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'A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at The New York Times' Coming to PBS May 5th

Television
by Vanessa Martinez
March 25, 2014 10:48 AM
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Acclaimed documentary A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times, a portrait of "the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time," will premiere on PBS in May 5, 2014 at 10pm et, as part of the network's series Independent Lens, hosted by Stanley Tucci.

Directed and produced by Samantha Grant, A Fragile Trust follows the investigation of the huge scandal - which rocked the world of journalism - that journalist Jayson Blair was at the culprit, when he was found out to have plagiarized the work of other reporters and incorporated false reports into his very own dozens of published stories. 

Zeba Blay reviewed the film - which you can read HERE - when it premiered at the DOC NYC festival back in November.

Here's more from the press release:

In 2003, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was discovered to have boldly plagiarized the work of other reporters, and supplemented his own reporting with fabricated details in dozens of published stories. The ensuing media frenzy was an unprecedented blow for the paper which, just a year earlier, had won a record seven Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of 9/11. The daily operations of the Times newsroom soon became a public spectacle as every major news outlet picked up the story. The fact that Blair is African American was emphasized again and again as accounts of the “Blair Affair” served up a soap opera-style tale of deception, drug abuse, racism, mental illness, white guilt, and power struggles inside the hallowed halls of the Times. 

Accusations of favoritism, lowered standards for minorities, and an editor gone rogue were hotly debated by pundits. Ultimately, the scandal ended the careers of two top Times editors and changed standards in newsrooms everywhere. A Fragile Trust features an exclusive and revealing interview with Blair — the first time he has spoken about his actions at the Times since the weeks immediately following the scandal. In addition, Blair provided unprecedented access to his notes, reflections, and even his private email account from the months leading up to the discovery of the scandal. When asked why he agreed to participate in the film he wrote, “I became convinced that while the documentary would hardly be flattering to me, it would provide the depth that would answer some questions people had, including me.” 

Starting with the plagiarized article that ultimately led to his undoing, the film traces Blair’s spectacular rise and fall as he desperately clings to his career even as his lies and deceptions mount. Also featured are interviews with several of his Timescolleagues and editors, who share their insights about how Blair’s flagrant transgressions went unnoticed for so long. With more and more publications moving to online-only formats and plagiarism on the rise, this cautionary tale about the slippery slope of ethical transgressions is more relevant than ever. Visit the Fragile Trust companion website (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/fragile-trust/) which features information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and more information. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.

Watch the trailer:


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