Sunday, December 13, 2009


Of those readers responding to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, only 38 percent believed that it was right for Washington and Lee University to invite Jayson Blair to speak at its Journalism Ethics Institute. Blair, a former New York Times reporter, has tried to shift careers to become a "life coach" since his fabrications and plagiarism wreaked havoc on his readers, his colleagues and the newspaper itself.

The majority of readers - 69 percent - considered the invitation to be ill placed.

"The major issue is that he was proven to be a liar and a con artist, which naturally provides grounds for wondering whether any advice he might offer now would be trustworthy," writes Shmuel Ross of Brooklyn, N.Y. "While my instinct is to pick up a pitchfork and torch and join the mob calling for the plagiarist to be burned, I'm not really in any position to make that call. I don't envy those who are."

Cynthia Dodd of West Haven, Conn., backs the university.

"His honest look into his own struggle can help people realize that any person, brilliant or not, white or black, rich or poor, can be sidelined because of a mental illness and, until a person comes to terms with the disease, they are often unaware that they are even sick," she writes. "I am very proud to think that a university would allow this lecture to go on."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 630 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


AzaleaAnnie said...

Mental illness? Is laziness now an accepted diagnosis? Is taking the easiest route now listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?

My copy may be outdated, but I could not find laziness or taking the easiest road in my book.

Henzellini said...

Cynthia Dodd says

"His honest look into his own struggle can help people . . ."

Excuse me, Cynthia, but how, in light of this man's history of deceit, can you be sure that there is anything honest about anything he says or does?

He has to earn our trust. Until then, I need a reason to believe that this "new" Jayson isn't the old Jayson pitching a new scam. For me, his proclamations carry as much weight as most of the religious epiphanies of convicted criminals.