Defending Howell Raines.

Media criticism.
May 13 2003 7:10 PM

Defending Howell Raines

He didn't catch Jayson Blair. You didn't either.

(Continued from Page 1)

I wouldn't deny anybody the joy of pillorying the Times, but don't automatically assume you'd have policed the Blair beat any better. My friend Dennis Cauchon, a national reporter for USA Today, no softie when it comes to his scorn for the Times' handling of the episode, kicks himself for not uncovering Blair's fictions. Cauchon writes via e-mail:

We covered two of the same stories: MIA Jessica Lynch in Palestine, W. Virginia, and MIA Brandon Sloan in Cleveland. I commented to USA Today colleagues that it was odd that I didn't see a New York Times reporter—I always look—at the scene and how the New York Times stories were full of inexplicable errors. In Palestine, he described the road to Lynch's house as a one-lane gravel road when it's a narrow two-lane paved road. How do you get that wrong? I wondered. And he got the name wrong: it's Mayberry, not Mulberry. How do you get that wrong when Mayberry is so much better? He described a church service in Cleveland that I attended with four other reporters. When I read his account eight days later, I thought, gee, he must have kept a very low profile because the church wasn't that big and I didn't see him. Good for him, I thought. And good for him for getting an interview with the minister father who refused to talk that day, other than receiving line chit-chat, saying it was a day of worship. The story had factual errors, including that the service happened a week earlier than the story indicated. But I chalked it up [to] ... well, nothing. I just thought it was odd.

That Blair hoodwinked Cauchon, as doubting a skeptic as you'll ever meet, proves to me how unwilling we all are to believe that a trusted reporter would lie, lie again, and lie some more.

Advertisement

The obvious parallels between the Jayson Blair caper and the spy escapades of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen should sober the gotcha patrol currently buzz-bombing Howell Raines. Accomplished liars will beat polygraphs, mislead interrogators, and hoodwink the most sophisticated security regime.So hate Raines as much as you want, and denounce the Times to your heart's content, and demand as much genuflecting from the paper's editors as you desire. Just remember the last time you were conned.

******

I read e-mail, fictional and factual, at pressbox@hotmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
Quora
Oct. 2 2014 8:27 AM How Do Teachers Kill the Joy of Reading for Students?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 2 2014 9:08 AM Demons Are Real A horror movie goes behind the scenes on an Intervention-like reality show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 2 2014 7:30 AM What Put the Man in the Moon in the Moon?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?