Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Jayson Blair's early controversy

A former schoolmate of disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair has written a story for that says as far back as his student days, Blair was followed by controversy that would be echoed years later at the Times.

Washington, D.C., journalist Marisa Torrieri, who profiled Blair for a class after hearing how he was reviled as the former editor-in-chief of The Diamondback student paper, writes:

The newspaper staff's disgruntlement with Blair started with his tenure as editor-in-chief—they didn't want him to get it. At the University of Maryland, the paper's staff votes for their choice for editor-in-chief, and then a Media Board affiliated with the department of journalism makes the final selection. In the fall of 1996, the Diamondback staff didn't vote for Blair; they voted for another student, Dave Murray, but the board ultimately selected Blair. There were two theories for why, which neatly track the two theories for Blair's rapid advancement at the Times: Some Diamondback staffers were sure the board had been swayed by top officials in the department of journalism, many of whom Jayson had aggressively befriended, and others thought he got the job because he was black.

Soon enough, four of the editors under Blair had quit, and he replaced them with his friends.