Sometimes a story sounds too good to be true, and sometimes there’s a good reason for that.
On Monday, May 5 (check local listings), PBS’ “Independent Lens” premieres “A Fragile Trust,” the story of New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who in 2003 got caught plagiarizing the work of other journalists and also completely fabricating details in dozens of stories.
The scandal rocked the reputation of the “Old Gray Lady,” which once was considered the gold standard of American journalism — and had just won seven Pulitzer Prizes for its 9/11 coverage – and raised questions about its editing oversight, fact-checking diligence and, because Blair is black, even affirmative-action hiring.
Filmmaker Samantha Grant started out doing a short film, but everything changed when, through “sheer persistence,” she got Blair to agree to be in the documentary.
But that’s not to say that she necessarily buys Blair’s version of his own story, as Zap2it reports.
“I was afraid to trust him,” Grant says. “I wouldn’t say that I ever completely trusted him. I hope that the way he is presented in the film gives the impression that you should be skeptical.
“You should take what he says with a grain of salt because, as he himself says in the film, ‘I could say I’m never going to lie again, but that would be a lie.’ So I want to make it really clear to whoever is watching the film that you should be regarding what he’s saying with some skepticism.”
According to Grant, you should also be skeptical of reporting on Blair.
“I did find that there had been some misreporting and stuff that I wanted to correct the record on,” she says, “specifically with regard to Gerald Boyd being listed as Jayson Blair’s mentor, which, by all account of the people there, was not true.
“And that really was reported and re-reported in a really frightening fashion by the mainstream media.”
But before anyone calls for the death of the “MSM,” Grant says, “I don’t think that independent journalists can or should ever replace institutional journalism … because there are large corporations, governments, that an individual will have a hard time taking on.”