Crucifying Jayson Blair; Exalting The Many
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have ousted the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the cameras have just about faded to black on that traumatized country. The bombing of Afghanistan to root out Osama bin Laden and his marauding band of cave-dwelling terrorists already is a distant memory. Outrage against Enron and its fellow pillars of corporate greed and deceit has dropped to little more than a lamb's bleat. And, in New York City, where the sallow national economy and the local budget crisis are pummeling the most vulnerable communities (witness massive job layoffs and transit fare hikes), and where a fear of SARS has cruelly set back Chinatown's efforts to recover from 9/11 s economic decimation, there is silence on the stories of dreams falling apart.
Except for a few swells around the discovery of Laci Peterson's body and Al Qaeda threats, the news has been looking for the next Big News.
And along comes Jayson Blair, a lone 27-year-old black New York Times reporter who snookered the royalty of American media and finally got caught.
The perfect drama. The perfect headline.
Blair's high-profile crucifixion, which began in earnest with a 10-page spread in the Sunday, May 11, editions of the Times, promises to be long and venomous, for the sins of Blair (no relation to Tony) have provided the excuse for calling into question the moral rectitude of African-Americans, the notion of fast-tracking talented young blacks and the merits of affirmative action initiatives, which, in private-sector parlance, are known as diversity.
How tenuous still is our society's acceptance of equality among the races!
African-Americans, especially those of us in the profession of journalism, owe no apologies for Jayson Blair and his inglorious deeds. Blair honed, practiced and got away with plagiarism and fiction-fit-to-print-as-truth for five years at one of the most venerable media institutions in this country. Surely this, rather than his ethnicity and diversity programs, should be the cause of all the frenetic beating of the breast.
At The Network Journal, meanwhile, 40 African-Americans all of them, like Jayson Blair, under 40 years of age are being celebrated for an array of personal and professional accomplishments. This year s Annual 40-Under-Forty Achievement Awards is TNJ's sixth public acknowledgement of all that is upright and good about our young. In our Music and Entertainment industry focus, we again turn the spotlight on young African-Americans, this time the performer-entrepreneurs who are roiling the status quo and who, basketball legend Earl The Pearl Monroe tells TNJ, are the best thing that's happened to blacks in the music and entertainment business. They are forcing the move toward black-owned distribution networks as never before. We may not always agree with the lyrics of their songs or the images they choose to portray black youth, and we certainly abhor the fact that theirs is a music that, in the words of author-editor Norman Kelley, eats its young, a reference to the violent deaths among hip hop artists. Yet, we cannot ignore the impact this hip hop generation has made at home and around the globe.
By Rosalind McLymont