Macarena Hernandez, the last victim of Jayson Blair’s plagiarism, defends affirmative action in hiring, and does a damn good job of it. They were interns the same summer at the New York Times. Blair was known for schmoozing with bosses; Hernandez and the other interns focused on proving they deserved the opportunity they’d been given.
Blair’s misdeeds are not, despite what the pundits say, about race, diversity or affirmative action. His story is that of a guy who disrespected his profession, cheated his readers, deceived his editors and stole from his peers. Period. Any other way of looking at it lets Jayson Blair off the hook.
I am a product of the same program that supposedly “created” him. And I resent that his crimes will now make suspects of other journalists of color. If the New York Times were sincerely committed to diversity, Blair’s editors would have chopped off his fingers at the first sign of trouble instead of helping him polish his claws.
Hernandez also reveals more details of Blair’s utter shamelessness.
Two days before Jayson resigned, I got a call. “You’ll never guess who this is,” a friendly voice said. I assumed Jayson was calling to apologize. Instead, he asked for a copy of my story, with the explanation that his editors had questions about a quote that one of Anguiano’s daughters had translated for him. It was another lie: Had he actually interviewed Anguiano, he would have known that she spoke English.
“Jayson, I have a very hard time believing that you don’t already have a copy of my story considering that your story reads exactly like mine,” I said.
“I’ve never seen your story,” he said.
In early May, when I learned that he had resigned rather than produce receipts for a Texas trip he never took, I pictured a devastated Jayson. I prayed he wasn’t all alone. Then he started talking to the media.
I haven’t heard him express a single note of regret for what he did. Instead, he is shopping his story around shamelessly. He says he wants his tale to help others “heal.” He could, he says, write “a book full of anecdotes” about racism at the Times.
That last statement is particularly galling. It’s not that there isn’t racism in the newsrooms of America. There is. But that wasn’t what brought Jayson Blair down. And what he did has reinforced racist views, prompting some to say, “Look what happens when we let them in.”
Hernandez is right on target.