It’s hard to escape the incredible story of Jayson
Blair, a Brooklynite who, as a reporter for the New York Times, invented
accounts of major news events that were then passed along as fact by his
editors at the Times.
We need not give the Times a failing grade for offering a young man a
chance. But Blair long ago blew that chance, and his editors appear to
have gone out of their way to cover up the young man’s assault on
The Times moved to “get ahead of the problem” (to use public
relations vernacular), publishing a massive report in Sunday’s edition
detailing Blair’s lies. For all the specifics cited in the Times
account, however, many questions went unanswered.
While the Blair disaster is certainly, as the Times put it, “a low
point” in the 152-year history of that newspaper, it’s not necessarily
the lowest. While many still cling to the notion that the Times is America’s
“newspaper of record,” it’s long been a warped one.
Journalism critics this week reminded us of some of the Times’ historic
blunders — in the 1930s, it was telling America that Uncle Joe Stalin
was a great guy, and in the early ’40s it deliberately buried news
of the Holocaust.
I’m more concerned with the present — the superficiality of
much of the Times’ coverage, the outright bias on issues where its
editors have a special interest, the preponderance of advertiser-boosting
and focus-group satisfying fluff in much of the newspaper.
The Times has the right to do what it wants, and if people are willing
to spend a-buck-a-day on their fix — well, it’s arguably safer,
and certainly cheaper, than drugs or drink.
But the Times sets the news agenda for the American media. Nonsense that
would be enjoyable in the New York Post is potentially dangerous in the
Am I arguing that The Brooklyn Paper is more honest, more competent than
the Times? Hardly. But with their resources and reach comes a responsibility
they’ve failed to honor.
• • •
I was privileged this week to accompany Celia, my wife and The Brooklyn
Papers publisher, to the Brooklyn Leaders Award Luncheon of the Arthritis
Foundation NY Chapter, where she was the community service honoree.
Particularly in a week when the news media is under such heavy criticsm
in the wake of the Times-Blair affair, it was a delight to hear so many
nice words spoken publicly about Celia and our newspapers — by Borough
President Marty Markowitz and luncheon co-chairman Dr. Daniel Ricciardi.
I sometimes compare production of our newspaper to the assembly of a jigsaw
puzzle — so many pieces, just so much space. The work that leads
to the final step, when pages are laid out, belies its simplicity.
The Times referred to Jayson Blair as a “prolific” reporter
who filed nearly 600 stories over four years — by my count, that’s
about three stories a week, assignments aided by the Times’ vast
Look at today’s Brooklyn Paper. If you’re reading a Park Slope
or Downtown edition, you’ll find 16 stories by Patrick Gallahue;
in Bay Ridge, Deborah Kolben’s byline appears 16 times. Behind every
story, there’s Editor Neil Sloane — prodding, fine-tuning, listening.
GO Brooklyn, our entertainment section (accurately described as the “essential
guide to the Borough of Kings”) is not a clipboard of press releases
assembled on automatic pilot — it’s edited by Lisa Curtis, a
professional who vets every story idea.
Celia accepted her community service honor — on behalf of her dedicated