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Ex-Reporter Blair Signs $500,000 Book Deal

September 11, 2003|From Reuters

Los Angeles-based publisher Michael Viner said Wednesday that his company signed a book deal worth about $500,000 with disgraced former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, whose plagiarism and inventing of sources brought down the newspaper's two top editors.

Blair, who resigned from the Times in May, received a "mid-six-figure" advance for the memoir, tentatively titled "Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at the New York Times," said Viner, president of New Millennium Books.

Blair has cited racism, junk food and mental illness as the reasons he fabricated scores of stories and sources during his four years at the newspaper.

After his departure, the New York Times published a 14,000-word account of his fabrications. The scandal prompted the resignations of Managing Editor Gerald Boyd and Executive Editor Howell Raines, who said he championed Blair to promote diversity in the newsroom despite warnings about his work.

Viner described the half-completed work as "part memoir and part 'inside the New York Times' " but declined to give more details. The book is scheduled to be published March 9.

Viner and his wife, Deborah Raffin, had run the defunct Dove Entertainment, which published books by figures involved in the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Because of Blair's reputation for fabrication, Viner said he planned to ensure that the book would stand up to scrutiny.

"Jayson wants to make sure, as I do, that the book is above reproach, and to that extent we have agreed on very top people in terms of fact checkers and editors," he said.

Attorney Michael Friedman, who frequently represents celebrities in tabloid defamation lawsuits, said Millennium had an enhanced duty with Blair's book.

"If you are on notice that the author lacks veracity, then ... that requires the publisher to enhance its scrutiny and diligence in the matter," said Friedman, of Jenkens & Gilchrist in New York. "You can't just say ... the author is a reliable source when the facts indicate to the contrary."

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