Extensive Jayson Blair PR Blitz Set to Begin

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By: Joe Strupp

The Jayson Blair public relations blitz will be far more extensive than originally believed. And, according to an NBC spokeswoman, the long-scheduled “Dateline” probe of the Blair case and his new book may cover the program’s entire hour this Friday, featuring on-air comments by Ben Bradlee, former Associated Press CEO Louis Boccardi, author Alex Jones and Poynter Institute President Karen F. Dunlap.

In addition, the book, “Burning Down My Masters’ House,” will be reviewed in The New York Times Book Review after all, according to Book Editor Charles McGrath, who had said last week he was unsure if the paper should give the book any attention. “We decided to review it,” McGrath said. “It will be in the March 14 edition.”

Besides his “Dateline” appearance, the disgraced former New York Times reporter will be flogging his book on the “Today” show (March 8), “Larry King Live” (March 9), “The View” (March 11) and “Hardball” (March 11), according to the book’s publicist.

“Dateline” will broadcast the first interview on Friday with Blair, in a segment likely to take up the program’s entire hour, an NBC publicist said. “It is more than just an interview with Jayson Blair,” said “Dateline” spokeswoman Caryn Mautner, who added that the sit-down occurred in late January with host Katie Couric. “We talk to a number of other people both on and off the record. It will tell what happened.”

Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, who left the Times after the Blair scandal broke last May, declined to be interviewed for the “Dateline” piece, Mautner said. However, Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent, contracted to work for the Times after the uproar occurred, did speak to NBC for the segment.

The appearances coincide with the March 6 release of the book, which is being published by New Millennium Press of Beverly Hills, Calif. The book purportedly explains Blair’s acts of plagiarism, deceit and lying that led to his resignation last May.

“I would not characterize this as an endorsement of the book,” Mautner said when asked about the ethics of giving Blair a platform to promote his ill-gotten fame. “Now is when he is making himself available. He is challenged a number of times by Katie.”

The NBC spokeswoman also defended the network’s actions, saying Blair and his book are news. “He is not the first person of questionable moral judgment to be interviewed on television,” she said. “We do both saints and scoundrels.”

Also see “Blair’s Publisher Claims ‘Times’ Infringed Copyright.”

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