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Reporter says he 'never meant to hurt anyone'


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New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd resign in the wake of scandal. CNN's Jason Carroll reports. (June 5)
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SCANDAL UNFOLDS
Resignations of The New York Times' Executive Editor Howell Raines, Managing Editor Gerald Boyd

May 1: Reporter Jayson Blair resigns after the newspaper finds fraud, plagiarism and inaccuracies in 36 of his 73 articles.

May 22: A committee of 20 Times staffers and two outside news executives is named to review newsroom policies in what the Times calls "a low point in the 152-year history of the paper."

May 28: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg resigns after the newspaper suspends him over an article that carried his byline but was reported largely by a freelancer.

June 5: Boyd and Raines, the paper's top two editors, step down, having been the focus of much of the criticism, especially for allowing Blair to cover the Washington-area sniper case when the Times' metropolitan editor had raisedconcerns about the reporter's trustworthiness.
Source: The Associated Press

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter at the center of a scandal that prompted the resignation of the newspaper's two top editors, said in a television interview Thursday that he "never meant to hurt anyone."

"I'm truly sorry for my actions and what they've done," Blair told WCBS-TV in New York. "I felt like I was in a cycle of self-destruction that I never intended, and I never intended for it to hurt anyone else."

Times Executive Editor Howell Raines, 60, and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, 52, resigned Thursday amid criticism that they overlooked problems with the 27-year-old reporter. Blair left the paper five weeks ago having been accused of plagiarizing and fabricating articles over a period of years.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg then quit after the newspaper published an editor's note saying he had written an article based almost entirely on the reporting of a freelancer who received no credit for his work.

"I am sorry to hear that more people have fallen in this sequence of events that I had unleashed," Blair said in an e-mail to CNN. "I wish the rolling heads had stopped with mine."

Blair, an African-American, told WCBS-TV he felt that the coverage of the scandal was focusing too much on racial aspects.

"It's a complicated, human tragedy, and that's the part that's been lost in all of this talk about race and all of the talk about the Times and racial preferences," he said.

After a long pause, Blair said, "It has to do with my own human demons, my own weaknesses and it ranges from, you know, my struggles with substance abuse to my own struggles with mental illness, to the fact that since I was in college or high school, I deferred my own desires and my own wants for ... what others wanted and somehow, when you add race and when you add other elements to that, I lost my compass."

The reporter was hired at the Times under a program designed, in part, to attract more racial diversity to the newspaper. Some critics have questioned whether editors had overlooked Blair's faulty work to protect a black reporter on a fast track to success.

Boyd, who also is black, denied that allegation, but Raines admitted in a staff meeting after the scandal broke that it was possible Blair's race had played a minor role in how he was treated.

Blair resigned May 1 after a Texas newspaper questioned whether he had plagiarized its article about the family of a soldier missing in Iraq.

A subsequent investigation by the Times uncovered several other instances in which Blair produced stories based on faked on-scene reporting, including the Washington sniper case and an article on the family of former prisoner of war Pvt. Jessica Lynch.

He told WCBS-TV that he regretted an interview in May with the New York Observer in which he said he "fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism" with his reporting.

"Some of my comments in my interview with the New York Observer I felt were cruel, I felt were hurtful," Blair said. "My emotions are still in turmoil, and I should have waited to have some time to reflect before I talked."

He countered criticism that his quick rise at the Times was the result of favoritism from Raines and Boyd.

"Neither of them helped me any more than they helped any other reporter, and neither of them harmed me," he said. "Some people have used my mistakes, my deception as political tools to attack other people and that makes me sad as well."

He also shrugged off criticism of opportunism about his proposal to write a book about his ordeal -- tentatively titled "Burning Down My Master's House."

"Certainly some people may think that, but that's not something I can control," he said.

Blair said he plans to write about his experience and has considered volunteer work with people who suffer from mental illness and who battle substance abuse.

"I only really want to do something or some things that help people get some good things out of my situation," he said.


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