Problems at the Times

PROBLEMS AT THE TIMES….I’d like to make my point from the post below ultra clear. Here’s a list of possible factors that contributed to the Jayson Blair scandal:

  1. Due to the Times’ diversity program, Blair was pushed into a highly demanding position sooner than he should have been.

  2. The Times’ personnel department didn’t bother to check with the University of Maryland to see if he had actually graduated.

  3. Not enough attention was paid to the concerns of Blair’s immediate supervisor.

  4. The Times has a culture where “sloppy but energetic” is considered promising.

  5. Supervisors at the Times never bother looking at their reporters’ expense accounts, which would have given Blair’s game away immediately.

Now do your best to put away both your liberal and conservative prejudices, and ask yourself a simple question: what changes are most likely to prevent a dedicated and clever fraud like Blair from scamming the Times in the future?

Lots of newspapers hire young reporters ? many of them black ? and promote them quickly. In the end, some of these prodigies don’t make the grade, but virtually none of them turn out to be liars and plagiarizers. So reason #1 doesn’t look like a winner. Hiring fewer young reporters probably wouldn’t fix the Times’ problem.

On the other hand, reasons #2 – #5 all look like great candidates for further consideration. Routine things like checking school records and expense reports are proven methods for catching cheats, and cultural changes that emphasize honesty and accuracy are proven winners too.

So out of those five reasons ? and there may be others I’ve missed ? why would you choose to insist that only the one that’s least likely to have permitted this problem to escape notice is also the only one that lots of attention should be paid to?

I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

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