Last week New York Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe described his history of plagiarism as unintentional, the result of hurriedly cutting and pasting from his notes. Many wrote it off as a desperate excuse from a guilty man, but for those of us whose jobs require us to produce as much copy as quickly as possible, Kouwe’s words held the uneasy ring of truth. In that mad rush to get a story online, it can be easy to mistake another’s phrase for one’s own. Proof-reading takes time a writer required to be both prolific and quick may not be able to afford. And even bloggers for major media outlets are rarely provided the support of editors and fact-checkers.
For this reason, “Plagiarism’s Murky New Rules”, a column on Kouwe’s downfall by Paul Gillin, struck a chord with us. An excerpt:
Today, everyone who writes news online is a wire service reporter. Deadlines are measured in minutes and anyone who wants to compete has to put speed at the top of the agenda. Not everyone is good at working under that kind of pressure, so it’s not surprising that the quality of deadline news reporting is becoming more erratic. Budget cuts at newspapers have also forced a lot of young, relatively unseasoned reporters to the front lines where their work nevertheless carries the moniker of a 150-year-old trusted brand. Such was clearly the case with Kouwe who, at 31, has developed his journalism skills inside the culture and pressure of the Internet.