The spiral of one man’s credibility as a promising journalist

“I lied and I lied and I lied.”

These are the words uttered by Jayson Blair in Samantha Grant’s documentary “A Fragile Trust.The documentary documents one of the largest journalism scandals at The New York Times when Blair, a promising journalist, was discovered for plagiarism.

The documentary walked the audience through the life of Blair, from his upbringing to his success in journalism at a young age. There were many stories being told in the documentary — fabrication, a corrupt work setting, drug abuse and immense pressure from Blair’s supervisors.

The pressure only built as the story unfolded, showing Blair, who was once a favorable and aspiring young journalist, getting caught up in his own lie.

The ambitious and likable journalist started out writing stories and was successful, but things took a turn for the worse with a new boss in town, leaving Blair feeling the pressure to not only write more stories, but to also write better stories.

“What a lot of people would have been pleased with felt like stagnation to me,” Blair said, further enforcing his go-getter attitude.

Blair fell into a rut and turned to drugs and alcohol, where the separation between work and home life disappeared.

Despite all, there is still no clear-cut answer as to what the true cause of one of the biggest journalism scandals to date was. What we know for sure is Blair took advantage of his credibility and the trust of his readers and bosses, knowing that he could get away with it.

After seven Pulitzer Prize wins for The New York Times, the paper seemed unstoppable, further adding fuel to the fire when the Blair scandal was discovered.

Once the story broke, Blair’s world fell apart as he tried to recover from a drug and alcohol problem, in addition to dealing with his demonization in the media.

What was so clearly asserted in the documentary is the only thing journalists have is their trust, and when that trust is meddled with, one’s credibility is destroyed.

The fine line between sickness and gaming comes into question — where we must ask ourselves how much of a role each force played in the scandal of Jayson Blair.

Credit: A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times