In his posthumous memoir coming out next week, former NYT managing editor Gerald Boyd reveals that disgraced NYT reporter Jayson Blair "spied on colleagues" and regularly provided inside NYT information to the New York Observer.
Boyd says that he and then-executive editor Howell Raines discovered, in the wake of Blair's resignation, a "string of emails" between Blair and the Observer's "Off The Record" columnist, Sridhar Pappu, in which Blair regularly helped the reporter with stories on the NYT -- for a period of eight months before Blair quit the NYT amid widespread charges of plagiarism and fabrication of stories.
The emails "revealed a friendly relationship between the two," Boyd wrote .
Blair's resignation led to the eventual dismissal of both Boyd and Raines from the NYT, an episode recounted in depressing detail in Boyd's book, "My Times: In Black and White," set for publication next Monday and obtained by The NYTPicker. The Observer's John Koblin has already reported on other revelations in the book, including Boyd's harsh characterization of NYT culture editor Jonathan Landman, who then led the metro desk, as lacking "decency and integrity."
The depiction of the Blair-Pappu connection is especially interesting in light of the fact that, shortly after the news of his transgressions broke, Blair gave his first post-resignation interview to Pappu and the Observer -- a huge scoop at the time. ("So Jayson Blair could live, the journalist had to die," Blair famously told Pappu in a conversation held in Blair's apartment.)
According to Boyd, Blair had begun leaking information to Pappu in August 2002 about "staffing decisions, newsroom strategies, and disputes," in reply to Pappu's regular email questions.
Boyd was particularly incensed over the fact that Blair had leaked a list to Pappu of all the NYT reporters who had been assigned to the paper's Iraq coverage -- "including," Boyd said, "names, locations, phone numbers, dates they were to travel, and other comments."
"The information was confidential and competitive," Boyd fumed, "and its release was potentially life-threatening."
Boyd said he felt "deeply betrayed" by Blair's role as a newsroom source. He added that Raines had considered sharing the information about Blair's spying with the team of reporters assigned to investigate Blair's behavior for the paper. Raines told Boyd he would "discuss the possibility" of revealing the emails' contents with NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
But it wasn't clear to Boyd whether, in the end, Raines ever did anything with the information.
Reached for comment this afternoon on Boyd's account, Blair told The NYTPicker via email: "There's nothing in there that I'd disagree with."
Pappu responded to Boyd's claims this afternoon by noting that Blair was "just one of many sources I would speak to" at the NYT on regular basis.
"Any information [Blair] or anyone else gave me was then double or triple sourced before I put it in the column," Pappu told The NYTPicker via email. "I would say my relationship with him was as cordial as anyone I spoke to on the beat. I never knew Jayson personally and I never met him until our sitdown interview in 2003."
Since leaving the Observer, Pappu has written for the Atlantic Monthly and the Washington Post. Blair recently revealed that he has become a "certified life coach" in Ashburn, Virginia.