May 20, 2003
Diversity of Opinion

Here are all of the editorial columns that the Seattle newspapers have published on the Jayson Blair scandal. (both papers always print headshots of the columnists next to their columns).

Seattle Times May 18 Lynne Varner wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race:
In the aftermath of the Blair incident, no manager should be ashamed or afraid of working to create a diverse newsroom. Blair is an example of nothing more than how dramatically a soaring bird can crash and burn.
Seattle Times May 18 Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race:
Times editors say they initially brought Blair into the newsroom because they were wowed by him. They offered him a slot in an internship program that was being used to help the paper diversify its newsroom. He rose swiftly from there.

It is upon this slim reed that critics have perched claims that diversity has hurt The New York Times. The charge is otherwise unsupported.

Seattle Times May 20. William Raspberry wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race
Was Jayson Blair hired and were the negative signals about him ignored because he is black? I don't know... What I do know is that scores of people, black, white, Asian and Hispanic, have come and gone over the years I've been at the Post and that not all have gone willingly.

Blair, by all accounts, was a first-rate schmoozer, and I don't doubt that it helped keep him afloat. It wouldn't be necessary to say any of this if the miscreant were white.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 20 Bob Herbert wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race:
Listen up: The race issue in this case is as bogus as some of Jayson Blair's reporting.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 14 Robert L. Jamieson Jr. wrote that the Blair scandal did have something to do with Blair's race -- but only in the sense that Tacoma police chief David Brame's murder-suicide crime also had something to do with the police chief's white race :
Brame and Blair are two sides of the same coin -- both anointed, for different reasons, by institutions of white male privilege.

Meanwhile, Howell Raines of the New York Times has admitted that race did play a role in his inadequate supervision of Blair:
"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

The Seattle Times did also publish John Leo's recent column under the headline "Quest for diversity undermines NY Times"

Note to Seattle editors: "diversity" in the newsroom means more than just publishing op-eds from five different black columnists who all give similar (mis-)interpretations of events, even if you also include one token white guy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at May 20, 2003 05:11 PM

For black editorialist it's time to circle the wagons - facts be damned.

Posted by: Just one Voice on May 20, 2003 09:50 PM

You mean that other than Raspberry - who clearly wrote that he didn't know if race was a factor or not - and other than Jamieson Jr. - who wrote "The Times, which has so few young, male, African American stars, wasn't about to let this one crash and burn" - all five gave similar interpretations of events?

Since you (rightly) criticize Scheer so much for loosely (mis)interpreting quotes to shoehorn them into his thesis, it would be nice if you avoided committing the same mistake yourself.

By the way, Raines quote is next-to-meaningless; it's an after-the-fact statement that's been tainted by his reading dozens of people arguing that affirmative action, rather than incompetant management, is to blame. That tells us something about Raines' opinion, which is interesting; but to call it a "fact," as Just One Voice does, is playing loose with the truth.

Posted by: Ampersand on May 22, 2003 04:19 AM

Ampersand -- I interpret Raspberry's "I don't know" to be rhetorical, because he answered his own question with counter-examples and then closes with an ironic "it's because of affirmative action".

And my interpretation that Jamieson deliberately knocked the wind out of the race issue by saying that the Tacoma police chief incident was also about race, of which there is no evidence.

You might disagree with my interpretation of the above columns, but at least I link directly to the sources so you can make up your own mind.

As I've tried to argue before, it wasn't Blair's race as such that caused the scandal, but the way that his management dealt with race; I also think incompetent management, exacerbated by Sulzberger family nepotism also contributed.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on May 22, 2003 12:01 PM
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