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

May 18, 2003, 01:00 ET from Newsweek

    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
     (Photo: )
     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
      * 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."
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SOURCE Newsweek