Gerald Boyd, Former N.Y. Times Editor; Resigned Over Jayson Blair Controversy

By Dan Morse and Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2006

Gerald M. Boyd, a former managing editor at the New York Times who was forced to resign following a plagiarism scandal in 2003, died yesterday Nov. 23 of lung cancer. He was 56.

Mr. Boyd joined the Times in 1983 after serving as White House correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and in 2001 became the paper's first black managing editor.

But his career at the paper was halted after Jayson Blair, then a young reporter for the Times, was found to have plagiarized and fabricated numerous stories, leading to a newsroom revolt against Executive Editor Howell Raines and Boyd. Raines had appointed Boyd as his deputy, and the two resigned together.

Mr. Boyd's lung cancer was diagnosed in February, and he was sick for most of the year, the Associated Press reported. He died at his home, his wife, Robin Stone, said.

"He was my hero," said Stone, an author and former editor. "To me, he stood for everything that every journalist should stand for. That is truth and fairness and everything we learned" in journalism school -- "doing everything we can to get it right."

Mr. Boyd died after what Times Executive Editor Bill Keller described in an e-mail to staff as a "very private battle" with lung cancer. "He was one of us," Keller wrote.

In an obituary posted last night on its Web site, the Times credited Boyd with leading coverage that won the paper three Pulitzer Prizes: for articles about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, for a series on children of poverty and for a series on race relations in the United States.

Since leaving the Times, Boyd wrote a column for Universal Press Syndicate, put together a virtual journalism program for Columbia University, consulted for a chain of Canadian newspapers and worked on his memoirs.

Boyd and his wife also lent their name to a $2,500 National Association of Black Journalists scholarship for journalism majors.

Despite his considerable accomplishments, Boyd will forever be associated with the Blair scandal. Blair had faked stories from Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and Texas without ever leaving New York, using a cellphone and laptop computer to disguise his whereabouts. Raines's handling of the matter and his bruising management style irked some staff members. Mr. Boyd was seen by people in the Times newsroom as linked to Raines.

Two months after he resigned, Mr. Boyd spoke publicly for the first time at the NABJ convention.

At times visibly moved, he spoke about his career, the future of journalism and his relationship with Blair.

"I have always stood for integrity," Mr. Boyd said. "Some have suggested that I looked the other way because Jayson is black. That is absolutely untrue."

Mr. Boyd called the scandal largely a failure of newsroom process and personal oversight.

"We thought we were managing a young man who was sloppy, occasionally erratic and somewhat green, but who showed enormous promise," Mr. Boyd said. "What no one knew was that we were managing a deeply troubled young man whose problems took us away from core journalistic values."

One good thing to come out of the terrible Blair experience, Boyd told his wife, was that he got to spend more time with his son.

Zachary, now 10, played baseball on a Harlem Little League team near their home. Boyd would take Zachary to the park and play catch with him, even after becoming ill, Stone said.

Boyd kept his illness private, telling only family and very close friends.

"He spent this year fighting cancer," Stone said.

Stone said he had moved on from the Blair scandal and its aftermath. He loved to cook, especially manning the outdoor grill. But journalism remained his passion and his hobby. Every morning, the family received six newspapers. Boyd read them all.

"Journalism was his life," Stone said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company