Can Blair say the devil made him do it?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I woke up Saturday and discovered that I had a flat tire. While sitting in the waiting room of the company that was replacing the tire, I picked up a newspaper that had two columnists’ opinions – one white and one black – about the actions of Jayson Blair.

Blair is a 27-year-old black reporter who worked at the New York Times for four years, falsifying and plagiarizing news reports. The black columnist pointed out that Blair blames what he did on racism but pointed out that he failed to say or name what form of racism he was talking about. This columnist also said that most black reporters have experienced some form of racism during their employment, but it was nothing unusual that should have merited this kind of behavior.

The columnist also said that Blair is thinking about writing a book about what he did and hopes to earn big dollars in showing how clever he was in fooling his editors for so long.

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This is one book that I hope and pray will never sell or won’t bring much profit.

I would think that Blair made a big step in just being hired by the New York Times and was too lazy to do the job that he was hired to do. Being lazy was the major accusation that blacks were accused of during the time of segregation. I also thought all of my life during the ’60s and ’70s when we blacks were fighting for equal rights that things were better in the North than in the South. And things could get much better if we would put the words racism and hatred behind us because these things are not entirely one-sided.

On May 17, it was reported on Channel 13 News that a white family, the Wzoreks, which included a mother and her three children, lived in a predominantly black neighborhood in Newport News. They were taunted by blacks that sprayed graffiti including profanity on the house to force them to move and the mother was scared to let her small children go outside to play.

But things have improved tremendously in the field for blacks, especially in the field of television- journalism. My hat is off to all three major television channels for the non-biased way that they have employed blacks on their news staff. Those stations and blacks employed there are as follows:

Channel 3 WTKR News – Lisa Godley, Kurt Williams, Barbara Ciara and Tom Randles.

Channel 10 WAVY News – Ava Hurdle, Shannon Powell, Don Roberts, Rona Williams, and Kay Young.

Channel 13 WVEC News – Janet Roach, LaSalle Blanks, Carlton Houston, Regina Mobley, and Bonita Harris.

These reporters seem to be happy in what they are doing and I have attended programs where Kurt Williams, Barbara Ciara, Ava Hurdle and Don Roberts have spoken and they have all give positive points about their jobs and what they do.

Lorita Mayo, now the principal at Southwestern Elementary School, sent me a couple of invitations to visit Elephants Fork Elementary when she was assistant principal there during the time I worked in the composing and news room. I found it hard to find the time to go there. Now, I wish that I had because I may have influenced many lives.

I too, have experienced forms of racism in the past but as time has gone on, they have only gotten better.

I have witnessed many positive black role models making excellent accomplishments in other fields that, I think, should speak up and give me their stories. Sometimes they might end up saying, &uot;But I don’t want to tell anyone about it because it seems as if I’m blowing my own horn.&uot; I say if you are doing good things let someone else know about them no matter what color you are because if you don’t lead, no one can follow in your footsteps to contribute good things to the community. Also, if you don’t tell it, there will be nothing to write about; and Lord knows, there is enough negative reporting going on every day so we need the good to sort of balance it.

Back to that other newspaper that I was reading. The white columnist said that she hopes that the legacy of Jayson Blair will soon die, and I agree. We don’t need role models like him whose book will probably teach how to cheat and lie.

When he says that racism made him do it, I think about Flip Wilson’s statement every time he did something wrong or committed a sin, &uot;The devil made me do it.&uot;

And now, I suppose, that in this case, Blair can say the same thing.

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer for the News-Herald.