It was six years ago when the reputation of The New York Times was shaken and brittled by Jayson Blair. (Is that even his real name?) Working for the NYT for four years, Blair had written over 600 articles- of which 99% were plagiarized from existing articles from the past or based on fabricated evidence. He’d write something about a video-recorded court case that didn’t exist; a student who died from a cocaine addict, when it was a heart attack. He wrote of his travels to Texas, Philly, and New Mexico to interrogate and interview feature cases when, in fact, they were mere phone conversations.
I remember the nation couldn’t stop talking about it. Six years later, although media coverages may have died down, I revisited the book recently. Being a semi journalism major back in college, I, too, had chills going through my body when my prof required us to read Seth Mnookin’s Hard News. How could anybody – I mean, anybody – deceive the world’s most renown publication?? Turns out, poor management that failed to do any employee background checks. The appalling incident forever changed the face of journalism.
Although the plot fans out into quite the predictable way (Blair gets fired, his boss resigns, and viva la NYT), Mnookin’s suspenseful analysis to get to the bottom of how they’ve slipped to catch the scoundrel makes the book very thrilling and riveting. At the time, Mnookin was assigned to interview Blair as a cover story for Newsweek. His extensive research and development of an atypical relationship with Blair led to the publication of Hard News. The 290-pg book does get a bit too long but it’s extremely fascinating to get into the psyche of Jayson Blair and try to put the pieces together as to why the hell he did what he did.
dee’s rec: 3.5/5