This has not been a good month for looking over your shoulder and copying your classmates work: Just last week, Gerald Posner from The Daily Beast resigned after he was caught by Jack Shafer copying portions of The Miami Herald in his columns.
Now New York Times writer Zachery Kouwe has resigned from his business beat over at the newspaper after it was discovered that his role at Dealbook involved at least six instances of copying of press releases and other news sources word for word.
So what was Kouwe’s excuse for the misdeed? Apparently they keep him so busy at Dealbook that he didn’t have time to realize that he was inadvertently stealing other people’s words.
In today’ New York Observer column, John Koblin gives Kouwe a space to explain himself for the Bernie Madoff story he lifted off The Wall Street Journal:
“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. Itâ€™s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, itâ€™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 thatâ€™s what probably happened.”
While it’s easy to pithy and dismissive of Kouwe’s excuse, there is a ring of truth to it. We might not be able to buy that this happened six times without the journo noticing that he didn’t write all that copy, but as anyone who is under the crunch of a blog deadline will tell you, just trying to get all the facts of a piece into your backstage platform so you can compare the notes together is something we all do. Just most of us remember to erase all the parts that aren’t our own after we’ve finished writing the story.