The NYT story itself makes out a prima facie case of editorial negligence against Raines. a) He allowed a reporter with a highly shaky record be assigned to a major national story (the sniper case); b) He didn’t tell the relevant editor (in this case national editor Jim Roberts) about the reporter’s shaky record– because, Raines says, he didn’t want to “stigmatize” the reporter for having sought “help”! c) He didn’t ask questions when this shaky reporter suddenly came up with a big scoop that none of the dozens of other reporters on the case had come up with.
I don’t really have a problem with this. The Blair incident is far more an indictment of Raines’ management of the Times than it is of the fact that Raines got suckered by a black reporter.
What’s more, it seems like this is the perfect approach for people like Kaus and Andrew Sullivan, who hate Howell Raines to begin with. Just think: (a) it’s probably the right angle ? always a plus, (b) it promises to deliver loads of snarky comments from pissed-off Times staffers over the next few weeks, and (c) it’s a perfect club to bash Raines with. What more could they ask for?
UPDATE: By the way, it strikes me that there’s another affirmative action angle to this story: in 1992 the Times promoted a young, untried deputy publisher into its demanding top position as part of its affirmative action program for people named Sulzberger. It’s funny, though, that kind of affirmative action never seems to get much attention….