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Did NY Times’ blog culture lead to incident of plagiarism?

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt has a critical (well-linked) analysis of events leading to reporter Zachery Kouwe’s resignation from the title last month.

As previously noted on this blog, Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson complained to the New York Times over a particular article of Kouwe’s, on the NY Times’ DealBook blog. The NY Times investigated and found other examples of copied passages.

In Hoyt’s piece, which I recommend reading in full, he asks whether the “the culture of DealBook” had led to subsequent events:

How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?

He also suggests:

At a time when cut-and-paste technology enables plagiarism, when news and information on the web are treated as commodities, these are conversations worth having throughout the Times building.

But over on his Reuters blog, Felix Salmon, whilst praising the public editor’s critique, raises another issue: the New York Times’ unwillingness to link out.

…[I]s there something inherent to the culture of blogging which breeds a degree of carelessness ill suited to a venerable newspaper?

(…)

The fundamental problem with Kouwe was that when he saw good stories elsewhere, he felt the need to re-report them himself, rather than simply linking to what he had found, as any real blogger would do as a matter of course.

Finally, you can read Kouwe’s own comments about how the misdeed occurred: he told the New York Observer how he would throw others’ material into WordPress, intending to re-write it later. From the NY Observer interview:

Mr. Kouwe says he has never fabricated a story, nor has he knowingly plagiarized. “Basically, there was a minor news story and I thought we needed to have a presence for it on the blog,” he said, referring to DealBook. “In the essence of speed, I’ll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I’ll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It’s not like an investigative piece. It’s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it’s court documents.”

“I’ll go back and rewrite everything,” he continued. “I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought it was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there. I think that’s what probably happened.”

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