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End the Blair witch hunt. (Publisher's Page).

Once again, it's open season on affirmative action. The latest round of rhetoric has been sparked by the actions of Jayson Blair, 27-year-old black journalist caught committing journalistic fraud at The New York Times. As a result, the paper's two top editors--Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, the first African American to serve in that position at what is considered the world's most influential newspaper--stepped down from their posts. Now, affirmative action opponents are painting Blair as the poster boy of diversity programs run amok and, in the process, unjustly tainting the reputations of minority journalists in media outlets nationwide--possibly throughout the globe. Their comments have been damaging, divisive, and quite frankly, ludicrous.

First let me state that Blair's actions are inexcusable. Top journalistic institutions were hoodwinked by a charismatic con artist who just happened to be black. At the foundation of his deceptions were "golden boy" credentials--including graduating from a top journalism program at the University of Maryland and coveted internships at The Boston Globe--which had far more to do with management glossing over his "mistakes" than the color of his skin. As a result, Blair violated the public trust. Reporters, columnists, and editors must uphold the highest standards of professional and ethical behavior, the most fundamental of which is to report the truth. The fact that falsified, erroneous reports made it into the pages of the Times demonstrates a flawed editorial process and a severe lapse in judgment from management.

Blair, however, in no way represents the thousands of minority journalists who work diligently day and night, exercising the highest editorial standards. To imply otherwise amounts to an anti-diversity witch hunt. Many black journalists have put their lives on the line to inform the public of local, national, and international events. Having employed a number of these journalists as freelancers for BLACK ENTERPRISE, I can say that they have made immeasurable contributions. To place all minority journalists under a professional microscope because of the actions of a lone, admittedly disturbed young man is outrageously unfair. Was the legitimacy of all white journalists questioned when Stephen Glass, formerly of the New Republic, or former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, produced fabricated material? The answer is no. In fact, Barnicle was rewarded with a New York Daily News column and a daily radio show on Boston's WTKK-FM. Glass' exploits are slated to be the subject of a feature film next year.

A major casualty of this fiasco is the loss of a fine editor in the upper ranks at the Times. Boyd spent more than a quarter century building a solid reputation as a top-notch journalist, covering the White House and playing a pivotal role in running the newspaper. After becoming the paper's managing editor in 2001, he did much to expand its coverage and to bring diversity to its pages. It took more than 150 years for an African American to reach one of the pinnacles of newspaper journalism. If the industry embraces the anti-diversity hyperbole, it may be another century and a half before a minority occupies such a position again.

The Blair debacle demonstrates the need for unflinching oversight of the editorial process and a rock-solid commitment to journalistic standards. If it is used as another dagger in the heart of diversity, however, it mortally wounds all of American media--which requires a balanced and accurate reflection of all of society's cultures and communities--and thus, the nation as a whole. Let's end the Blair witch hunt.
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Title Annotation:Jayson Blair
Author:Graves, Earl G., Sr.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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