Contribute Now
Independent Lens | A Fragile Trust | History & Documentary | WMHT
  • Click to join the WMHT e-news mailing list
  • Click to make a sustaining contribution to WMHT
  • Click to contribute to WMHT
  • In Partnership With:
  • PBS
  • NPR

Independent Lens | A Fragile Trust

Posted by WMHT Web Editor

Preview for A Fragile Trust

Watch Monday, May 5, 2014 at midnight on WMHT TV.

A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at The New York Times is a portrait of an infamous serial plagiarist and an investigation of the massive scandal he unleashed that rocked not only The New York Times but the entire world of journalism.

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 that, 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 Times colleagues 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.

Learn the story of how Theodore Roosevelt became our nation’s 26th president.

New York NOW: Education & History

Voters will decide education Bond Act this Fall Voters will decide education Bond Act this Fall
Voters in New York will decide in November whether the state should borrow $2 billion dollars for new technology including I-Pads in school classrooms. Teachers and sc...

POV Documentary Blog

11 Sites and Apps for Watching Documentaries Free Online 11 Sites and Apps for Watching Documentaries Free Online
Love watching documentaries online? We think POV's free streams of new and classic docs is great, but there are even ...

American Masters

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: Film Excerpt: Thanksgiving in New York Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: Film Excerpt: Thanksgiving in New York
"Today is Thanksgiving," Joan Rivers remarks, standing amongst her decorators and lavish holiday table. "My favorite time of year -- favorite time of year."
The monumental building that was supposed to last forever was destroyed after 53 years.