Article Overview:   Is killing the two top editorial generals of the New York Times an act of Vigilance or another form of editorial Terrorism? You decide?


Friday--June 6, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 632
D-Day At The New York Times
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

  GROUND ZER0, New York, New York--June 6, 2003--Yesterday was D-Day for two top editors of the New York Times.   The battle was bloody, as it was 59 years ago in Normandy when U.S. and allied troops launched one of the world's greatest attacks on Terrorism.

  ... and Gerald Boyd, Managing Editor, resigned

Howell Rains, NYTimes Executive Editor ...

        At Omaha Beach, U.S. troops were pinned down by heavy German fire as tens of thousands of American troops attempted to drive back enemy forces.    In the newsroom of the New York Times yesterday, an assault on two of the New York Times top generals was just as bloody in many ways.
      Howell Rains, 60, the executive editor, and Gerald M. Boyd, 52, the managing editor, resigned as the shrapnel from editorial mismanagement of Jason Blair's fraudulent reporting hit vital organs in the leadership credibility of the two editors.
     The resignations came six weeks after the New York Times disclosed that Blair had manufactured facts in a number of his stories, and violated long-standing journalistic ethics.  Blair is accused of reporting false facts in the Washington-area sniper hunt, and for plagiarizing stories from other reporters.   The Times published a long list of Blair's inaccuracies.

Rick Bragg (right) accepting a Pulitzer in 1996 for feature writing and later used freelancers to ferret out stories while with the NYTimes

The Times published a long list of Jason Blair's inaccuracies while working for the paper

      The crossfire in which the two top editors were pinned down was increased in late May when another Times reporter,  Rick Bragg, used a freelancer to ferret out a story on oystermen of the Florida Gulf Coast in Apalachicola, and then told The Washington Post that it was a common practice at the Times. 
         Founded in 1851, the New York Times has invested its ethics in appearing to be the "most credible" paper in the world.  However, the crossfire triggered by Blair and Bragg, severely wounded the paper's reputation for editorial leadership, and resulted in the most common of all responses--the chopping of heads.
        Mr. Boyd, the newspaper's first African American managing editor, prompted the New York Association of Black journalists to counterattack.   Its president, Errol Cockfield was reported by the Times to have said :  "There are many black journalists who are questioning whether, in an effort to restore its credibility, the Times has gone too far."
       Times reporter Blair is a black reporter, and implications were offered in various news reports that under affirmative action flex, he was given far more latitude for a host of errors and mistaken reporting that would not have been condoned under more rigorous Times editorial management.

The roots of free press alleges to be the people's watchdog

      Newspapers are considered the Fourth Estate, the balance between government, judicial and executive forces attempting to control our lives.   The roots of the free press burrowed deep into the humus, alleging to be the people's watchdog, the Voice of truth against power that tends to corrupt, a fulcrum that would balance the power by peaceful revolution of lies and deceits bared, of exposing the viscera of the truth despite the shadow of the Beast of Terror.  
      In a nutshell, they were given the power of a Sentinel of Vigilance, guarding against the Beast of Political and Government Oppression and Tyranny.    When the freedom of the press is quashed, when its tongue of truth is split and forked, the people become vulnerable to the Beast's oppression and tyranny.
     Whom can they trust when those who throw stones live in glass house?  When the alleged "truth paper" is infected with the cancer of the same corruption it reports, that it is charged to expose, the loft from which its cannons fire are lowered.    The pure and lily white became the tainted.
     What difference is there between the Administration alleging Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq to justify a war, and the New York Times allowing at least one or two reporters, and perhaps more yet not uncovered, to manufacture facts and distort truths?
     Suddenly, parity is ugly.

The White Knight's defects turned him into a Black Knight

     The White Knight is found to have blemishes, foibles, defects of character not unlike those shadows he stalks with his reportorial flashlight.
     The New York Times, in firing its two top editors, has tried to shine its Armor of Vigilance.  It has attempted to patch the leak in the dyke.
      The world now knows its sheets are soiled, just as they know Martha Stewart's are, or Hillary Clinton's, or any of those the great paper tried to reveal as having blemishes on an otherwise unmarred complexion.  
      But wiping out two generals is not necessarily the act of healing open wounds.  Vigilance is not about perfection.
       On D-Day, 59 years ago, many died as a result of mistaken command.   Casualties were expected.   Mistakes were expected.   War is not about the planning alone, but about the execution.


As a war correspondent, I am aware of the havoc of battle

      In the heat of battle bullets fly in all directions.   As a war correspondent, I am well aware of the havoc of battle.   The two Times editors were appointed in September 2001, in the midst of battle.   Bullets were flying as they took their leadership positions.  
       While combat zones are not an excuse for mismanagement, the harshness of criticism needs to be tempered by events.    The Times, seeking perfection in its reporting, fell victim to the reality of Terrorism--it stalks us all.
        Event the giants fall at times.
        Vigilance is not perfection.  Vigilance is keeping the wary eye on Terrorism of all sizes and shapes, and when flaws and faults are found, it means we plug them up.  We do not operate out of Fear, Intimidation or Complacency.  Instead, we muster the Courage, Conviction and take the Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children to bolster our Vigilance and to manage the Terrorism of imperfection.
        Lopping off the heads of two top managers of journalistic ethics may not solve the Times problems.    But, it may clear the battlefield for the moment, and allow the Second Wave time to assault the beaches.

D-Day June 6, 1944 paved the way for other Sentinels of Vigilance to storm the beaches

       In Normandy, the first waves of troops were brutally slaughtered by heavy enemy fire.  Over 10,000 died, paving the way for other Sentinels of Vigilance to storm the shores and eventually overrun the enemy.
        At the New York Times the bodies of the two top editors may be simple gangplanks over which a second wave of editors--post Nine Eleven--will charge.    The blood spilled by the editors may fertilize a new sense of reporting ethics among New York Times journalists, and the Swords of Vigilance used to carve out the truth may be sharpened.
        In other words, the battle might have been lost, but the war still has yet to be decided.


June 5--American Effigy of Vigilance Hangs In France

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