Saturday, May 24, 2003

Apalachicolan Apprehensions

Not surprisingly, the atmosphere of introspection at the New York Times in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal has quickly turned into a self-consuming paranoia. Now Rick Bragg, a veteran Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner, has been suspended for not adding the name of a freelance contributor to his byline despite receiving background research from him on a story about imperiled oystermen on the Florida coast. But reporters in the field and on deadline frequently make use of research and even interviews conducted by assistants and interns back in the home office. Did Bragg’s uncredited reliance on aspiring stringer J. Wes Yoder cross the line? Perhaps – but the fact that such a minor matter is now national news is a clear sign that the public beating of the Times is far from over. Conventional wisdom has it that Executive Editor Howell Raines’s hold on the paper can’t stand another scandal, which means that borderline infractions on the paper’s ostensible code of conduct are now being treated as severe offenses, lest anyone suspect that laxity in journalistic ethics is too deeply ingrained in the Times editorial offices to be overcome. Bragg, I suspect, is merely the first of a large number of people at the Times who have none nothing seriously wrong who will hung out to dry in order to atone for the sins of Blair – and Raines.


Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Come Home, Nimrod

Finally, John Ashcroft is doing something other than secretly wiretapping Americans’ phone lines. The Attorney General has announced an international investigation into the organized theft of the antiquities from the Iraqi National Museum. The investigators are also getting help from the British Museum, which has estimated only 30-40 major pieces were missing – far less than previous news reports have led the world to believe.