Black Sunday

In this business, it’s hard enough to establish and maintain any significant degree of credibility. So the last thing we needed was for a venerable paper like The New York Times to run a 7,500-word story in its Sunday edition admitting that one of its reporters “committed acts of journalistic fraud” by plagiarizing other papers, making up quotes and even lying about his forays into the field.

The Times’ story said there were problems with at least 36 of reporter Jayson Blair’s 73 stories from last October to May. This raises two questions: Where were the editors and how in the world did Blair keep his job?

On Sunday evening, Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes interviewed Stephen Glass, a self-proclaimed pathological liar who during the 1990s made up events, characters, organizations and even government agencies in stories he penned for the New Republic, Harpers and Rolling Stone.

The public already has a suspicion of the media, and these high-profile cases only fuel the distrust. But consider: It was the media blowing the whistle here, as it must do. This week’s News & Review points out in its letters section, as is our responsibility, a couple of untruths carried on these pages last week. While these errors were the results of mistakes—or maybe laziness—they were still just that—honest blunders. They were not lies intended to deceive or to reflect well upon their writers.

As long as there are humans reporting and writing words in a newspaper, there will be mistakes and they must be acknowledged when committed. Purposeful deceit, on the other hand, is a much more serious matter; one for which the press itself must remain ever vigilant.