him as especially resourceful, even as the counterfeiter might be so judged who contributes by special ingenuity to the imposture he is engaged in. If every black 25-year-old applying for a reporter's commission had equivalent talent, the Times would have more than its current 5 percent representation of black Americans on the staff.
But the season for inspecting the policies of the Times is open, and there are other complaints that have surfaced. One, done in the closed meeting of Wednesday, complained of the autocratic executive style of Mr. Raines. But management styles don't get passed upon by the Federal Drug Administration, and whatever Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. thinks about Howell Raines is, quite simply, the last stop, like the Supreme Court's ruling on the Florida election. There are those who believe that a blood sacrifice is in order, much as everyone called on Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston to give up his post, not because he was implicated in the priestly scandal, but because he was in charge when it happened.
That indictment, if correct, is affirmative action athwart journalistic realism, with no Jayson Blairs on the scene, just stolid fem-movement entrepreneurs who will perhaps never be fully satisfied until a woman wins the National Heavyweight Championship.
Well, let it be. The Times will easily survive Jayson Blair, and its devotees will survive whatever neglect there is of all-male soccer.