March 7, 2004
Burning Down The New York Times
The strangest book review appears in The Washington Post for Jayson Blair’s new book, Burning Down My Master’s House. Maybe one-fourth of it actually reviews the book, half of it is nanny-nanny-boo-boo WaPo vs. NYT one-upsmanship, and another fourth is a pretty unenlightening psychoanalysis of Jayson Blair.
The review starts with a shot of bitter scorn at the NYT — “Newspapers and television stations across the nation follow its lead,” the author writes. “This state of affairs, in a nation that sees itself as the capital of free markets, is appalling, but it is the reality of the news business.” Later in that paragraph, the author says, “We shouldn’t dismiss [Blair’s] allegations just because the people currently running The New York Times tell us to (as they recently did in a news article on their own pages).” Their own pages!!
The very next sentence pats the WaPo on the back for breaking the Jayson Blair story. And I mean, that clearly had to come at some point in this story, but it seems like a bit of a cheap shot right here. The rest of the review is spent making the case on the one hand for trusting Jayson Blair’s words whenever he casts the NYT in the worst possible light, and on the other hand for not trusting Jayson Blair’s words at all when it comes to his account of his feelings and motivations.
Maybe the weirdest part is that this book review has gotten probably the most play any review ever will on the WaPo website. I understand there’s a rivalry here, but is it supposed to be this obvious?