Friday, August 17, 2012

Fareed Zakaria's "accidental" copying illustrates challenges for professional journalists

CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria, who hosts “Global Public Square” and is well known for sensible, generally moderate policy views on issues like health care, has fought off an accidental “plagiarism scandal” himself, according to a “Media Decoder” story in the New York Times Friday, p. B2, by Christine Haughney, link here

Zakaria, in a long article for Time on gun control (timely given the Colorado and Wisconsin incidents) apparently copied sections from an article by Jill Lapore (of Harvard) for the New Yorker, and forgot to give attribution.  A smaller blog post for CNN had the same problem ( website url link).

Zakaria, 48, has apologized and says the error was unintentional.

Lapore’s article “Battleground America: One nation, under the gun”, from April 23, 2012 in the New Yorker, is here
Newspaper ombudsmen often discuss plagiarism problems with readers, and also other issues such as pressures on reporters to have stories “cleared” by political candidates (July 29). Bloggers don't have to deal with readers' ombudsmen.  Should they?

The story reports that Time and CNN have reinstated Zakaria after brief suspensions, and the Washington Post, while reviewing Zakaria’s work, is not likely to take any adverse action.

Professional journalists are under considerable scrutiny with regard to the accuracy of their work, avoidance of factual errors or misstatements, and unintentional simulations of “plagiarism”.  If I were ever invited to join forces with any such group, I would be subjected to the same scrutiny. 

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