May 31, 2003


When O.J. Simpson was ruled not guilty of murdering his wife, the United States discovered overnight the chasm of difference in perception between blacks (who found the verdict reasonable) and whites (who found it insane).

Something similar is going on with the fabrication scandals that have rocked The New York Times this month. Elite reporters and editors are reacting to the Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg revelations with sorrow and anxiety, while the rest of us proles revel in the spectacle of a haughty institution being humbled and mocked. . . .

Almost every newspaper that views the Times as a role model, on the other hand, is a local monopoly in a less liberal city. Chances are, it will equate success with such Timesian yardsticks as Pulitzer prizes, and (in the immortal words of Rick Bragg) the ability “to go get the dateline.”

All the more reason why the Times’ horrible month will be good for journalism — if it causes papers to reconsider their newsroom values and journalistic role models, old bad habits may receive a fresh round of scrutiny.


UPDATE: Orrin Judd writes:

So as the press now becomes Ouroboros, the beast that feeds on itself, you’ll pardon us if we crack open a Pabst, open a bag of Cheez-Waffles, and enjoy the spectacle. We feel like Christians getting to watch the Romans be fed to the lions.

Well, Pabst is the hip beer, nowadays.

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