In a completely snide little gem of an article, Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald asks the question: If race matters in the Jayson Blair case, how come it doesn’t matter in the Jack Kelley case?
Pitts tells us that “when a white person screws up, it ignites a debate on the screw up. When a black person screws up, it ignites a debate on race.” He compares Jack Kelley, a Pulitzer Prize finalist from USA Today, to Jayson Blair, and concludes that any talk about Blair’s race must be simple ol’ racism.
Well, here’s some debate from one of us blue-eyed devils.
Kelley was a journalist with a 20+ year career, no evident resume fraud, and 13 years with a top (well, if you can call USA Today top) newspaper. It sure wasn’t a top paper when he joined it. Up until very recently, there was no evidence of fraud or plagiarism in Kelley’s stories, people didn’t cover up for a long string of screwups, and he wasn’t promoted to be a star reporter within a couple years of joining the paper. He worked his way up, slogged along, and from published accounts apparently didn’t start faking things until he was well established. The earliest date that his fabrication has been established that I can find is 1997 – about 15 years into his career.
In contrast, Blair lied about having graduated the University of Maryland, got his entre into the NY Times on the basis of race, and was promoted and protected because of his race. His editors have admitted as much. He had a long string of errors that the paper tried to cover up. Then, when he was caught, wrote a book called “Burning Down my Master’s House“, which is about as explicit an invocation of race as I can imagine.
So there, Mr. Pitts. That’s why race matters in the Jayson Blair scandal, but it’s irrelevant in the Jack Kelley scandal. And here’s a little question of my own.
Why is it that race should matter in college admissions, job applications, and choice of friends and associates when there is something to be gained – yet at the same time why are we supposed to turn a blind eye to race when things go pear-shaped?