Inside Move: Blair Witch hunt

Journos devour their own in eager scrutiny

The legacy of Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who fabricated and plagiarized a slew of stories, has left in his wake a climate of mistrust within the nation’s newsrooms.

The latest incident is the murky case of Jack Kelley, a foreign correspondent for USA Today and Pulitzer finalist in 2002.

Kelley resigned Jan. 6 after a seven-month internal investigation, sparked by an anonymous note to his editors into the validity of his stories.

While it’s not clear what (if any) journalistic improprieties he committed, Kelley’s downfall came when his bosses learned he had convinced a woman to pose as a translator to corroborate a story he filed in 1999.

USA Today went to great lengths to investigate the alleged improprieties, even hiring a private security firm and expert audio analyses.

The episode is a sad commentary on how journalism has turned on itself, cannibalizing its own. But it’s hardly isolated.

On Jan. 11, the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy investigation into Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford.

The crimes unearthed in the nearly 7,000-word expose?

Doozies like Deford once wrote, “You never hear about (cheating) in sports such as golf and tennis,” when in fact the topic has been broached before.

In March, Blair himself publishes “Burning Down My Master’s House,” his account of working at the New York Times. The book will likely be shouted down by the new press police as opportunistic, but within it is actually a poignant story of a young man who couldn’t stand up to the emotional strains of his job.

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