Times suspends Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg
NEW YORK -- Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg was reportedly suspended by The New York Times for two weeks as the newspaper published an editors' note about his handling of a feature story about Florida oystermen.
Bragg, a Times national correspondent, declined comment when reached at his New Orleans home Saturday. The newspaper also has refused comment on the suspension, reported Friday on the Columbia Journalism Review's Web site.
Bragg's memoir, "All Over but the Shoutin'," was the book chosen for February's "United We Read" program in Cape Girardeau.
The report comes in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Times reporter Jayson Blair, who was found by the paper to have "committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud." He resigned May 1.
An investigation conducted by the Times found fraud, plagiarism and errors in 36 of 73 articles written by Blair between October and April. The violations included stealing material from other newspapers, inventing quotes and lying about his whereabouts.
Blair is already floating a book proposal about the scandal, according to The Washington Post. The proposed book is entitled "Burning Down My Master's House," an angry rant at the paper that he called "my tormentor, my other drug, my slavemaster," the Post said.
The proposal portrays Blair as a black man "who rose from the fields and got a place in the master's house and then burned it down the only way he knew how," according to the Post. Blair's literary agent David Vigliano did not return a call for comment Saturday.
In its editors' note Friday, the Times said that while Bragg wrote the June 15 article and visited the Gulf Coast town where it originated, interviewing and other reporting at the scene were done by a freelance journalist working for the newspaper. The note did not make it clear whether Bragg's editors had known the role of the freelancer at the time.
A New York Times employee told The Associated Press on Friday that Times editors told Bragg to take a paid vacation for two weeks, but said it would be considered a suspension.
The Times said a reader had questioned whether Bragg had been in Apalachicola, Fla., the dateline of his story about threats to the livelihood of oystermen on the Gulf Coast.
The Times said Bragg visited Apalachicola briefly, but the reporting was done by J. Wes Yoder, a freelance journalist working for the Times. The note said "the article should have carried Mr. Yoder's byline with Mr. Bragg's."
While many national correspondents at the Times rely on stringers for reporting, the paper's policy on "dateline integrity" says the bylined writer must "provide the bulk of the information, in the form of copy or, when necessary, of notes used faithfully in a rewrite," CJR reported.
In an interview with CJR on Wednesday, Bragg said "I wouldn't have done anything different. J. Wes did great work and we came out with a great story."
Bragg, 43, won the feature-writing Pulitzer in 1996 "for his elegantly written stories about contemporary America." He came to the Times in January 1994 as a metropolitan reporter, becoming a national correspondent later that year.
His memoir, "All Over but the Shoutin'," was the book chosen for February's "United We Read" program in Cape Girardeau.