'New York Times' denounces fraud by its own reporter

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Just where was Jayson Blair, the prolific and hard-working reporter from the prestigious and high-minded New York Times? Was he in West Virginia interviewing the parents of a US prisoner of war? Was he in Maryland interviewing officers hunting the Washington area sniper? Was he attending a church service in Cleveland, Ohio, taken by a minister whose son had been pronounced dead in Iraq the previous day?

Just where was Jayson Blair, the prolific and hard-working reporter from the prestigious and high-minded New York Times? Was he in West Virginia interviewing the parents of a US prisoner of war? Was he in Maryland interviewing officers hunting the Washington area sniper? Was he attending a church service in Cleveland, Ohio, taken by a minister whose son had been pronounced dead in Iraq the previous day?

Yesterday, the paper confirmed that Mr Blair, 27, was probably at home in New York on these and many other occasions when he was supposed to have been on assignment and had committed "frequent acts of journalistic fraud", inventing quotations from people he had not spoken to, lying about his where he was and plagiarising details from the websites of other newspapers.

It said he "used these techniques to write falsely about emotionally charged moments in recent history".

In a self-flagellating front-page article that ran for four further pages, the paper said: "The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the paper."

Yesterday's article was the result of work by five reporters, two researchers and three editors into 73 stories written by Mr Blair since he became national reporter on the paper in October. It found there were problems with at least 36 of those reports.

Mr Blair's invention was uncovered after the San Antonio Express-News complained that he had plagiarised its account of a Texas woman whose son was found dead in Iraq. The investigation found that Mr Blair had falsified his expenses to make it look as though he was travelling throughout the US when he was at home.

In a letter sent to The New York Times after his resignation, Mr Blair blamed "personal issues" and apologised for his "lapse of journalistic integrity".

Other newspapers have been quick to leap on the embarrassment for the Times. The equally sanctimonious Washington Post claimed in a long report that Mr Blair's fabrications could have lasting damage. It quoted a media analyst as saying: "The Times was a standard that journalists looked up to. Now it's something they're going to have to live down."

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