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Gerald M. Boyd, 56; ex-managing editor of the New York Times

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From the Associated Press

Gerald M. Boyd, who became the first black managing editor of the New York Times and was forced to resign amid a reporter’s plagiarism scandal, has died. He was 56.

Boyd had been diagnosed with lung cancer in February and died Thursday at his home, said his wife, Robin Stone. He had been sick for most of the year and had kept the condition private from most friends and colleagues, Stone said.

Boyd and executive editor Howell Raines were brought down by the scandal caused by Jayson Blair, a journalist whom they had groomed, and by criticism of their management style at one of the world’s most distinguished newspapers. Boyd resigned in 2003.

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Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, called Boyd a friend and colleague. “He was one of us,” Keller said in an e-mail to Times staff.

According to the newspaper’s website, Boyd’s career began during the civil rights era and inspired generations of black journalists.

He was the first black journalist to hold the many positions he occupied at The Times, including city editor. As deputy managing editor for news, he oversaw the 2000 series “How Race Is Lived in America,” which won a Pulitzer Prize.

At a lecture several years ago in St. Louis, according to the website, he told the audience, “Throughout my life I have enjoyed both the blessing and the burden of being the first black this and the first black that, and, like many minorities and women who succeed, I’ve often felt alone.”

A native of St. Louis, Boyd joined the Times in 1983 after serving as White House correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. At 28, he was the youngest journalist chosen for a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, the Times reported.

Since his resignation, Boyd had written a weekly column for Universal Press Syndicate to help readers understand how newsroom decisions are made.

Boyd joined Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for a semester in 2004 to develop case-study curriculum materials and had been working on a memoir.

“I wanted to do everything I could to try to be a positive force in journalism and try to begin to deal with issues that I saw as important, such as credibility issues, such as leadership issues and issues involving diversity,” he said at the time.

In remarks made in the months after the Blair scandal, Boyd said he had reached a mutual decision with the newspaper to resign after The Times discovered that Blair had plagiarized material, invented quotes and written stories using datelines of places he had never been. The scandal exposed a deeply discontented staff that had lost confidence in its leaders.

Boyd shared the responsibility for Blair’s downfall but said management didn’t realize how deeply troubled Blair was until it was too late.

Had management known, “Jayson Blair simply would not have been writing for the New York Times,” Boyd said at a speech in Dallas in August 2003. He dismissed as “absolutely untrue” criticism that Blair had been promoted and his problems overlooked because the reporter was black.

In addition to his wife, Boyd is survived by his son, Zachary.


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