Film Review: Samantha Grant’s “A Fragile Trust”

By Ismary Munet

“A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times,” directed and produced by Samantha Grant, is an impacting film, which documents the story of “The Blair Affair.” Exploring themes and concepts of race, diversity, power, and the significance of the psychology of a reporter, it reminds us about the demands, and the do’s and don’ts of Journalism.

Once the scandal was revealed, others newspapers began to question their own internal structure, and as a result, the New York Times had to review four years of Blair’s work to figure out what exactly was borrowed from other stories, and what stories were fabrications.

“I lied, and I lied, and I lied,” Blair himself said as he explained what was taking place while he fabricated and plagiarized stories written, in his Park Slope apartment, for the New York Times. This documentary takes us step by step through the scandal that turned the world of journalism completely around.

Grant also explores the theme of race in relation to this issue, and displays the input from other reporters who stated that this problem only became about race solely because a black person was involved.

“He clearly was a climber, and at the end of the day I think that’s what went wrong,” Jerry Gray, a correspondent at the Times, said as the psychology of Blair was questioned. This was not solely about a scandal, but it became about a person and their mental health, and maybe even about how the demands of such a career can affect the mental health of a person.

The management style of former editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, is also discussed within the film.Those who spoke about the issue questioned if their autocratic management styles led to this problem, and still others asked why stricter scrutiny wasn’t applied to the editing taking place within the Times.

The film reminds audiences of the immense responsibilities a reporter has. The most significant of these responsibilities is upholding the trust that is given to them as reporters. That trust is one of a kind, unique, and very fragile indeed. Reporters are entrusted with telling factual and honest stories, and once that trust is broken, their careers, and the faith others had in them, plummet.

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