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Blair Which?

Various excuses our psychiatrist says are OK

By Richard von Busack

"I worked for newspapers at a time when I was not competent to do so. I reported inaccurately. ... I failed to get all the facts. I misspelled names. I garbled figures. I pretended to know things I did not know. ... I suppressed news the management wanted suppressed. I invented news the management wanted invented. I faked stories. ... I put private jokes in the paper. I wrote headlines containing double entendres. I wrote stories while drunk. I abused copy boys. I curried favor with advertisers. I accepted gifts from interested parties. ... I took copy pencils home."
--Donald Barthelme, 'Brain Damage,' from the collection 'City Life' (Bantam, 1970)

WHAT ELEPHANT in the room? Oh, that elephant in the room? It's not named "Jumbo," it's called "Journalistic Integrity!" It was bad enough when reporter Jules Crittenden of the Boston Herald helped call in the position of three Iraqi soldiers for the unit he was embedded in, thus resulting in their deaths. Supposedly there's a coarse journalistic law: "You can go to the circus, but you can't screw the elephant." The lesson of Crittenden's brand of activist journalism: You can't screw the elephant, but you can shoot him.

And now the Jayson Blair scandal, the last straw. Two New York Times editors' heads rolling into the street, interfering with traffic, and, at last, the good-looking Jayson Blair interviewed on TV blaming the following list of stressors:

1. Substance abuse
2. Too much pressure from professors
3. Too much pressure from editors
4. The race card
5. A high pollen count
6. Morality-inhibiting antihistamines
7. Not really wanting to be a newspaper reporter in the first place
8. Wanting to go to Tahiti to paint
9. Wanting to join the circus
10. Longing to screw an elephant
11. Insufficient management guidance
12. Waxy yellow buildup on kitchen linoleum, requiring nights of scrubbing
13. Loss of moral compass
14. Loss of frequent-flyer card, requiring staying put and cooking up facts
15. Working for a newspaper that fell for Wolfowitz's "Weapons of Mass Destruction" gag
16. Working for a paper that followed up this gullibility by saying on the editorial page: Saddam shot his own people, that's good enough for us!
17. Working for a paper that calls itself "The Paper of Record"
18. Working for a paper with an insufficient supply of funny pages
19. Working for a paper that doesn't carry the "Jumble"
20. Growing up in a climate that encourages deception via cultural lessons from Bugs Bunny

Meanwhile, Biter would like to apologize for the following errors in Metro: Richard von Busack did not fly in a spacecraft, beat up George W. Bush Sr., win a Grammy or perform a human cannonball act at Lolapalooza. These were all events he saw Homer Simpson perform on TV, and he fabricated quotes and dates to make it seem that he had performed these feats himself. To clarify, Richard von Busack's grandmother's name was Simpson, and he believed that this entitled him to these misstatements. We regret these and all future errors.

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From the June 12-18, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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