NEWSWEEK COVER: The Secret Life of Jayson Blair
Blair in Apartment Talking with Attorney and Literary Agent During NY Times
Staff Showdown About Him; Friends Say He'd Been in Hospital, Treated for
History of Alcoholism, Cocaine Abuse, Manic Depression
Tells Newsweek He Feels 'Range of Emotions Including Guilt, Shame, Sadness,
Betrayal, Freedom'; Drew Up Book Proposal About Sniper Story; Told Friends He
Identified with Suspect Malvo
NEW YORK, May 18 /PRNewswire/ -- As the showdown unfolded this week between The New York Times top executives and the newspaper staff about Jayson Blair, a 27-year-old reporter who had lifted quotes, made up scenes and faked interviews, Blair was holed up in a Manhattan apartment, talking with his lawyer and his literary agent. The week before, friends say, Blair had checked himself out of Silver Hill, an inpatient hospital in Connecticut, where he had been receiving treatment for a history of alcoholism, cocaine abuse, and manic depression, Newsweek has learned. Blair says he's been clean and sober for more than a year, but even he knew his behavior had become blindingly self-destructive. (Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20030518/NYSU005 ) In an exclusive conversation with Newsweek, Blair spoke of his feelings since his career went up in flames: "I can't say anything other than the fact that I feel a range of emotions including guilt, shame, sadness, betrayal, freedom and appreciation for those who have stood by me, been tough on me, and have taken the time to understand that there is a deeper story and not to believe everything they read in the newspapers." Or so Jayson says. As the Times found out the hard way, where Blair is concerned, it can be exceedingly difficult to determine just where fact leaves off and fiction begins, writes Senior Writer Seth Mnookin in the May 26 Newsweek cover story, "The Secret Life of Jayson Blair" (on newsstands Monday, May 19). In the cover story, Mnookin and a team of correspondents tell Blair's story about his collision course at the Times that destroyed his career, seriously sullied that of Executive Editor Howell Raines and severely tarnished the reputation of an American institution in the process. Highlights from the cover story: * Within months of covering the Washington sniper story, Blair was circulating drafts of a book proposal on it, in which he discussed his own anger and frustration as an African-American. "[A friend] encouraged me to look for answers about the history of violence in my own family and that of Lee Malvo [the other sniper suspect], suggesting the search would not be in vain, if it at least ended my restless angst," Blair wrote. Later, he told friends that he identified with Malvo. * In January, Blair had conversations with several friends in which he told them he was feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with the pressures of his job. He went so far as to tell Jim Roberts, the Times' national editor, that he wanted off the sniper story, several of Blair's friends told Newsweek. Roberts says that's not how the conversation went down. "Jayson and I had conversation about whether he would return to his sports job or stay on the sniper case," Roberts told Newsweek. "He told me he had an ill uncle, and needed to spend time with him, which I'm sure is every bit as much of a lie as everything else he said." Roberts says Blair did not specifically ask to be taken off the sniper case, and did not talk about being under too much pressure. "I told him that if he needed to attend to an ill relative we would give him some time." * His tenure as editor of The Diamondback, the student newspaper at the University of Maryland, was marked by strife, allegations of racism, problematic stories and fantastical tales. When the paper was putting out a spring-break guide, Blair disappeared without handing in a story he was working on. "We kept paging him and paging him," says Danielle Newman, who worked as an editor under Blair, and succeeded him after he resigned. Blair didn't show up until the next day. "He said he almost died from gas poisoning when his roommate left the burner on. At the end of the meeting ... he told me his doctor said he needed to rest. I told him to go home ... " Later that night, Newman and others realized the Maryland campus doesn't even have gas stoves. Later, when Newman confronted Blair, he offered to take her to his apartment. "But when I said, 'Let's go now,' he said we had more important things to talk about," she says. Soon after, Blair resigned from the paper for "personal reasons." * Almost as soon as Blair arrived at the Times, multiple sources at the paper say, he began to brag about his close relationship with Gerald Boyd, who at the time was one of the paper's deputy managing editors. The mentoring relationship made sense, people said -- one of Boyd's responsibilities was to work with young reporters, and Boyd, like Blair, is African-American. "Jayson was always bragging, 'Gerald told me this,' or 'Gerald really likes me.' And there was no reason not to believe him," says one reporter who has since left the Times. Boyd, for his part, says he's never had a particularly close relationship with Blair. "I've had less dealings with him than I've had with most reporters," Boyd told Newsweek. * Blair's apartment in Brooklyn was littered with broken furniture and rotting food, his landlord said; there was fungus, and mold. When he moved out in the fall of 2002, the place was in such sordid condition his landlord considered taking him to small-claims court to recoup damages. "It was real filth," the landlord told Newsweek. "Imagine using a bathroom for two-and-a-half years and never cleaning it." * Blair has signed up with David Vigliano, a literary agent, and is in talks for book, movie, and television deals. Ted Faraone, a PR agent who had worked with Blair on stories at the Times, told Newsweek he called the reporter after reading about his career suicide. "He called me back Wednesday," the day of the Times's town-hall meeting, Faraone said. "He sounded in pretty good spirits, considering everything. And, you know, he needs to do something to keep body and soul together, so I put him in touch with one of my clients, Ian Rae, who did 'A Current Affair.' I'm hoping things work out for him." (Read Newsweek's news releases at www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com. Click "Pressroom."
Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.
Learn about PR Newswire services
Request more information about PR Newswire products and services or call us at (888) 776-0942.