Ex-Reporter Blair Gets Book Deal

2001/5/1 Jayson Blair headshot, as New York Times reporter AP

Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who resigned amid accusations of fraud and plagiarism, has a book deal with New Millennium Press, a Los Angeles-based publisher with its own controversial past.

The book, "Burning Down My Master's House," is scheduled to come out in March 2004, with a first printing of more than 200,000, New Millennium co-president Michael Viner said Wednesday.

Blair resigned from the paper on May 1 after filing some three-dozen phony or plagiarized stories from October 2002 to April 2003. The scandal surrounding the 27-year-old former national correspondent led to the resignations of "Times" executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd.

Blair soon announced he was seeking a book deal, but several New York publishers said they were not interested. Viner said Wednesday he was not concerned about the reliability of Blair's memoir.

"He is very anxious that the book be well vetted, as are we," Viner said.

New Millennium was involved in disputes in 2002 with physicist Stephen Hawking and novelist David Baldacci.

Hawking asked the Federal Trade Commission to stop New Millennium's publication of "The Theory of Everything," which the physicist said would "constitute a fraud on the public" because it simply repackages old material.

The book was published, and a paperback edition released in June, although Hawking's Web site urges readers "not to purchase this book in the belief that Professor Hawking was involved in its creation."

Baldacci, author of such best sellers as "Absolute Power" and "Last Man Standing," complained that his name was featured too prominently on the cover of a New Millennium anthology of mystery stories.

Baldacci's name appeared in large foil letters above the title of the book, the same title as a novella contributed by Baldacci. Granting a rare preliminary injunction, a federal judge in New York ruled that consumers could mistake the anthology for Baldacci's novel, and wrote that New Millennium "was attempting to deceive the public into buying a misrepresented book."

New Millennium and Baldacci later agreed that the cover would be altered and the book released. Baldacci's name appeared below the title, in smaller letters.

By Hillel Italie
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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