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NY Times “Serial Plagiarist” Tells All in PBS Independent Lens Report

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PBS Independent Lens A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times


It has taken over a decade for American newspaper journalism and the New York Times in particular to clear away the shame of the “serial plagiarist” as reporter Jayson Blair came to known for his long series of rich, well-written but largely fabricated and falsified articles that appeared in that legendary paper. Lest the news media become too complacent, however, director and producer Samantha Grant has put together a painful and telling film about Blair, what he did and how he got away with it for so long. A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times is not easy to watch (especially for a journalist), but it should be required viewing for anyone involved in or interested in the Fourth Estate.

A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times is part of the Independent Lens series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern Time, Monday, May 5.

The most compelling parts of Grant’s film are those where Blair himself is on screen. Blair tells all, and while he does talk about the pressure to publish and why he felt the need to take so many short-cuts, he offers that all up not as an excuse but as an explanation of how he fell into the self-made trap of lies, deceits and deceptions into which he became caught. Many of his former colleagues also appear in the film, including not only editors and reporters at the Times but also the journalist who unmasked Blair, and the one from whom he lifted most of the material that he used in the story that led to that unmasking.

A Fragile Trust plays out much like postmortem on a crime or scandal, for what Blair did and what he got away with for so long was both. It is also a morality play and a cautionary tale, one that examines how those in the media are so often tempted to set aside ethics, good judgment and their professional training just to grab a headline or meet a deadline. Blair’s story shows the consequences of succumbing to such temptation, and how doing so can ruin not only the lives of those who do, but also undermine a key pillar of American democracy.

Although CPTV Connecticut Public Television has not yet scheduled an air time for A Fragile Trust, audiences in Connecticut who have access to other Public Television stations can view the show, which is part of the Independent Lens series, when it premieres on at 10 pm Eastern Time, Monday, May 5. Check local listings for date and time for later or repeat showings.

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Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with nearly 40 years of experience as a ghost-writer, columnist, historian, and game designer. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include War and Peace, The Napoleonic Wars and the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln.

To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at
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Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at

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